Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mixed Feelings

Zane is a fabulously popular black erotica writer who is fast becoming a cottage industry for ethnic erotica. She put out a call for submissions for short stories for a new erotic anthology titled Caramel Flava, which was to feature Hispanic, Latino, and/or brown main characters. Many writers were put off by the tone of the call for submissions. I was too, but damn if I didn't think of a story, Tomorrow's Saints, so I submitted it. Writer friend Teresa Lamai also submitted something. As far as I know (or anyone would confess) we were the only two from the Erotica Readers and Writer's Association lists who did.

Later, Teresa happily reported that her story was accepted. We all did a happy dance for her as the pay rate for Flava is better than most anthologies, the number of copies being printed approaches a mainstream release, Zane's name has enough power to put those books on the tables at the entrance of a bookstore, and the book might even grab a coveted "featured" display.

Since I didn't receive an acceptance letter, I assumed my story was rejected. Writing rejection letters might not be fun for editors, but it's part of their job, damn it. Was I supposed to wait until I saw it in a bookstore to find out- nearly a year later- when I could have been submitting that story to other publishers? That seems to be the general idea. It truly angers me that some editors treat writers with such disregard. (Which is why I'm usually so careful about who I submit to. Every editor I've worked with so far I'd happily work with again, even some who have rejected stories.)

As I said, I assumed my story was rejected, but to make sure, I sent an email and mailed a formal letter requesting the status of my story. They never bothered to answer. Another serious breach of professional manners. Ugh. So I put them on my "Do Not Submit To In The Future" list. End of story, right? Nope.

A couple months ago I got an email telling me that my story was being seriously considered for Flava II. They didn't ask if it was still available, or if I had any interest in letting them publish it. As irritated as I was, because of the positives listed above, I bit my tongue and decided to wait to see what happened. Strangely enough, Teresa Lamai got the same email. She commented that she thought they had her story in Flava I, but apparently not.

Last night, Teresa posted a comment to the list that she'd received copies of Flava I and her story was in it after all. But - I'm cringing for her - they edited grammatical errors into the first two paragraphs of her story. This is a serious problem. We writers only get a paragraph or two to grab our readers. If the work is unreadable, the reader moves on. While Zane's reputation rests on the sales of several books, Teresa's professional reputation is on the line with that one story - a reputation that the editor working for Zane's publisher damaged. And the insane part is that it's a sin of commission, not omission. The editor changed Teresa's words from beautiful to illiterate. It was done on purpose by people who supposedly know their way around a copy of Strunk & White's.

I'm seriously considering withdrawing my story from submission. These people have not impressed me with their professionalism, and now I fear what they might do to my story. Since they have yet to respond to a letter from me, I doubt they'd notice a formal withdrawal from consideration though. The other choice is to red-line the contract (if I get one) so that I have final say over edits. That won't make me popular with the publisher, but at least it will save me the humiliation Teresa is facing.

By the way - Teresa's story will also be in next year's Mammoth Book of Erotica which is edited by Maxim Jakubowski. I suggest you wait to read it there, where it will appear in it's original, unmutilated, form.


Tashe said...

I am so feeling you on this...

Funny how things happen. I was doing a search on Erotic Writers and saw this...

I too sent a story in for publication to the Caramel Flava...likewise, I heard NOTHING until the book came out and I was obviously not in it...since I received zero info about it. Granted, I am not a published writer, I'm getting started, and I knew that the possiblity is always there to get a rejection letter but I tell you, I would have LOVED to get a rejection letter if it meant that I would get some confirmation that my story was read!


I too am very disappointed in the lack of consideration...

I'm so sorry your friend's story was manipulated in that way...that really sucks! Maybe that's why my story wasn't accepted...couldn't take my writing style...

Well, everything does happen for a reason and I am so glad that I found this (you)...makes me feel a little better.

Best of luck and all the best.

Peace and Good Love,


Kathleen Bradean said...

If you're starting out, or even have some experience writing erotica, I strongly recommend the Erotica Readers and Writers Association's lists. Parlor is purely social. Writer's is about the business end of writing, grammar questions, etc.
Storytime is a workshop. Every Friday, you can post a short story or a chapter of a novel and get critiques on it. ERWA is, hand's down, the best writer's community on the internet. It's a nice community, very supportive, with all levels of skills and experience from first time writers to frequently published folk.

I'm sure there's a link to it on the sidebar of my blog.

Check it out!

Tashe said...

Thank You!

I've been to the site, I go there often; I just felt that it was an "exclusive group". I will check it out and find out where to post.

I'm working on a full length novel now, feedback is essential!

Thanks again and all the best to you.

Kathleen Bradean said...

Oh no! ERWA is very welcoming. If you've only been reading the website, the only glimpse you've had of the community behind it is the monthly topic discussion, which is pulled from writers and parlor posts. Scratch below the surface and you'll find a vibrant writer's community.

Amanda Earl said...

Couldn't agree with Kathleen more. There's nothing exclusive about it. Write, crit and you can particiapte! Everyone gets to find out about calls for submission and anyone's story can be considered for the ERWA's galleries. I've seen both emerging and established writers published there. In my case, having a story in the Treasure Chest led to being published in the Mammoth Book of New Erotica.

Anonymous said...

Ewwwww. Okay, that is sooo not cool. I too sent in a story for Caramel Flava and was notified (months later) that it was up for consideration for CF2. Then nothing for MORE months... Then an acceptance notice for CF2. Cool but here's to the editors leaving my ish exactly as is. LOL