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The Metaworker Podcast | 016 A Writer’s Life For Me: Catchup with Matthew Maichen, Part 1

Episode Description:

Elena, Mel, and Cerid talk with former Metaworker Editor in Chief Matthew Maichen about his writing and publishing journey since he stepped away from leading the magazine. They discuss writing query letters, the challenges of marketing a novel and finding stories you didn’t know you were looking for. They also discuss what goes on behind the scenes in the slush piles, and Matthew shares what motivates him to continue slogging through those query trenches.

Author Bio:

Matthew Maichen typically writes as Johnathon Heart, and is the former editor-in-chief of The Metaworker. He is dedicated to writing stories for anyone who thinks that Halloween is better than Christmas, that love is worth believing in, and that all the best love stories are at least a little bit sad. Clearly enough people think this for him to get published. He has appeared in a variety of anthologies and is slated to appear in more. His hobbies include arguing with imaginary people and wasting the entire day. He does not actually enjoy these things, but he does them anyway.

Referenced in this episode: 

Switchyard Tulsa and The Switchyard Podcast
Mermaids Monthly
George Lies Morgantown Writers Group
Super Eyepatch Wolf, Influencer Courses are Garbage: The Dark Side of Content Creation
Dick Pig by Ian Muneshwar, published in Nightmare Magazine

Matthew Maichen (aka Johnathon Heart) Publication List:

“To Summon Her” from Pressfuls (as Matthew Maichen)
“Woman Made of Stars” from Factor Four
“The Mourner” in Depths of Love, Love Thy Enemy
“My Darling Girl” in It Calls from Below: Anthology of Horror
“Tacos” in The Best of Bizarro Fiction: Volume 2
“Dorian” in The Devil Who Loves Me
“(im here)” in Bleed Error, Vol. 2
“Lorelai” in the Thirteen Podcast (Patrons only) and in Wicked Shadow Press
“The Door People” in the Nosleep Podcast (as Matthew Maichen)
“Like the Devil” in Collage Macabre: An Exhibition of Art Horror (as Matthew Maichen)
“THREEFOLD.WMV” by Johnathon Heart in From Beyond the Threshold: Cosmic Horror Anthology

Episode Transcript:

Elena L. Perez (00:02):
Hello everyone. My name is Elena Perez. I’m the editor-in-chief of The Metaworker. It’s been a while since we’ve done a podcast, so for those following along on our website, we have had a leadership change. We’ll get into that in a minute, but I wanna introduce the rest of the editors.

Melissa Reynolds (00:21):
I’m Melissa Reynolds—go by Mel—and I am also an editor here with The Metaworker, and I’m happy to be here.

Cerid Jones (00:28):
And I’m Cerid Jones, and I’m the international editor here at The Metaworker, and I’m thrilled to be here. It’s been such a long time since we did a podcast. I’m excited.

Elena L. Perez (00:39):
Yay. So, we are here today with our former editor-in-chief, Matthew Maichen. Back in April, we made an announcement that we were changing leadership. So, we’re gonna talk to Matthew today to see what he’s been up to. Before we continue the conversation, we’re gonna do something new for us. We’re shouting-out a fellow literary podcast. This one is called Switchyard Tulsa. It’s a production of the University of Tulsa and Public Radio Tulsa and hosted by award-winning editor, journalist, and author Ted Genoways.

Melissa Reynolds (01:14):
The Switchyard podcast features eye-opening essays, moving fiction, soul-stirring poetry, and honest, thought-provoking conversation. Guests include graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, former US poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway, cartoonist Maia Kobabe, and more.

Cerid Jones (01:37):
This podcast stood out to us because it covers topics that carry a societal depth, addressing topics that stimulate further conversations and directly affect the world that we live in today. So, listen to Switchyard on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Elena L. Perez (01:56):
So, Matthew, just go ahead and introduce yourself and then tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to since you stepped away.

Matthew Maichen (02:03):
Hello. I am Matthew Maichen. Due to a variety of circumstances, particularly when I started and I was an editor, but also being a teacher, I publish typically under the pseudonym Jonathan Heart. You will find a lot more from me under that pseudonym. I’ve been writing and submitting a lot. In the last few months, not as much writing because I’ve been querying for a novel. And that is going, you know, how querying for novels tends to go, which is that it’s an adventure. I have been accepted quite a few times recently. I have upcoming pieces. I just got published recently with Erie River in an anthology called “From Beyond the Threshold”. It’s a horror anthology. And the story, I believe, was about…I believe’—I know what it’s about ’cause I wrote it. It’s about a woman who watches snuff films on the internet and eventually finds a cursed snuff film that leads to her encountering a God. That’s the kind of stuff I often write. So, that’s a good snapshot into, I guess, what you can expect from me when I’m left to my own devices and nobody stops me.

Elena L. Perez (03:27):
Congrats on that publication, Matthew. That’s so cool. You always have really interesting story ideas. [laughs] I’ll have to go look that one up.

Matthew Maichen (03:36):
Yeah, I try to. It’s hard to even make it without interesting story ideas these days. I came up with a story that I thought was interesting and the editors personally told me that it was cliche once. Ever since then, I’ve realized there’s so much out there, you really cannot get anywhere unless you… I don’t know, unless you try your hardest to set yourself apart and come up with interesting ideas. Especially now.

Melissa Reynolds (04:08):
Do you think that influences your writing style? Needing to, I guess, tailor what you write to an audience? Or do you still try to respect your artistic vision as much as you can?

Matthew Maichen (04:25):
That is something I think about a lot. I actually have gone through phases where I try to write to the mass market. Both of the novels that I wrote fairly recently—in the last few years—started out with me trying to do that and ultimately failing. In the sense that I got in the way. The weirdness inside of me got in the way of it being a mass marketable novel. I’ve come to peace with that because I’ve looked at my writing and myself, and I’ve had to be honest, that, like, for something to get written, I have to want to write it. For me, to have to wanna write it, I have to be excited by it. You know, I know someone who was able to do a full-time writing gig for a while, writing under four pseudonyms, various types of romance novels and could put out…to this person’s credit, they could put out about 10,000 words a day, if not more. They were able to convincingly write under these four pseudonyms and you could believe that they were four different authors. But the thing is, all of the books that they wrote were very much, like, ‘this is a marketable romance novel that will sell’. But even then, when you talk to that person and you really got down to it with them, you realize this was a person who genuinely did feel very passionate about romance. They were not just doing it for the money. They felt passionate about the genre, and they felt passionate about the material. And if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to do it. I think the idea of an author selling out…like it’s so hard to actually sell out, because the determination to write something that you’re not passionate about, that’s hard. That’s a lot of determination to sit down every day writing something you genuinely don’t care about. I’ve never seen an author who does it.

Melissa Reynolds (06:38):
That’s a really good point.

Elena L. Perez (06:39):
That is, yeah. I always see these…advice of these—especially the self-published authors—who have to write so much to sell, to make a living off of it. That thought has crossed my mind, but that does make sense that they would have to have some sort of investment to keep doing this. It’s just that, yeah, their focus is slightly different than what I would expect, I guess. I don’t know.

Matthew Maichen (07:06):
Well, it’s like, some people are lucky in that what they are passionate about is the thing that a lot of other people are passionate about. You know, they are passionate about something that appeals to the mass market and they are able to sell that. Hats off to them. That’s great. But to be shrewd, if you were to actually 100% sell out in the writing industry in general, if you’re planning to sell out and you’re, like, ‘I’m all about the money’, my number one piece of advice to writers who would be all about the money is go into a totally different field, get a totally different job, don’t do writing. If you’re all about the money, it’s not there for you. It’s just not. You won’t get it. Most writers don’t have full-time writing jobs when they do sell out. It just doesn’t happen. Find a different thing to sell out for. Writing isn’t gonna get it for you.

Elena L. Perez (08:04):
That’s actually exactly why I’m a video editor, because I feel like if I did writing full-time as my job to make money, I would eventually hate it and not enjoy doing it. And I love writing too much for that to happen. So yeah, that’s, that’s a good piece of advice, I would say.

Cerid Jones (08:20):
And I think, too, that makes a really good bridge to the next thing I really wanna talk to you about, Matthew. Because one of the reasons why you stepped down from being editor-in-chief with us was you wanted to have more time to focus on writing, maybe perhaps treating writing more as a career. So, one of the things I’m interested in hearing you talk about is what do you think some of the hardest parts about the transition from being a writer to treating being a writer as part of your career is? I mean, we’ve kind of talked about the obvious answer is sort of money, but I kind of feel like there’s a little bit more to it than that. Maybe at least for you, Matthew.

Matthew Maichen (08:57):
Yeah. The hardest transition point is really just the slog of it. And by the slog, I mean that… so, imagine you are sending out countless job applications, right? Just job application after job application after job application, [inaudible] away sending out these job applications, and you have to send out a hundred to get one acceptance and you do it and you get that acceptance. But instead of getting a full-time job, you get published at one cent a word and you get about $19. And that is what treating writing like a career is like right now. Especially in the indie publishing sphere. One of the big ongoing problems with online short story lit mags is that most of the people who read them are people who are published in them, and there’s almost no money in it. So, because there’s almost no money in it, there’s not a lot of money for them to then pass on to their writers and pay them. So, you know, I’m not mad when I get paid 1 cent a word because I look at that and I’m, like, ‘oh, that’s payment. I’m getting paid’. And there’s a lot of places where you don’t, and even those places, it is so hard to get into. That’s why I’m trying to query a novel now, because hopefully there is more mainstream appeal to that, the novel-buying industry, as opposed to the short story industry. But even then you have to go through the agent wall, putting all the agents you’re interested in up on a board and going through one after another, after another, after another. Going through a hundred agents and looking up each of them personally to find out what their information is and what they’re interested in. Because you cannot just send depersonalized query letters. That’s the way to get rejected by a whole lot of people.

Elena L. Perez (11:00):
Mm hm.

Matthew Maichen (11:00):
This is all to say, the benchmark for success changes. For example, there was an agent who requested not to see the entire novel that I sent, but the first fifty pages, requested a follow-up of seeing fifty pages, and that was a success. They rejected me in the end. But, you know, that was a success. It’s hard. I’m not gonna mince words. It is often painfully difficult. A lot of people burn out and a lot of people give up and I don’t blame them. I honestly don’t.

Elena L. Perez (11:41):
Yeah, it definitely takes dedication for sure, because, yeah, it is a numbers game and, like you said, like a lottery. The more that you submit, the more chances you have. What keeps you going through all that slog? Well, you’ve said it’s not necessarily for the money, but for the name recognition. Like, if you don’t get published by these big name publishers, would you do self-publishing? What is your thought process, I guess, behind being published?

Matthew Maichen (12:14):
So, there is a YouTuber, actually, of all people, who is called ‘super eyepatch wolf’. This sounds random, this is very random, but bear with me. I was actually at a point where I was going to stop for literally that reason, because I was looking at what I was getting out of it. And I had been published, I had been accepted, I did have an upcoming story. It wasn’t that long ago. Then he put out this multi-hour-long video about people conning other people into how they could be successful YouTubers, people putting out fake YouTube video algorithm-busting courses. His core takeaway for it was, [one], these are fake. Two, there’s a lot of problems with being in this industry. And three, after he presented all the problems, like, ‘here’s why I still do it’. I connected with it a lot, even though it was a totally different industry, because what he said at the end was, ‘look, I am creating something that I am passionate about, and I am putting it in front of other people who don’t even know me and connecting with them that way’. If you want to do that for money, the time’s up in the 21st century. That’s not happening anymore. It’s over. Between the writer’s strike and just how bad conditions are for writers in general, I’m sorry, it’s not happening anymore. There may never be another Stephen King again or JK Rowling again, just because of the way that the industry works now. But if you are doing it because you are passionate and because you just want to create something and put it out there into the world and have it be out there in the world, if that is your benchmark, if that is what you’re looking for, you can still do that. That resonated with me because—yeah, if I did still have hope of this being my full-time career, and that was my goal, I would give up. Of course I would. Anyone rational would, but if I just want to create something and I wanna put it out there and I wanna share it with people, then, yeah, it’s still worth doing it at the end of the day.

Melissa Reynolds (14:46):
I’m really glad that Elena asked you that question because that was what I was thinking, too. Since the traditional ways of publishing seem almost impossible, would you explore the idea of going through Amazon, or—I know there’s one called Draft2digital, which is what George [from] the Morgantown Writers Group is thinking about doing an anthology through. That puts you in public libraries and also Amazon and several other different sites and stores. I haven’t looked into it as much as George has, but do you think that is worthwhile? I don’t know if it would be enough to pay…to give you a decent income, but do you think that is the answer to the traditional type of publishing?

Matthew Maichen (15:40):
It depends on what you’re trying to do. So, if you choose to self-publish or indie publish a novel, you are making your peace with the fact that you’ll never be in bookstores. However, if you are self-publishing a novel and doing it in mass market genres like romance, really successful marketable genres like romance, your earnings potential is higher—significantly higher—than if you traditionally publish, actually. The reality is, I do not want to publish something just to say, ‘oh, this is published’. If I’m publishing something, and it’s not just on my computer anymore, I want it to get in front of as many people as it can. And that really is my goal. I know I’m not going to make money, but I want people to see it. I understand why people make the choices they make. Like, the reason for going through something that puts you in public libraries—at least being published—the reason to do that is so that you can distribute it still. So that you can share it still and you can say it’s out there, and then maybe yes, someone can find it. It’s not a bad decision. It’s potentially the decision that works for you.

Melissa Reynolds (17:15):

Matthew Maichen (17:16):
You know, when I talk about how bad things are as far as your likelihood of success, a lot of people respond to that in different ways. For me, what I’ve come to peace with is that, because the things that I write are so…if you’ve read them, you are aware they are something that need to be sold to people. I hope—this is my hope—that people do not realize that they want [them], because the alternative to people not realizing that they want them is people not wanting them. Because no one has ever asked for the things that I write. I’ve never seen people going around saying, ‘I want this thing’ and then I’ve been looking at my hard drive being, like, ‘well, good news, I’m writing it’. I like to believe that they are meaningful, and I like to believe that they are important. And I like to believe that once people read them, they will enjoy them. I think that for that to work, it needs to be marketed and it needs to be sold. And people need to hear about it. They can’t discover it, unfortunately, organically.

Melissa Reynolds (18:33):
That’s…I think one of the more difficult aspects is, uh, sure, you put your book up on Amazon and they promote it for what, a week? Maybe? And then it’s on the author after that. So, yeah. I actually have a book, “1,001 Ways to Market Your Books”, and [laughs] some of ’em are so outdated, it’s not even funny. And unrealistic too. There’s one that’s, like, ‘oh, go on your local news channel and do an interview about your novel’.

Elena L. Perez (19:06):

Melissa Reynolds (19:06):
And I’m thinking, ‘how the heck do you even get on the local news?’ [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (19:11):
The way to sell a book, a self-published book, now changes every two to three years, if that, and the people who successfully market a self-published book on Amazon are the people who figure out how to game the system. It’s basically not that different from there being a scam that then gets found out, and then you need to use another scam. And that’s honestly how you sell a self-published book.

Cerid Jones (19:38):
Yeah. I find this conversation particularly interesting coming from my perspective, which is A, on the other side of the world, so, you know, our battles to reach traditional publishing are slightly different, and our market is really different. You know, I think American publishing is quite unique in lots of ways because there is an increase, moreso than other places in the world, of this gatekeeping that goes on. And secondly, because my day job’-ish [laughs]—I work in the indie publishing industry, right? So, like learning….I’ve been in there for three years and Matthew, just like you’re saying, every six months, there is something different in indie publishing. How you promote, how you market a book, how Amazon works, or the new things that pop up. It is constantly changing and it is so difficult. I speak to authors who have been really successful indie publishers ten years ago, who, you know, had to completely relearn what they were doing every single year because the market changes, the industry changes. One of the big changes I think we’ve got, which kind of touches on some of the things we’re talking about here, is that our industry is now flooded with options and availability. Whether you’re in traditional, or whether you’re in indie, or whether you’re in self-published, anyone can publish a book these days.

Matthew Maichen (21:10):
Uh huh.

Cerid Jones (21:10):
Like you say, Matthew, there’s different degrees of what you’re looking for, but because anyone can do it, that means that readers are overwhelmed with choice.

Matthew Maichen (21:20):

Cerid Jones (21:20):
So, that floods the market and it makes it so hard to find what it is you’re looking for. And just like you say, Matthew, most of the time the books that you really fall in love with are the things you weren’t actually looking for. You didn’t know that was what you needed. But how do you find those, you know? How does that come across? That’s all down to the marketing aspect, the business aspect, the self-promotion aspect, which is counterintuitive to everything that exists about a person as a writer, right?

Melissa Reynolds (21:52):

Elena L. Perez (21:53):
That’s a problem also with big publishing because, you know, big publishing has this certain idea of what a quote unquote marketable book is. Matthew, if you have something that is completely different—what you were saying your writing is—that makes it that much harder to get traditionally published.

Matthew Maichen (22:14):

Elena L. Perez (22:14):
Because you have to work that much harder to convince the agents and the publishers that your book is worth marketing and, you know, distributing to people.

Matthew Maichen (22:27):
Mm-Hmm. And one of the things that agents are sick of hearing, for example…If you don’t know, there’s a thing called a query letter that you send to agents—I’m talking to the general audience—and in a query letter you have to give two comp titles. So, like, ‘my book is The Fault in Our Stars meets Harry Potter’, or something like that. I don’t know. That sounds like a weird book. That sounds like tragic wizards. Tragic sick wizards. But you get the idea. You have to have two books that you know that your book would be similar to. And if you have the gall to say, ‘I haven’t read anything that’s like my book’, their go-to assumption is, ‘wow, you don’t read a lot, do you?’ That’s their go-to assumption. And the sad part of that is most of the time they’re right. Most of the time, novice authors who are writing query letters, the reason that they cannot find books that are similar to their books is because they don’t read a lot. That usually the reason.

Elena L. Perez (23:37):
I would push back on that idea. There was a Twitter thread that was actually about this, because that is the knee-jerk assumption. But actually, for writers of color, that’s not necessarily the case. There aren’t a lot of books [that] can be compared to the books that writers of color are writing. So, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is not well-read. It just means that there’s not…

Matthew Maichen (24:04):

Elena L. Perez (24:04):
…a pool of books available for that audience, so publishers think that there’s no audience for those books, but that’s not the case. So, for that particular group of people, that makes it even more difficult. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (24:23):
Yup. And that’s the thing. I don’t think that you are wrong, but I don’t think that I’m wrong, either.

Elena L. Perez (24:33):
Right. Yeah.

Matthew Maichen (24:33):
Because when I say most of the time, I do mean generally. If you get, say, a hundred people who are querying, and out of that hundred people, the majority of people who say, ‘I don’t have any comp titles’, it will be because they haven’t read enough books. That is true most of the time. But for a sizable portion, it will actually be that they are writing something different. For a sizable, very real portion of people, it will be that they are writing something different. And it can be for a lot of reasons. It can be because they’re writers of color. It can be just because they’re doing something different. It can be because—for so many different reasons. It is a huge issue when it comes to the publication of things that are new and different and interesting. It stands as a guardrail to getting stuff published that really genuinely is unlike anything else. That’s why I give agents the benefit of the doubt, though. I give agents the benefit of the doubt because if you say something is statistically true, if it’s true 90% of the time, then they are right. But it’s hard. It’s hard for people who are actually being different.

Elena L. Perez (26:00):
Yeah. It’s a complex network because if you’ve convinced the agent or the editor that your book is, you know, this awesome thing, they then have to go and convince their publisher that that money…

Matthew Maichen (26:17):
Oh, yeah.

Elena L. Perez (26:17):
…should be put behind this title…

Matthew Maichen (26:19):
And it’ll be successful.

Elena L. Perez (26:19):
…and so forth.

Matthew Maichen (26:21):
It’ll be successful.

Elena L. Perez (26:22):

Matthew Maichen (26:22):
Because at the end of the day, it is a business and sometimes when agents say, ‘I like this, but I can’t sell it’…

Elena L. Perez (26:29):

Matthew Maichen (26:30):
…that’s not a bullshit response. They really mean that.

Elena L. Perez (26:35):

Matthew Maichen (26:35):
They really mean that sometimes. They love it, but they can’t see a scenario in which it sells. Or even a scenario in which they personally know how to market or sell it. And they mean that.

Elena L. Perez (26:52):
Yeah. They’re kind of stuck in the system, too. [laughs] So, we’re all working in this system that we just gotta do the best that we can. Along those lines, you mentioned earlier, Matthew, about the query process. Could you talk a little bit about how you market or write queries or navigate that process for your writing, since it is maybe a little bit different, as you’ve said. Can you walk us through that a little bit?

Matthew Maichen (27:23):
I have to still follow the rules. The rules are: you introduce a main character, a protagonist, immediately; you say what that protagonist is going through; you say, why—and I hate doing this, I absolutely loathe doing this—but you say why you in particular are the person to tell this story, ignoring all the ethical problems with that. And you basically break down what in particular your resume is and what you are selling for. You have to summarize the story and what’s meaningful or interesting about it because that [query] needs to be a page. Meaning that you need to summarize what is important or interesting or marketable about your story in probably four or five sentences out of that, because that’s so much else to fit in there. You look up agents who sound like they would work well with you, and you personalize it as much as possible. You alter the query and change it as much as possible to fit that agent and then you submit it and you go on a mass submissions binge. You usually have an Excel spreadsheet because you have to keep track of who you have already submitted to and who you’ve not already submitted to and what agency you’ve submitted to, because you’re gonna end up with fifty, sixty agents that you’ve submitted to. And an agency might say, like, ‘don’t submit to more than one of our agents at a time’. And then you have a four-month waiting period to get a response. You’re gonna forget that you submitted to the agency because of the four month waiting period, so you really have to record that you have done that submission. And, yeah, I sound like a crazy person because I’m going over all this and the obvious response is, ‘holy crap, you do that?’ That’s…

Elena L. Perez (29:22):
Like a full-time job. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (29:23):
Yeah. ‘You do this? You…this is a thing you spend your time on?’ Yeah, I do that. I do that and I have not had my novel published, so, uh, we’re in the trenches. Um…

Elena L. Perez (29:41):
Still a waiting game. [laughs].

Matthew Maichen (29:42):
Yeah. People do this for like a year or sometimes more.

Elena L. Perez (29:46):

Matthew Maichen (29:47):
They just go through agent after agent after agent. They wait ’til their favorite agent is ‘open’ because agents will spend long periods of time ‘closed’ because when they ‘open’ for even a day, they end up with thousands of submissions.

Elena L. Perez (30:02):

Matthew Maichen (30:02):
In, like, a span of a week. They usually, as a result, don’t even read the entire query. They look for the part that is an auto reject for them, and they just go, ‘no, no, no, no, no’. And that’s how fast they reject different queries. Like, that would’ve been four or five queries.

Elena L. Perez (30:21):
Yeah. It’s…[laughs]. Speaking, since all of us are editors, we definitely know how that…

Matthew Maichen (30:27):

Elena L. Perez (30:27):
…slushing [laughs] works.

Matthew Maichen (30:29):

Elena L. Perez (30:29):
It’s a lot. The way that Matthew describes it, you know, ‘oh, you just reject, reject’. It sounds like you’re reading and not putting much care into it, but because we have…you know, all the editors doing this have a lot of experience with stories and crafting, we already know what it is we’re looking for. So, it’s not that we’re doing it, you know, with a cold heart. [laughs] It’s that we have experience with what we’re looking for and what, as Matthew said, we know that we can—well, not me because I’m not selling anything—but other editors. What they know they can sell.

Matthew Maichen (31:12):

Cerid Jones (31:12):
That key point of what sells is so… Like, that took me such a long time to get over. I mean, you know, you guys have all worked with me here at The Metaworker, you know how passionate I am about always trying to find…there’s so much potential. I think the first few weeks of me being a slush reader for various things, every single comment I had would be like, ‘this has got so much potential. It just needs a little bit of this, little bit of that’. Now that I’m three years into it and I open up any of the slush reading piles, whether it’s for my indie publishing or here at the journal or anywhere else, I have to be so much more cutthroat because it’s like you say, Matthew, it’s down to the time. You know, as editors or as assessors, you get so much stuff come through the door and you just realistically cannot give everyone the time that you wish you could. You have to have this little list in your head. And I think that’s kind of why we often get a really bad rap on this end of things, ’cause we do look like vicious gatekeepers for just going ‘reject’ real fast, and it’s awful. We don’t actually like doing it. But you have to learn to do that. You have to learn, just like as a writer [you] to learn to be able to weather the rejections, as an editor, you also have to learn to be able to weather that ‘cutthroat’ in yourself, you know? To be able to make those snap decisions. And especially when it comes to indie publishing, that question is so awful—is there a market for this? You know?

Matthew Maichen (32:47):

Cerid Jones (32:47):
It”s so difficult to grapple with when you are in it for the passion, but that’s a harsh reality, you know? There’s no point, in any business, investing in something that they can’t get some return from. It’s the same with you as a writer. You’re not gonna invest your time in an idea for a story that you know isn’t gonna go anywhere for you. It’s exactly the same for the people assessing that work. You know, it’s just one of those things.

Matthew Maichen (33:15):

Elena L. Perez (33:17):
Yeah. It all comes down to resources and money. Time is a resource. Money is a resource. How much time can you dedicate to this? How much money can you dedicate to this? So, yeah, you have to be selective because you’re working with finite resources here.

Matthew Maichen (33:34):

Cerid Jones (33:35):
And it’s also down to what your community is.

Elena L. Perez (33:37):
Also true.

Cerid Jones (33:37):
You know, we know as The Metaworker what our community, what our readership, is and what matches with that as well as what matches with our own, you know? I mean, it’s the same when you’re sending a a query submission. You’re trying to match yourself with their community, too. There’s this constant supply and demand on all kinds of personal levels and business levels left, right, and center. It is so complex, right? None of it’s simple.

Matthew Maichen (34:07):
Yeah. And especially…shout-out to everyone who does indie publishing. Everyone who does those short story mags, everyone who does those independently published books because, yes, they are forced into being the gatekeepers, but look at their returns, look at how much money they make on their sales, and you will realize that a lot of the time, the editors, the head editors of those publishers, the people in charge of those publishers, are investing their own money out-of-pocket just to keep those places running. A lot of them are folding right now.

Elena L. Perez (34:49):

Matthew Maichen (34:49):
We’re in, actually, a big downward trend for lit mags because I think that readership for lit mags keeps getting lower. A lot of lit mags put their stories online for free. Unfortunately, that is not profitable. I say this as someone who was the editor-in-chief of The Metaworker, you know? I’m just being realistic. You don’t make money that way and other people do it…

Elena L. Perez (35:21):

Matthew Maichen (35:21):
…so, even if you don’t do it, there’ll be another lit mag that they’ll go to that puts their stories online for free.

Elena L. Perez (35:29):

Matthew Maichen (35:30):
It’s hard. And a lot of them are closing. I believe Fantasy is closing, right?

Elena L. Perez (35:39):
Yeah, there’s a couple others. I forget the names, but, yeah, there are several I’ve seen that are closing because it’s just not sustainable. Because, as you said, a lot of the readers of these magazines are—well, I don’t know, I don’t have data to back this up, but to me, [laughs] it’s a niche. And I don’t know how often people outside of that niche come and read the stories and actually contribute monetarily to keep them running. So, that’s the challenge. Like we’ve been saying, marketing.

Matthew Maichen (36:14):

Elena L. Perez (36:14):
You have to market the magazine itself, too, to get the money to fund it.

Matthew Maichen (36:21):
Yeah. So, there was a point…it was a while ago, but I went into R-slash-books on Reddit and I made the post, ‘Hey, check out lit mags’ to a community of readers—not writers, but readers—and so many people responded with, ‘holy crap, I never considered this. I legitimately never even thought of this’. So, you know, unfortunately, I would say, shout-out, read Lit Mags, but if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably already know about lit mags, so…whatever.

Elena L. Perez (36:54):
Keep sharing. [laughts]

Matthew Maichen (36:58):
Yeah. The readers in your life, the people who only read novels, let them know that there are lit mags on the internet that are so hyper-specialized. There’s one lit mag that literally, they just do stories about mermaids. You can find specifically what your interest is. There was a really, really excellent story that got published in Nightmare Magazine, and I am only going to call it by this because it is its actual name, “Dick Pig” is probably a perfect example of a story that is so weird and proves there are still absolutely bizarre stories being published that do not neatly fit the algorithms of what is marketable. You can quote me on this. I want to write something like “Dick Pig” really badly. It’s just such an aspirational challenge. It’s so cutthroat, unfortunately, for writers. Because it’s so cutthroat, the things that actually get published are usually such high quality. You can find some really good stuff if you’re a fan, a reader, and you actually are willing to look into it.

Elena L. Perez (38:21):
The stories that do make it through, just… It inspires me even more.

Matthew Maichen (38:25):

Elena L. Perez (38:26):
Because you see the great quality of the stories that do make it through. So, I see that as an aspirational challenge. Like, ‘I can write something like that. I wanna write that. Let me try to, you know, be the one to make it through the slog, the slush’.

Matthew Maichen (38:44):
Yeah. The gauntlet.

Elena L. Perez (38:45):
Yeah. [laughs].

Matthew Maichen (38:46):

Elena L. Perez (38:48):
We’re going to stop our conversation here because we’ve talked for a while and we have a lot more to say. We’ll be picking up the discussion in part two of this catchup series where we’ll talk with Matthew about writing craft and we’ll hear an excerpt from one of his short stories. So, stay tuned.

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