“Behind the Curtain” at Jersey Devil Press

At "A Literary Affair" charity dinner in Farmington, NM, as Herbert West, September 12, 2015.
At “A Literary Affair” charity dinner in Farmington, NM, as Herbert West, September 12, 2015.

This I share with you tonight for entertainment and because it addresses one or two issues affecting writers in general.

I was searching for somewhere to publish a very short work (probably nanofiction) of mine tonight and I came across the submission guidelines at Jersey Devil Press.  I love guidelines that show a sense of humor and a free spirit while being straightforward and honest and theirs does just that.   They also offered more detailed guidelines, which I found a quite enjoyable read.  I also found that these guidelines do not provide just good advice for their own publication, they provide good advice that any author submitting to any publication would be wise to heed:  advice on formatting, staying away from overused topics, good taste, sensitive subjects, etc.  As they use at least one or two examples that touch on horror, I thought I would post the part on their selection process tonight for your perusal.   If you have a chance and the time, check out their guidelines on their website and the rest of the publication as well…and maybe submit something as well…and maybe give them a pat on the back for a job well done.

By the way, I ended up not submitting to them, because my story did not meet a requirement.  That’s why I read guidelines.

Thoughts?  Comments?


Behind the Curtain

We thought we’d take a moment to shore up our submissions guidelines and give you a little peek into our selection process.

First, our goal: To publish stories non-writers would actually want to read. We prefer funny, weird, and, above all, entertaining; sober melodramas generally don’t fly so well with us. There are certainly exceptions, but that’s largely because they’re exceptional.

Second, previously published works: We accept them, but we want to clarify that a bit. By “previously,” we literally mean “previously.” If it’s currently published, i.e. something that is available online elsewhere, or if it’s part of the book you just released, that seems a little greedy to us. If it’s only on your own personal website or a forum or something, though, don’t sweat it.

Accepting and rejecting story submissions is, by nature, subjective. Short of grading them entirely on quantifiable variables, like the number of adverbs or something, there’s not much we can do to change that. So, to level the playing field a bit, we thought we’d give you a little heads up regarding our own personal peeves and predilections.

Also, a pre-emptive apology to anyone who thinks we’re singling out their story: We’re not. Not a single theme mentioned below is a one-off. These are all popular, repeat offenders that we’re simply not that fond of.

Eirik’s list of things that should be stopped forever:

Vampires. I think Twilight is stupid. I’m sorry, but I haven’t been even moderately interested in vampires since “Angel” got cancelled.

Mob stories. If the entire story is just two guys talking in “goomba” speak, please don’t. I’ve met people with mob ties in real life and they’re generally assholes. And, honestly, you’re never going to out-Soprano the Sopranos.

College professors seducing/being seduced by young, nubile co-eds. What college did you go to where this was actually happening? In general, any regularly used plot line in a porno is a no-no.

Thinly veiled drug metaphors. You think drugs are bad. We get it. We don’t care. At the very least get a thicker veil.

Monica’s justifiable grounds for homicide:

Male writers writing female narrators. While it’s not impossible to do this, the vast majority of men writing women don’t seem to have ever talked to a woman before in their life. If your female narrator is shallow, stupid, and unable to do anything in her life that does not revolve around men, don’t send it.

And if you’re reading this thinking, “Well, of course she’d think this, she’s a woman,” then YOU’RE THE FUCKING PROBLEM. You can keep trying, though, if you really want to. Interesting side note, Monica once stared at a man with such disdain that he actually BURST INTO FLAMES. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Stereotypical minority characters. This kind of goes hand in hand with the above. If you’re writing a black man, try actually talking to one. It’s 2010, people. We shouldn’t be getting offended anywhere near as often as we do by the way people are treating characters of various backgrounds.

Unanimously awful topics:

Erotica. Actually, this one doesn’t bother us, but we’re never going to publish it. If you want to keep sending it though, for our own personal amusement, knock yourself out.

Rape. No. Bad. We don’t really need there to be any more rape in the world than there already is. Monica would also like to clarify that any sort of sexual act perpetrated without both parties’ consent is rape. Again, we’re surprised how often people don’t seem to know what the fuck they’re writing.

Relationship drama. While this seems to be a staple of literature, it is also very often boring as all hell. If your story’s just two people moping around, maybe find somewhere else to send it. If they’re doing it while juggling cats, though, you’ve got our attention.

On the flip side, here are a few things we wouldn’t mind seeing more of:

Strong female voices. We know you’re out there.

A light-hearted view of the world. Fiction does not have to be so God damned grim.

Truly bat-shit insane fiction. If you’re worried that what you just wrote is too ridiculous to be published, send it.

Again, please don’t take any of the above personally. We’re simply giving you a glimpse into our own tastes. We’re not saying that the themes mentioned above are bad or shouldn’t be written about (well, we’re not saying it about most of them anyway), but simply that we’re really not that interested in them. Your story about a bunch of mobsters being raped by vampires may very well be the best story about mobsters getting raped by vampires ever written. It may deserve to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. And we may even say as much. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Besides, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Of course, you better make damn sure you read THEIR submission guidelines before you start sending shit. I don’t want to get blamed for a rash of vampire stories getting sent to a site looking for memoirs and poetry.

But if your heart’s still set on submitting to JDP, head on over to submishmash