Posted by Michael Damian Thomas on Feb 28, 2013 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror | 0 comments
Since this is my first regular post for Apex Publications, let me introduce myself. I’m Michael Damian Thomas, the Managing Editor of Apex Magazine. Basically that means that I’m Editor-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas’s right-hand person (she even gave me a Hand of the King pin to solidify my status). I’m involved in almost all of her decisions for the magazine, including deciding which stories we publish. Lynne always has the final say, but she asks me for my input. It’s a wonderful job. It’s also eye opening. Kind of like being given the KFC secret spice recipe.
Along with being an editor, I’m also an aspiring writer. For the last five years, I’ve written and rewritten stories and novels. I’ve attended workshops, been critiqued by dozens of writers and editors, joined writers’ groups, and submitted to nearly every major market. And like thousands of others, I’m still “pre-published.” Though I’m improving as a writer, all I have to show for all of that work is a nice virtual pile of email rejections.
Before landing this current gig at Apex, I participated in my share of Rejectomancy. I analyzed my rejection emails like tea leaves and compared notes with other writers. I tracked response times to figure out how far my story made it up the editorial chain at a magazine. I continuously refreshed my inbox, and swore like a sailor when a story just missed the cut.
Like many writers, I convinced myself that there was some secret way to get published—an angle I missed. All I needed to do was telepathically get inside an editor’s head. Then I starting working at a magazine and learned the startling truth.
If you’re an aspiring writer, make sure you’re alone as you read this. Soundproof your surroundings. Dig out your Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring. This will change your life as a writer. Okay, here’s the Big Secret to getting published in a SFWA professional magazine:
Write a phenomenal story.
Yes, that’s it. I know we’re told this over and over again, but none of us really believes it. You’ve heard it at conventions and read blog posts like this one. Knowing that fact is also much easier than acting on it. Still, nothing else matters. Trust me.
In a given month, we see hundreds and hundreds of submissions at Apex Magazine. Only thirty or so make the final cut to Lynne and me per month. Out of those, she will publish one or two. Lynne rejects aspiring writers, award-winning professionals, and many friends and acquaintances. It’s never personal. She just has to find the best possible stories for our magazine, and it hurts her every time she needs to pass on a story, especially when it’s from somebody she knows.
So, what makes a story phenomenal? That’s much harder to answer. For Apex Magazine, it needs to be well-written, emotional, and fresh. If we see those ideas all the time or your voice does nothing for us, we’ll probably reject the story. It’s a very subjective process.
Going back to the rejecting-friends thing, I’m in a semi-regular writers’ online hang-out. One of the other people in that group is also an early-career writer who holds a similar editorial position as me at another magazine. One week, we both had submissions at the other one’s market. We ended up rejecting each other during a 24 hour period. I know we were rooting for each other to succeed, but at the end of the day we needed to make the best choices for our markets. And yes, it was awkward during the next hang-out.
I wish I could give you the Secret Handshake. Hell, I wish I knew it. All you can do is what I’m doing—keep working at your craft.
Along with being the Managing Editor of Apex Magazine, Michael Damian Thomas (AKA Damian Taylor) is an Associate Editor at Mad Norwegian Press where he’s worked on numerous books including the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords (edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea). He is currently co-editing the forthcoming Queers Dig Time Lords with Sigrid Ellis.
Michael lives in DeKalb with his wife Lynne, their daughter Caitlin, and a cat named Marie. Caitlin has a rare congenital disorder called Aicardi syndrome, and Michael works as her primary caregiver.