Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Arthur S. Hoffman - The Editor’s Attitude Toward the Young Author

The Editor’s Attitude Toward the Young Author

Arthur S. Hoffman

I fear the answers to your two questions, if adequate, would entail the writing of a small volume. Generalization is rather futile unless its statements be taken as subject to hundreds of modifying influences.
In the first place, the attitude of magazine editors is not one attitude but almost as many as there are editors and magazines. (The same editor serving on three magazines will have a different attitude on each of them, since he must greatly adapt his own to that of the magazine. The same magazine under three successive editors will vary in attitude, generally in smaller degree, as each new editor takes hold.) Perhaps the general answers to your two questions reduce to the following fundamentals :—
Attitude of magazine editors toward Mss. of unknown authors? The most comprehensive answer is that all authors were once unknown and could have become known only through editorial recognition of unknown authors.
In a general way editors (or perhaps more exactly, magazines) divide into two general camps. One puts more trust in the circulation-getting value of “big names,” of authors already well known, each bringing to the magazine his own particular following of readers. Also the mere display of a list of “big names” brings a kind of general prestige and standing
The other camp ignores “big names,” generally because they cost too much, sometimes through free intention. This camp weighs stories solely on their merits.
Both camps, of course, weigh stories not by their intrinsic merit alone but also by their adaptation to the character and needs of the magazine in question
Al of which is well enough as a generalization, but the generalization is subject to numerous things. As a single example, the second camp often publishes “Big names”; “seconds” or “thirds,” rejected by the usual buyers of “big names;” firsts unadapted to particular character or temporary needs of those other magazines; firsts, sent to a magazine of Camp No. 2 through some choice of the author; firsts, seconds or thirds deliberately bought by Camp No. 2 as result of decision to compromise between the two camps: first, seconds or thirds bought by Camp No. 2 before an author got his “big name” and held by accident or design based on belief in his future.
Also, Camp No. 1 often use stories by unknown — need new blood; forced by the excellence of the story, etc., etc.
Magazines might be divided into two classes on another basis. One class makes all “unknown” Mss. work their way up to the editor through a staff of assistants, the assistants of least experience reading first. The natural method of “efficiency,” but it means that a green hand can throw out a story that a better judge would have seized upon or at least recognized as the work of an author worth coaching along.
The other class brings “unknown” Mss. to the editor himself first, or to the fiction editor who has final, or near-final, say as to choice of Mss.
There are still other ways in which magazines divide into general classes, but I think the one point that is most illuminative to beginners, that they seem never to learn out for themselves and that they need to know as the first step in selling Mss., is the fact that no two magazines have exactly the same wants and that no magazine has the same wants all the time, even when it remains under the same editor and the same policy.
It is too large a subject to cover in a letter, but one good key to the situation is that each issue of any magazine is a carefully rounded out product of balanced interests, an organic whole, not a haphazard collection. It follows that a magazine must keep on hand a sufficient supply of each element in the balance at which it aims — humor, pathos, tragedy, love, adventure, psychology; variety in geographical settings, classes of people, human activities; short, medium and long lengths; description, appeal, problems, narrative; etc., etc. ad infinitum. It follows that when the inventory runs low in certain types that particular magazine becomes very eager for these types and less eager for the types with which it is well supplied. In a month or two its needs may be exactly reversed.
As to your second question: “Why do editors reject Mss.?” Because 90% of them are so damned bad. Also because no magazine has room for many stories. Adventure, for example, appearing 24 times a year, prints about 250 short and long stories; it receives about 5,000. That is only 5%; magazines publishing fewer stories per year will average closer to 2%.”

From: Unknown source, i lost the reference. Sorry.

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