A Note From the Editors

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Hello readers, and especially writers. The editors would like to give our submitters an opportunity to ask questions and see comments from us on what we do and (especially) what we don’t like to see. Writing is a process that we are all constantly improving at. Perhaps this will give a few the opportunity to improve a little more. Please ask questions, leave comments (mean spirited hate mail and spam will be moded out, but constructive criticism will be let through), make jokes, etc. We have lots of room, so go to town. If we feel that you’ve left a comment that opens up room for further discussion, we’ll likely open up a new topic on it. We do moderate comments, so please do give us a little time to hit the okay button.

Shelly Jackson

13 Responses to “A Note From the Editors”

  1. Lucinda Lynx says:

    Dear Shelly Jackson,

    I’d like to ask a question. You write something about being under 18 years old and having parental license to submit. I just wonder, if I am too old to send anything to you to consider. I mean…I am 28 at the moment. So if this is meant only for young writers, I understand and won’t submit.

    Sincerely yours,

    Lucinda Lynx

  2. Submissions are now being taken for the 1st Annual Micro Award, an award for previously published fiction not over 1000 words in length. Authors and editors may each submit one story published in 2007. The submission deadline this year is September 30. Submissions may be mailed to Micro Award, POB 9110, Chico CA 95927-9110. Rules are posted at the Micro Award Official Website, URL http://www.microaward.com. (Address bar access is required until search engine registrations are processed.)

    Robert Laughlin, Micro Award Administrator

  3. Lucinda,

    We only require parental consent on submissions if you happen to be under the age of 18. If you are over the age of 18, you can submit with your own consent. Where we are located, those under 18 cannot legally consent to contract rules, so we have to have this clause to allow them to submit. But we accept submissions from both young adults and older writers.

    Shelly Jackson

  4. Eric Bailey says:

    Hello Shelly,

    As part of your submission guidelines, you list preferences as to the story’s digital form — that it be in MS Word .doc or .rtf format, etc. I understand that it is typical of similar publishers to specify such guidelines, but I am honestly curious: Does this mean that you are so stringent as to deny any submissions that do not happen to be the correct file extension without exception, or is the truth more akin to the fact that if submitters abide by your preferences, their works will be much easier, more timely, and more convenient to sort through?

    It may be worth noting to explain where I’m coming from on this: I do not have Microsoft Word. I understand that’s unusual and not something that can’t be remedied with some moderate financial backing, but current money woes aside, I _do_ have Microsoft Works, and its word processor. I understand that it any document I were to submit would open just perfectly fine in Word — but it _would_ have a different file extension. So, would my future submissions be denied outright as soon as you saw the odd (.wps) extension, or do you use some human discretion in submission acceptance?

    Is it possible that those portions of submission guidelines are just a necessary evil to prevent more creative types (ha) from, say, mailing you a story on the back of a cocktail napkin? Or, would you recommend stringently following the guidelines as an indication of a serious submission, rather that a shot-in-the-dark relying on the warmth of kind consideration?

    I would be very grateful for any publisher-end insight on this — as I said, such language/guidelines are fairly standard, if I understand correctly, across the board.

    As a previous contributor fortunate enough to somewhat randomly stumble upon this site in the first place, I definitely enjoy A Fly In Amber, I believe it is a high-quality site, and I appreciate your time and consideration.

  5. Eric,

    Good questions. This is pretty much exactly the kinds of questions we were hoping to field in the Editor’s Corner … so I’m pleased you gave us the opportunity! We should probably devote a whole post to this topic in the future.

    For now, I think the best answer is that requesting a standard format vastly streamlines our editing process. We get close to a hundred of submissions a month right now, and we’re still a fairly new kid on the block. We often end up reading submissions from a variety of different computers running different software. (I’ve been known to read a few via a remote command-line terminal … think MS-DOS without all the bells and whistles!) So asking our contributors to submit in formats that are likely to be widely accessible improves our turn-over rate.

    Part of it, too, is frankly to reign in overzealous creativity. I find that a standard format simply makes a manuscript easier to read, and professional manuscript presentation generally (though not always) reflects on an author’s willingness to be meticulous about his work. Those who care enough to put things in a standard format often care enough to do other necessary things like proof their work, think their stories through and generally try to submit their best work for publication. We’re serious about the work we read and publish, and we expect our authors to be, too. So setting even a low bar like this helps to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Think of it like wearing a suit to an interview — you could probably get the job on the merits of your skill and personality, but a little polish never hurts to get you through the door.

    That’s not to say we’ll reject something out of hand if it doesn’t exactly fit the template. (Our submission system DOES restrict file extensions, but this is mainly to deter abuse — say, uploading viruses and such. I don’t recall if it accepts WPS. Works can save in RTF, anyway, so I’m not sure it’s a big issue.) Note that we accept MSes in raw text format, as well. It’s my personal belief that a good story is always a good story, regardless of presentation. Wrapping it up in the prettiest rich-text presentation or the ugliest ASCII screen-dump you can manage doesn’t change the merits of the prose one iota.

    If you’re looking for a Word-like editing suite that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, I’d heartily recommend OpenOffice. It’s an open-source (read free of charge) MS Office “clone” that, while not quite 100% faithful to the Microsoft look and feel, nevertheless makes for an excellent office suite. We use it on many of our systems. You can download free of charge from http://www.openoffice.org

    I hope that at least begins to answer your questions. Like I said, maybe we’ll write an Editor’s Corner post on this subject — as soon as we can dig ourselves out from under all these submissions! Keep ‘em coming!

    –David Jackson
    AFIA Editor and Webmaster

  6. Casey Quinn says:

    Hi, i really enjoyed your site and reading many of the stories. We run a similiar site called Short Story Library located at http://shortstory.us.com and I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing links to each other to help with traffic –

    Please let me know and keep up the good work ! :)

  7. Jamie Eyberg says:

    I have found that, while I use microsoft works as well for my word processing and saving files as a .doc (word) file is possible, you cannot read it through works. There is a FREE word compatible program you can use called Abiword. It is available for free download and while I don’t use it as my word processor, it does allow me to view word documents on my computer. The program can be found through any search engine.

    I hope this helps anyone in who is in the same boat.

  8. Jessica Senderak Matlack says:

    I’m a little confused about the whole “standard manuscript format” thing. I’ve looked up a few websites and they have different opinions about what the SMF guidelines actually are. One says do not space sentences and indent your paragraphs, the other says to put space after every sentence…etc. Also, do I need to number the pages and put the estimated word count and all that, or are you not that strict?

  9. Jessica,

    We are not terribly strict. We want the piece to be readable. The easiest thing to read is double spaced with standard indentation in my opinion, but you will find other editors with different preferences. I have mucked my way through some crazy formatting here, wishing I was strict enough to just turn it down! My best advice is to keep it simple. Don’t use fancy fonts, don’t make word art, and do make sure that you check your piece before submitting it if you change the formatting. Just because page one looks great doesn’t mean that page 27 is holding the new format. Courier is my favorite to read, but any “standard” font works.

    Details like page numbering and word counts are pretty unimportant to us. Since this is a digital publication, the pages are already numbered and the words can be counted at a glance if we have any doubts.

    Good on you for checking with the editors though. Some are fickle.

  10. James Myers says:

    Hello, I just have a quick question. I am a young writer currently beginning my career, and I was curious to know if you would consider serializations within your publication. In the event that you are not, I would like to know if you can recommend any online or print publications who do accept such subscriptions and who are known to take a chance with new authors.

    Also, you have by far the best web publication that I have found thus far, in reference to both the stories and the web design. I look forward to submitting to you in the future.

  11. James,

    We do not yet publish serializations, though we have considered and discussed it. We may in the future.

    As for finding other publications that may, check on duotrpe.com and ralan.com. They are great resources for finding places to submit to.

    I personally feel that every other month is too far between to effectively print serials. People have far shorter attention spans than they did when they waited for the boat to find out if Little Nell was dead. Ours is a world of instant gratification. We hope to some day get enough submissions (and money, as we fund this out of pocket) to pick enough cream of the crop to publish monthly, and then would be the time to do serials.

    Thank you for the question. It will likely reopen this dialog between the editors.

  12. James Myers says:

    Shelly,

    Thank you very much for your response, and thank you for the recommendations- I had found this site through duotrope, but had not previously been aware of ralan.com.

  13. Denni says:

    To my mortification I recently received feedback from an editor (not from A Fly in Amber) stating that my manuscript had no line spacing, paragraph indents or headers.

    It turns out that when using Open Office and saving a file as rtf, all the formatting will be stripped if that file is then opened by another application. Abiword will preserve the spacing, but strip the header.

    This is worth bearing in mind when submitting.

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