Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Friday, 2 July 2021

Hello Again: The Latest News From Castle Bestwick

Hi everybody,

Well, it's been a while, and for good reason. As some of you will know - those who follow me on Facebook - Cate underwent surgery earlier this month, having been diagnosed with womb cancer in April. Luckily it was diagnosed at an early stage, and Cate's recovering well, I'm glad to say. I'm squeezing in bits of writing (including this) in between the demands of my new life as her personal butler. There are worse fates. :) 

Many thanks to all the friends and family who sent kind messages of support, advice, hugs, or books over the past few difficult months. We're hoping the worst is past. 

On a brighter note, I've been able to carry on not only writing but submitting, and June's seen a total of three story acceptances.

The first one is for James Aquilone's Classic Monsters Unleashed, in which my story 'Mummy Calls' will appear alongside works by Ramsey Campbell, Mercedes M. Yardley, F. Paul Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, Seanan McGuire, Lucy A. Snyder, Richard Christian Matheson, Lisa Morton, Monique Snyman, Owl Goingback, Gary A. Braunbeck, Rena Mason, John Palisano, Maurice Broaddus, Linda Addison, Tim Waggoner, Jonathan Maberry, Alessandro Manzetti, Dacre Stoker & Leverett Butts, and more.

The list of authors above was announced before the call for unsolicited submissions, which will take up about 25% of the anthology, so there was a lot of competition for those slots. I'm enormously proud to have made the cut.

Classic Monsters Unleashed, featuring new riffs and takes on archetypal horrors such as Dracula, The Wolfman, Dr Moreau, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde and M.R. James' Count Magnus, will be released by Crystal Lake Publishing in October.   

Secondly, my story 'And You Heard The Rattling Death Train' will see publication in Trevor Denyer's anthology Railroad Tales, out from Midnight Street Press later this month. It's one of an ongoing series of stories set on Bone Street, a strange inner city street that doesn't appear on any city's map. For a taste of the place, check out 'Bone Street Blues,' which is currently free over on my Patreon. The anthology also features stories by Gary Couzens, Allen Ashley, Caitlin Marceau, Susan York and many more.

My third acceptance is for Phantasmagoria, one of those rare and wonderful beasts, a regular, non-themed horror magazine and edited by the steady hand of Trevor Kennedy. Phantasmagoria is already 18 issues strong, and my story 'Night Closures' will feature in either issue 19 or 20.

And finally, I'm delighted to announce that After Sundown, Mark Morris' horror anthology for Flame Tree Press, in which my story 'We All Come Home' appeared, has been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Going back to the stories, though, I wanted to say a few words about acceptance and rejection, because they - or rather one of them, rejection - is a problem for all writers. And I mean all. Literally the day before the first of these acceptances, I had four rejections in one twenty-four period. (Ouch.) When I mentioned this on Facebook, another writer said something along the lines of (humblebrag alert) "What chance do the rest of us have, when someone like you gets rejected?"

While it's always an ego boost to realise that certain people think you're Somebody (if only because you've been around for so long,) but the plain fact is that for most of us there's never a point at which you stop getting rejections, unless you're someone like Neil Gaiman or Stephen King. (Ramsey Campbell, who's  been getting published since before I was born and has won more awards for horror fiction than any other living, dead or undead writer, popped up in the same comments to announce "We all still get them!")

To put it in perspective: with 'Night Closures,' I've had eight short fiction acceptances this year. I've not been as good at keeping track of the rejections, but the other day I attempted a rough tally. Counting the one I got this morning, I make it nineteen. So that's an acceptance rate of slightly worse than one in three.

Editors have, usually, a pretty clear idea of what they want and what they don't. A rejection, or even several, don't necessary mean that a story isn't any good. Classic Monsters Unleashed had something like 600 submissions; Maxim Jakubowski's Femmes Fatales anthology about 175. In both cases, the odds against being one of the lucky few to be selected seem very high, but somebody has to be one of them. By the same token, another market I subbed to had around 70 submissions - much lower odds - but I didn't get in. It's partly quality, and it's partly how well whatever you've written matches what the editor wants. Or how similar to something they've already accepted - that can get a perfectly good story bounced as well.

Keeping your work out on submission is key - when it comes back to you, send it somewhere else. Most of the stories I've written this year have been for specific anthology calls: that, like it or not, seems to be where most of the opportunities for publication are right now when it comes to short horror fiction. There are regular general horror fiction markets (like Phantasmagoria above), but not as many as we'd all like. 

Some markets pay professional rates that'll net you a couple of hundred pounds for a story (give or take.) Others will give you a fiver. In some cases, you'll just get a contributor copy or the satisfaction of seeing your work in print - or alternatively you could self-publish the story on Patreon or as an ebook or sock it into that collection you're trying to put together. 

My own feeling - having held too many stories back in search of a higher-paying market so that they just languish on my hard drive - is the story is better off out there in the world where people can read it. The more work you have out there to be read - which will hopefully encourage people to read more of your stuff - the better. The story of mine that'll be appearing in Best Horror of the Year #13 got multiply rejected, and was finally published on my Patreon. 

So, here's the approach that's been working for me so far this year. It may stop working at any moment, as conditions change again. It may not work for you. On the other hand, it might. Either way, if you're trying to work out how to get your work out there, this might be of help:

Since themed anthologies seem to be currently where it's at, keeping abreast of upcoming ones is key. I keep a spreadsheet of submission calls, broken down by the month the deadline expires, including information like word count, specifics of what they're looking for, and what (if anything) they pay. Keep additional sheets to list general open markets (i.e. magazines that are open all year round), publications that accept reprints, and those currently closed to subs (you can check them every couple of weeks to a month to see if they've reopened.)

A few resources:  

General paying horror fiction markets include The Dark, Apex Magazine, F&SF, Phantasmagoria and The Deadlands. For other stuff:

The Submission Grinder and The Horror Tree are both excellent and giving an overview of who's looking for fiction in this area. Another great resource is this Facebook page here. In addition, the superb Gwendolyn Kiste (Read her! Read her!) does a monthly round-up of open submission calls on her blog, while Hailey Piper regularly signal boosts calls via her Twitter (and you might also want to subscribe to her mailing list. Also, read her novella The Worm And His Kings - it's magnificent.)   

I'm going to try and start following their example and update the blog regularly with any info on markets that comes my way. So if you know of a good one - an open call, a new magazine - don't keep it to yourself. Let me know and I'll share it here. 

Because if there is one thing I've learned over the last couple of months, it's how much kindness and community there is in horror. And how the more we help each other out, share information and support one another, the better off we'll all be.  

ETA: It's now 20 rejections (I think.) Just had another one. :) 

1 comment:

Wayne Mook said...

Hope Cate is doing well Butler Bestwick. Love to you both from Nadia, Aysha and I. Good to see the the stories being taken up. As for the rejection with stories of your quality you know it's something else, usually not quite what the editor was looking for. They are fickle, delicate beings those editors.