I’ve been having some very interesting and fruitful (at least for me) conversations with writers who’ve submitted works to Mercury Retrograde lately. Some of them have been interesting in the good way, while others have moved me to tweet:
barbarfriendishWhen did such a high percentage of writers start arguing with their rejection letters? Is it because we do e-subs? Seriously, no means no.
Naturally (or maybe it’s not obvious; I’m not sure) a writer who writes back after I turn down a submission to get some clarity on what I may have said in my notes on the piece doesn’t torque me; that’s useful dialogue. In fact one such ongoing conversation with a talented writer who so far hasn’t shown me something that moves me yielded some really thought-provoking dialogue, which I believe would be of interest to other potential Mercury Retrograde authors. She said:
I have a couple more novels in the files, but there’s no use wasting your time if they’re not what you want. Can you give me a little more idea of what you’d like, or is it a case of knowing it when you see it?
I wrote back:
It may very well be a case of “know it when you see it”, because I am groping after something like this:
I’m looking for works that, while they ultimately boil down to SF or F, read like the good kind of literary fiction: stuff that feels *grounded* rather than displaying the usual SFF (F in particular) tone of high drama. Naturally I want it to *get* dramatic, but the difference between true drama and melodrama–in both tone and content–is 90% of the difference between what will move me and what won’t. I want to *believe* it, without tossing my disbelief out the window: I want the writer to make me feel it’s real.
But I’m not sure that is meaningful to you in the same way it is to me. I do remember what it was like to try to read editorial tea leaves, and I’m sorry if I’m not giving you useful data; in all likelihood the majority of SFF writers would believe I *am* describing their work.
It is true what they say, for better or worse: the best way to get a sense of what an editor will buy is to read what she’s bought in the past. Our catalog is still slim, but we’ve got more coming out this fall–and much more next spring. This conversation has made me realize we need to do a better job of getting excerpts up on our website, including excerpts from our forthcoming books–as well as made me realize I should talk about this on the blog. So thank you for a very fruitful conversation, and I hope you got something out of it too.
All the best,
We will, in the next few days, get more excerpts from published and forthcoming works up on the website, and I hope those tidbits prove useful–to writers and readers both. In the mean time, if there are ways in which I might be able to clarify the above statement: please, for the sake of all your fellow writers, with whom (believe it or not) you are not in competition: bring it up in comments here, so our conversation can benefit everyone who’s interested.