Monday, January 21, 2013

2012: The Year in Review (Part 4)

Continued from Part One | Part Two | Part Three

Announcing Some Mid-Trajectory Course Corrections

Therefore, as the cumulative result of our many eye-opening learning experiences in 2012, we've decided to make some significant changes as we move into 2013. Effective either immediately or phasing in over the next few months:

1. We've decided to let STUPEFYING STORIES become the science fiction and fantasy magazine it clearly wants to be. We're still willing to stray further into the gray areas between SF/F, horror, and mystery than most other publications, and we're still going to do a Halloween special (wouldn't miss that one!), but the straight-up contemporary mysteries, the exercises in depravity and revulsion that claim to be horror stories, and the "I don't know what the heck to call this but I thought you'd like it" pieces that are so experimental as to be unintelligible are out.

I know; when I first launched STUPEFYING STORIES, it was with the declared intention of overthrowing what I considered to be arbitrary genre boundaries. I still believe that needs to be done, but file that idea under H for Hubris, cross-indexed to I for Idiotic.

2. We are decoupling from the calendar for the next three months. We know that STUPEFYING STORIES sells best when we have a new regular edition ready to release on the first day of each and every month, but we've also learned the hard way that the demands of putting out a new book monthly, plus trying to launch a series double-length specials, has overloaded our capacity. Therefore, for the next three months, we are going to ignore the calendar to the extent possible and concentrate on getting the following books released:
  • PUTREFYING STORIES (a.k.a., "The Zombie Special.") This long-delayed double-length book is still stuck in the state of being about a week away from ready to release, but every time I've thought I've had that week clear, Otogu has interrupted. It's time to just finish this book and push it out the door, preferably on or about February 1.
  • FIVE STARS (a.k.a., "The STUPEFYING STORIES sampler.") This one is even closer to release--but I have got to get the zombie book out first.
  • THROWBACKS! This one isn't quite as close to release as PUTREFYING STORIES, but it's only a few weeks behind it, and once we've got the zombie book out the door it's next on the docket. Sadly, it's not going to make it in time for "Jesus Leads the Jets to the AFC Championship" to be timely and topical, but maybe we're getting an early jump-start on next season.
  • The once-again-nameless mystery special. Sorry Jeff, Nicolai, Thomas, and Kent; I know this one has been on and off the docket for a ridiculously long time. This project is still near and dear to my heart, and right up until mid-December we were still aiming for a January 1 launch and planning to make this the inaugural title in our new quarterly series. We still have the funding, but simply don't have the man-hours (okay Karen, person-hours) to launch another series at this time. So we're putting this one back onto the STUPEFYING STORIES PRESENTS list and targeting it for release on or about March 1.
  • M. David Blake is off on a mission from John W. Campbell Jr., doing an invitation-only pro bono special of his own design, and those who need to know about it do so already. I mention this now only because it's going to be a monster, and when it hits it's going to chew up a lot of admin time--but right at the moment, I have no clear idea of when that impact will happen. It's kind of like knowing there's an asteroid with your name on it somewhere out there, floating around in an intersecting orbit...
  • Sometime between now and mid-February, we'll be releasing STUPEFYING STORIES 1.12, which will be a regular issue/edition, and sometime in March we'll be releasing 1.13. But we're not going to sweat hitting any particular release dates right on the nose for those.
If all goes according to plan we hope to be back on our regular monthly schedule in time for the 1.14 release on April 1, and plan to be back on it for May 1. But things have gang agley aft enough in the past year that none of us is willing to stake his or her life, fortune, and sacred honor on those dates.

3. We are changing the way we handle submissions. Again. We stuck to my original ideas of making certain every submission got two full reads and of sending personal rejections whenever possible far longer than everyone said we would, but in the end, the sheer volume of submissions has ground us down. Effective immediately:
  • We no longer accept printed submissions sent to our P.O. box. They make the office admin's day when she finds an actual manuscript in the mailbox, but given the way our personnel are distributed across the entire continent, physical manuscripts are a pain to process. From now on, we accept electronic submissions only.
  • We no longer accept multiple submissions. No more bundling three stories into a single submission, please. Put your best foot (or hoof, claw, tentacle, or pseudopod, as the case may be) forward. If you've sent us one submission, please wait until you hear back from us before sending another.
  • We'll still consider simultaneous submissions, but exclusive submissions will be given preference. If your submission is exclusive to us, please say so in your cover letter.
  • We're going back to pre-screening submissions. We see an awful lot of submissions that are instantly and obviously Not Right For Us from page one, paragraph one. This is not to say that they might not be perfect for someone else; just, they're not right for us. Therefore, in the interests of making best use of our first readers' time, we're going to resume pre-screening.
  • We're going to be making greater use of form rejections. I hate to do this--believe me, I'd love to send each and every aspiring contributor a detailed critique of his or her story--but there just isn't enough time left before the heat death of the universe to do so. Ergo, don't be miffed if you've previously received a personal rejection and now receive a form rejection. It doesn't mean anything more than we're running out of time.   

4. We currently are conducting an audit of our submission files. In September 2012, we cut over to a new server dedicated to handling submissions. It's become apparent that the transition did not go as smoothly as we thought at the time, as we are still finding stories that were "misplaced" in the move. If you submitted a story to us before September 1, 2012, and either a.) never received an acknowledgement of receipt, b.) received an acknowledgement of receipt but never heard from us again, or c.) received a notice telling you your story was being held for further consideration but never heard from us again, please contact us now.

5. We currently are conducting an audit of our contract files. As a side-effect of the submission audit we're finding stories we accepted but for which we don't have contracts; stories under contract which we've forgotten we had; stories with old contracts that pre-date our use of the expiration date clause; and stories with expiration-date contracts that are about to expire. Late last year we moved to using Adobe EchoSign to do electronic contracts with e-signatures, and the difference this has made has been spectacular.

Therefore, if you have any concern about your contract in general, please contact us, but in particular, if you have an old pre-expiration date contract (Nicolai, this means you), or if you have a contract with an expiration date that's about to expire (Joshua, this means you), please contact us, and we'll re-draft your contract using EchoSign.


One more time, I want to stress that we accomplished a lot of really terrific things in 2012, and I can't begin to thank the STUPEFYING STORIES crew enough. Henry, Marc, Vidad, Kersley, Erin, Guy, Barbara, Allan, Frances, Jason, Eli, Ryan, Arisia, Tyler, Ricky, Paul, Mike, David, Alicia, Theo, and above all, Karen: THANK YOU! We couldn't have done it without you!

Responsibility for everything that went wrong or that we failed to accomplish in 2012 belongs on my desk, with most items to be filed under H, for Hubris. And with that said:

Upward and onward, into 2013!

Kindest regards,

Bruce Bethke


A.G. Carpenter said...

Can you clarify on "contracts about to expire"? I think mine was signed last March.

RLR said...

Hmm... I don't think my Jan '12 contract had an expiration date. I queried recently about Throwbacks, and now here's my answer. Cool! Looking forward to a Stupefying 2013.

~brb said...

Early in my career I was burned by a certain famous editor who made it a practice to accept far more stories than he could ever hope to publish and to put those stories under exclusive-rights pays-on-publication contracts. That way, he'd have plenty of material to cherry-pick from when it came time for him to deliver his books to his publisher, and he could keep certain stories *off* the market for as long as he wanted. Some of my early stories were tied up for five years or more by that s.o.b. and never published.

Therefore, to protect authors and since we can't afford to be a pays-on-acceptance market, beginning around March 2012 all our contracts started coming equipped with an expiration date and a self-destruct clause. If we don't publish the story by the specified expiration date, the contract is void automatically and all rights revert to the author.

I'll have to go look up your contract and see whether it has an expiration date. If so, and if we're getting close to that date, we'll ask you to renew. Whether or not you chose to do so is entirely up to you, of course.

Holly said...

Hmm. I think I need to let my novel become the 'straightforward' science fiction story it wants to be too. The words hubris and idiotic also work quite well for me!

Anonymous said...

Looks like you have a sound plan going forward. I look forward to seeing my story in print. :D

--Julie Frost

Judith said...

Wishing you a strong and successful 2013, and I too look forward to seeing my stories. What will happen to stories you've already accepted that don't fall into the SF/F category?


~brb said...

Aside from the straight-up contemporary mysteries, which are getting their own special, I can think of only one story I've accepted in recent months that doesn't have even a hint of the fantastic about it.

Hence the choice of the verb form, "to become." We are moving in this direction. We're not there yet. It's become a criterion for judging new submissions, not a reason to jettison accepted stories. No one's getting loaded onto the tumbrel.

Chuck Robertson said...

Hello BRB. I think my story The Bone Pointer falls into the category of stories accepted and a contract signed before September of 2012. Can you please look it up and tell me what the status of it is?

~ Chuck Robertson

allandavisjr said...

Hi, Bruce. I think my Icehawk sequel may have hit your September hiccup, too. I never heard back anything at all on it.


Anonymous said...

I have two contracts that were signed in March 2012, with stories that have not been published. I sent you an email on Feb 4th but haven't received a reponse. Just checking to see what the status is, since these contracts will expire next month.

Anonymous said...

I have a contract that I sent back in early July but haven't heard anything about since and don't know the expiration date on because I didn't get my countersigned copy back and, in a fit of having just moved across the country, I didn't think to make a copy for myself.