When I came onboard at Dark Continents Publishing I had an admittedly limited exposure to the horror genre, having come from a background as an editor of children’s literature and business writing. In the end, though, a story is a story is a story; there are well-written ones, and there are poorly written ones. Fortunately, after about thirty years in the business, I can tell the difference.
I’m a nice person, so when I have to reject a manuscript, it is difficult for me to tell a writer that his or her submission isn’t quite what we’re looking for, but in the end, if the publishing company wants to be taken seriously by seriously good writers, it has to have standards and it has to be consistent in enforcing those standards. We have to buy well-written books that will sell so that we can make a profit and stay in business and continue to buy well-written books that sell, etc.
Sometimes I get lucky. I discover amazing writers, whose works are so fundamentally well done that it makes me proud to play a part in perfecting them—because that’s what a good editor does. A good editor leaves the author’s voice alone: suggesting a tweak here and there to tighten a phrase or improve the flow of the author’s idea or pointing out redundancies and suggesting recasts that enhance rather than change an author’s intentions. The book belongs to the writer, not the editor; and when the effort is a true collaboration, beautiful things happen. People take notice; Reviewers create buzz about it; Authors get nominated for awards, and more people purchase and read their work.
Dark Continents is a unique situation, where writers from around the globe have come together to publish their work as well as the work of other up-and-coming horror and dark speculative fiction writers. Currently we have writers from New Zealand as well as American, British and Australian writers and we are just about to add a fantastic South African voice to the group. This global footprint presents some unique stylistic challenges, however. My editorial colleagues and I are addressing them by establishing style guidelines for all of our editorial and proofing procedures; there is one set of styles for the Americans and another for the Brits. For the Americans we are using the AP Stylebook and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, while for the Brits we are using the Oxford Style Manual and the Oxford Dictionary. Submissions need to be double spaced and submitted electronically through the Dark Continents Publishing website. I strongly encourage writers to check your spelling before submitting your synopsis and first three chapters to us. We’ve received far too many cover letters, synopses and chapters containing rookie errors. Fortunately, though, we’ve received some outstanding stories, too, and we look forward to the next submissions period in March of 2012 to discover more great writers to add to our ever-growing stable of global writers of amazing dark speculative fiction.