This is not the blog you're looking for

I have moved, and you can find new entries, comments etc. at come over and check it out.

Friday, February 02, 2007

“We’re sorry but your spam does not currently suit our needs . . .”

Anyone writing short stories over the past decade or so may have noticed something of an online renaissance of paying on-line markets for short fiction. I started submitting stuff for publication in the late eighties/early nineties, and at that time there were only a handful of professional markets; Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and a smattering of others. Today, a cursory examination of a market site like Ralan lists dozens of pro markets for genre fiction. Half are online, and most outside the staid old-timers will accept e-mailed submissions.

E-mail submissions make sense, since it not only makes the submitter’s life easer, but it makes the editor’s life easer. Once someone can divorce themselves from a paper fetish, it becomes much easer to track a digital submission; manuscripts can be queued up, can be easily assigned and re-assigned to readers, can be accessed from off-site without carrying around a briefcase full of paper, and once the they’re edited and (if we’re lucky) accepted for publication, the original file can be sent directly to the webmaster/printer/whatever. IT geek that I am, I have trouble imagining why there are still holdouts. I mean, I’ve seen a few editors’ offices, and if I had my choice between a dangerously teetering pile of slush blocking the door, and a couple of thumb drives. . . Well, to me, it’s a no-brainer.

Digital submission also allows things that were impossible, or at least impractical, with paper submission. Both Glimmer Train Press, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (interestingly, both are print, not online) give contributors access to web pages that allow them to trace a manuscript through their editorial process— sort of like a Fed Ex package. Baen’s Universe lets contributors view “page proofs” on-line, as well as see the magazine’s issues while they’re in development.

Of course, as the tech savvy of the publishing industry grows— even at the glacial pace it does evolve— more uses will be found for these electronic submissions. I can see an editor with an in-house version of Google searching all the submissions for the last two years to find a Victorian vampire story to fit December’s theme issue.

Perhaps a scarier possibility is the application of Bayesian filtering techniques to fiction submission. After all, the editor’s job in sifting through slush is to find the few signal pieces in the noise of all the Trek Slash and Adam & Eve stories— not unlike your email program. The same technology that picks the Viagra ads out of your inbox may, someday, be e-mailing you a rejection slip. . .

Well, at least response times might improve.