“We’re looking for ‘character oriented’ stories, those in which the characters, rather than the science, provide the main focus for the reader’s interest. . . . Borderline fantasy is fine, but no Sword & Sorcery, please. Neither are we interested in explicit sex or violence.”
–Writer’s Guidelines, Asimov’s Science Fiction
Every good writer knows that you don’t violate the writer’s guidelines. You don’t send fantasy to a science fiction market, you don’t send romance to a mystery market, you don’t send horror to a sword-and-sorcery market. And editors love (or hate) to tell stories about the more egregious violations of their guidelines.
And yet . . .
Is it possible to violate the guidelines and still publish your story? Absolutely! You just have to do it right.
True story: I was reading some poems by William Blake about climbing boys, and they inspired me to read up on the reality of their short, terrible lives. This research, in turn, inspired me to write a story I called “Thin Man.” I thought it was one of the best things I’d ever written. And while the prose was wonderful, it had strikes against it:
–It had 7,000 words, too long to be short and too short to be long.
–It wasn’t quite dark fantasy, but it wasn’t quite horror, either.
–Few markets were interested in buying this sort of story.
My main short story editor at the time was Marion Zimmer Bradley, who was publishing MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY’S FANTASY MAGAZINE. Her guidelines specifically said no child protagonists, no dark fantasy, no horror, and no stories over 6,000 words.
However, the story was very strong and did have fantasy elements. I wrote Marion to tell her about “Thin Man.” “It’s not normally the kind of thing you publish,” I said, “but I thought you might want to see it anyway.”
She wrote back and said to send it. So I did. Two months later, she sent a contract, and “Thin Man” appeared as the cover story a few issues later, even though it violated a number of Marion’s guidelines. Here’s how:
–The story was extremely strong to begin with. (As proof, it generated a fair amount of reader response mail.)
–The story still fit the overall genre published in the magazine. (If “Thin Man” had been a hard science fiction story, Marion wouldn’t have bought it, no matter how cool it was.)
–The author already had a track record, so the editor knew reading the story wouldn’t be a total waste of time.
–The author asked for permission to submit the story.
Note, however, that a story that violates editor guidelines has a much, much lower chance of being accepted. The guidelines are there for a reason–the editor is pretty sure of what her readers want. So you’re better off sticking to what the editor says she needs.
And, by the way, all four of my Silent Empire books are now available as a single collection for $7.99. Nightmare, Dreamer, Trickster, and Offspring, all in a single book. Check out the link below!
–Steven Harper Piziks
New Silent Empire collection now available at Book View Cafe!
Full selection available at http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Steven-Piziks/Steven-Piziks-Novels/