[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
                      E S T A B  - L O I D
                Issue #10                  4-5-86
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                The Establishment BBS (894-6526)
                owned and operated by Thane Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1986
	It's 4-5-6 (less the 8). I wonder if that means something?
Maybe I should be doing this issue on spooky stuff - or at least
ways to take an ordinary event (like 4-5-6) and making it *seem*
to be spooky.
   Last week we heard from Chris Mitchell on broadcasting. (If you
missed it, all back issues are in the download section. While in the
magazine sub-board, press U for the upload/download menu. You can 
then download back issues. However, it would be appreciated if 
you would limit yourself in time taken. Other users might be
trying to access The Establishment.)
   With the tangent aside, this week's topic is what *I* do for a
living - freelance writing. Even if you're not interested in that
as a career, I urge that you read the issue carefully.
   Almost no matter what you do as a career, good communication 
skills are essential. Sometimes the ability to write, even if 
only a note to the boss, can make the difference between getting
a promotion or being tossed back into the mail room (or worse).
   Beyond that, if you DO have an interest in writing, and even
if you don't make a career at it, you can pick up some spare cash
by making some occasional sales. (And it IS fun seeing your name
in print.)
                          BEING A WRITER
   At one time or another, a very good portion of the public will
read an article or story and say, "I can do better than that." Of
those who say it, maybe half will put themselves on the line and 
actually try. Of those, maybe half will ever actually complete the
attempt. Of those, maybe a tenth will take the chance of being
rejected by sending it to a publisher. And of that tenth, maybe 
a third will ever sell something. Of that third, if they work very
hard and keep at it, maybe 1% will ever sell enough to turn full
time pro.
   Those aren't very good odds. But that's something the would-be
writer should realize and understand before ever beginning. Full
time freelance writers are rare. You won't meet very many in your
life. You might meet quite a few people who work for a newspaper
or the like; and will meet even more (perhaps) people who have 
been published one or two times.
   As the famous line from an old TV show goes, "No brag; just fact."
   Some years ago I taught writing, both on an individual basis 
and in special seminars. It didn't take long to figure out why
I was making it, while so many others failed again and again and
again. And why the number of professional freelancers is so low.
   For the most part, it's so obvious as to be ridiculous.
                1.)  To Be a Writer YOU MUST WRITE
   Over the years I've talked to hundreds of would-be writers. One
of the first questions I always ask is, "What have you written?"
In *at least* half of the cases the answer was something like, "Well,
I've got this one really great idea, and have written 5 whole
pages of it since last year."
   That's just not going to work. As stupid as it sounds, most
people who SAY they want to be writers don't like to write. They
come up with more excuses than you can imagine to find ways of
getting out of it. There's school, and work, and the family, and
social life, and that great TV special that's on tonight.
   Isaac Asimov - probably one of the most prolific writers in 
history - once said that a writer has to enjoy the mechanics of
writing. He (or she) has to enjoy sitting at a keyboard and 
plunking away. The more that this feels like work, the less 
chance there is that the person will succeed.
   The would-be writer also has to have the drive to be a writer.
There are many frustrations along the way. Without the drive, the
average person will quit before any degree of success has been
   There are times when I've had so many assignments to get done
that I've passed off the chance to break-in to other writers. To
date, not a single one took advantage of the opportunity, despite
their claims of how bad they wanted to "live [my] lifestyle."
   What it comes down to is the same old attitude that affects
so many people. They want instant success, without any effort.
They don't want to "pay their dues" to reach that desired goal.
   That might sound hard, but it's true. (How many times have 
you abandoned a desired goal when the going got tougher than you'd
originally imagined?)
   To reach any goal, you'll never reach that goal unless you 
actually make the effort to do so. Reading martial arts magazines
and dreaming about it won't make you a black belt.
            2.) To Be a Selling Writer YOU MUST SUBMIT
   Of the half of the class that *did* have manuscripts on hand,
surprisingly few had bothered to submit them. One lady in a
class spoke at length at how much better she could write than
those who were selling to her favorite magazine. She'd knocked
out an easy dozen stories and articles for just that market.
Then, when asked how many rejection slips she'd had so far, she
answered with, "None. I haven't submitted yet."
   Those dozen manuscripts were sitting at home in a drawer. 
Her friends had read them, and she was proud of the fact that 
all of her friends thought the pieces to be quite good. But,
had she been published yet? Nope.
   Imagine that you have just invented the world's greatest 
computer. You talk to all your friends about how your own design
is SO much better than what is available, and that when you
release that wonderful invention, it will revolutionize the field.
   That's all fine and good - and it's possible that your new
invention WILL revolutionize the field - but how will you ever
find out if that masterpiece sits in the basement with no one ever
seeing it?
   How can you sell a story and get it published if it sits at 
home in a drawer? (For that matter, have you ever heard someone
complain at being unable to find a job, when you know that the
person has been sitting at home and not out there putting in 
applications? How is an employer supposed to hire you if he 
doesn't know you're available?)
                        3.) DON'T GIVE UP
   Even the people who get past the first two hurdles often fail
on the third. They give up. Using the last analogy, the person
looking for a job puts in 15 applications, doesn't get a job, 
and just gives up.
   As another analogy, imagine a ship that is sinking. The life-
boats are there. Yet people drown. Studies have shown that a
strangely large percentage of the victims drown within a few
feet of the lifeboat. They might swim through the stormy sea
for hundreds of yards - and then give up a few feet from 
   Giving up guarantees just one thing - failure.
   A writer's life is one of facing rejection. Send out 30 stories,
and the chances are quite good (unless *you* are quite good) that
at least 29 of them will come back with rejection slips. You might
have spent a hundred heartbreaking hours getting just one story
together. Then in an instant some stranger out there in the "real
world" blows it out of the water.
   That's a hard thing to face. If you put the necessary "heart
and soul" into the manuscript, it's like sending a child out into
the world, only to have that child fail again and again. That can
hurt. Imagine yourself as the parent of 30 kids. All 30 go out
into the world, and not a single one of them makes good. All of
them fail miserably and come back home again. What does that say
of you, the parent? Would you want to have more children?
   The writer faces that same sort of situation. That rejected
writer can make excuses - some of them valid. The editor is stupid;
or he was in a bad mood. But when it comes down to it, while YOUR
masterpiece is being tossed aside, someone else's sells.
   The wonder isn't that would-be writers quit - it's that some of
them keep going. But to BE a writer, you can't quit. You can't
give up. So you send in 30 stories, and get back 30 rejections. 
Then you send in 50 and get back 50 rejections.
   The determined would-be will polish his (or her) technique, and
try again. If he (or she) doesn't try again . . . .
   Well, try again and you MIGHT succeed. You might not. Give up
and you guarantee that you won't reach that goal.
                       4.) KNOW YOUR MARKET 
   Thinking back a ways - I was writing for the E-Go Enterprises 
Magazine Group out of California. From selling a piece to them once
in a while, I went to selling enough to fill about a third of each
issue. I was then named Photo Editor of the group. 
   That puzzled me. Although I have about 9000 photos in print, 
I readily admit that I don't know all that much technically about
photography, and have no specialized training in that field. So,
this time I asked the Managing Editor, "Why me?" After all, he had
on staff a number of photographers who were vastly superior in 
technical expertise, training and background.
   "It's quite simple, Gene," he said. "I know, and you know, that
we have several photographers on staff who are better. But they keep
sending me shots that we don't need and can't use." He named one
of the best we had, and told me that this guy had just sent in, 
along with the standard coverage, a very dramatic and beautiful 
shot of some flowers. His suggestion was that the photo showed
the beauty of that particular event. But what do flowers have to
do with customized vans?
   Later I became Associate Editor for the Jalart House Magazine
Group. For a karate magazine we would get in articles on gardening,
and one article, complete with detailed photos, of how to make 
love. One "reverend" sent us a scathing (and poorly written 
article on how the oriental nature of the martial arts was 
obviously a tool of the devil - and later an even more scathing 
letter on how *we* must be devil worshippers for "not having the 
courage to publish [his] true manuscript."  For a baseball magazine 
we would get recipes. 
   At the vanning magazine we got the same sort of thing. Remarkably
similar in fact. We got photo-essays from people showing the more
sexual side of using a van (for a family oriented magazine?); we
got a fair number of pieces from the "moral majority" that talked
about how immoral vanning was (and the usual letters afterwards 
about our lack of courage for not publishing the horribly written
   IF you ever reach a position of freelance importance, talk to 
the editor. You'll hear stories that most people won't believe. Why
would someone send a story of kinky sex to a baseball magazine? Why
would someone expect a martial arts magazine to publish a totally
inaccurate, poorly researched, and even more poorly written, article
of anti-martial arts? (It's often worse than that.)
   What I'm getting at here is relevancy. In writing that means 
that the submission will suit the publication. In applying for *any*
job, it means keeping your resume relevant to the position.
   As has been mentioned, a would-be writer can't succeed with 
those works of art sitting in a drawer at home. Those things must
be submitted. You have to take the chance for rejection - knowing
all the while that rejection is PROBABLY what you'll get.
   As with so many businesses, more than half of the trick is to
give the APPEARANCE of being a professional. Think about it for a
moment. Take a particular publication. YOU send in something, and
so do I. Even before the editor reads the submission itself there
will be things that he will noticed that will set MY submission
aside from YOURS, and that will give me that needed edge. My own
story might not even be as good - but it will sell, while yours
gets returned.
   I haven't had a rejection slip in something like 7 years now.
That's not because I'm such a great writer. Admittedly, I'm fairly
good at my craft. But there are those among you who are better
yet, and much more qualified.
   I've known hundreds of people who can write better than I can;
and just as many who are greatly more qualified with a camera.
Yet my stuff continues to sell to a point where I could put on a
staff of 10 just to keep up, while the more qualified people
give up and fade away.
   A large part of that is in submitting, which is a sub-part of
                          A Cover Letter
   Throughout this issue I've turned to things other than writing.
I'm about to do so once again. If you ever find yourself in a 
position of being responsible to hire you'll learn quickly what I
mean. You learn to disregard at least 98% of what is on that resume,
especially when that resume is amateurish.
   With the vast majority of submissions a "letter of introduction"
was enclosed. In this letter were a number of reasons why THIS was
the piece we wanted ". . . if you're more intelligent than the 40
publications that turned it down . . . ", and other nonsense that
meant nothing to anyone other than the author. 
   "All my friends say it's great."
   "This story will probably double your circulation."
   "My story has been in demand by all your readers for years."
   "If you don't buy this, I'll know that you have no taste."
   "My mother is in the hospital and I really need the money."
   "I'm a professional writer, although I haven't sold anything."
   "I'm just starting but I'm a willing worker and learn fast." 
   "I know that you usually pay 3c per word, but this article is
so good that I'm sure you'll agree (if you're smart) that you 
should pay me 50c per word or more."
   And so on. (I used to keep a list of some of the more outrageous
excuses and "introductions" but finally gave up. It *is* true that
the more stupid ones are sometimes shared around the publication
office, and everyone laughs at them.)
   The problem with those introductory remarks is that they have
more power to destroy a sale than to make it.
   A typical cover letter will begin with, "I'd like you to 
consider this story for publication."  Of course - otherwise you
wouldn't be submitting it.
   "This is my first story . . ." (aha! a beginner! why would ANYONE
admit to a lack of experience, when the direct competitors are 
die-hard professionals with years of experience?) 
   "If you're as intelligent as I think you are, you'll accept it
immediately." (Which says that I'm stupid if I don't? That's a
challenge I can't RESIST but turn down.)
   "If it needs more work just let me know." (If it needs more
work, why send it in?)
   One time I got in a submission of photos to consider. At the
time we were paying a maximum of $50 per for interior photos, and
maybe $350 for a superb cover. In came a submission of 40 slides
(transparencies for color work), and a letter that said that the
photographer was willing to sell, but that our acceptance of 
consideration included the agreement that we would pay him $3500
each for any shots lost or damaged. Need I go on as to what 
came of that submission?
   What it comes down to is that a cover letter is almost never
required except as a balm for the author. In most cases, that
letter will only hurt your chances of making a sale.
   The ONLY time that you should write a cover letter is if there
is a VERY specific reason for doing so. Even then, look through it
carefully before sending it off. 
   Is there anything obvious in there? Like, "I would like you to 
consider this for publication."? Is there anything in the letter
that begs or pleads? That insults - or even compliments?
   The only thing that should be in the cover letter would be 
any special knowledge you might have on the subject (which is
totally irrelevant with fiction); and maybe some special information
that the publisher doesn't already have (aw, come on! Do you 
think that the publisher doesn't know his own business? or that
you know his business better?) concerning marketing or audience.
   Once you've eliminated all the irrelvancies, you'll find that 
99% of all cover letters begin with "Dear Whoever," and end with
your name - with nothing between.
   In short, with the single exception of nonfiction books, cover
letters are not necessary. Plain and simple. Don't waste your
time on them. Instead, use that time to start another story.
   There is an established format for submission. Anyone who does
not follow this format, for whatever reason, shows themselves as
being a novice. (Remember, as a freelancer you're in competition
with people like me.)
   You might be surprised at the number of submissions received
at any given publication that are handwritten - illegibly in some
cases. A professional will at least have a typewriter.
   That professional will also have a dictionary close at hand for
correct spelling. In recent discussions the country "Libya" was
spelled correctly, but was also typed in as Libia, Lybya, Lbyia,
among other versions. Typos are one thing. Misspellings are quite
   On editorial staff we would get manuscripts scribbled in pencil
on paper bags, or on colored paper; we'd get those who would "pretty
up" a story by using a multi-colored ribbon; more than once we'd
find the remains of someone's lunch glueing together the pages.
   The proper format ALWAYS means typewritten - preferably in pica
type. Elite type (smaller) gets hard on the eyes after a few hours
of reading lousy manuscripts from lousy writers, and doesn't
make the typsetters happy, either.
   "Letter quality" is always preferred. Imagine yourself reading
hundreds of pages every day from a dot matrix printer - and worse
from authors who are too lazy (or too cheap) to put in a new ribbon.
It gets hard on the eyes after a while. A professional writer will
polish not just the writing, but the appearance as well. (Would YOU
buy a used car with a shoddy, abused, appearance if offered one 
with shiny new paint and that looks like someone cared for it?)
   A cover sheet isn't needed except for booklength manuscripts,
and even then isn't essential.
   In the upper left corner will be your REAL name, complete
address and phone number. Optional in the upper right is the 
number of words - accurate to within about 50 words for short
   About half way down will go the title, followed by your 
name or pen name (expect the title to be changed), followed by
the first paragraph. All that white space above is needed for
editorial and typesetting remarks.
   Subsequent pages begin about 1 inch from the top, with a header
containing your name and manuscript title. This is for protection
in case the manuscript gets dropped and jumbled.
   The margins on ALL pages should provide at least 1 inch all the
way around - top, bottom and sides. The copy should be double-
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thingó agaiî arå foò editoriaì anä typesetting comments.
                        Submitting (Again)
   Once the manuscript has been printed out there is the matter of
actual submission. As mentioned above, pick your market carefully.
Don't send the story of your first love affair to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
It won't matter how good the story is, or how wonderful the pictures.
They might be passed around inside the office, but will (maybe) be
returned eventually.
   Once you've found what seems to be the perfect market for the
piece, submit professionally. This means that most manuscripts will
be flat, unfolded sheets, sent in a large envelope - and with 
sufficient return packing and postage.
   Above I mentioned the photographer who sent in 40 useless shots.
This same person neglected to send any packing for the return, or
any postage. By law we could have trashed the batch. We didn't ask
for the submission - and certainly didn't agree to his $3500 per
self-induced value. He was lucky that we were nice guys.
   A professional who cares about his work will also care to get
it back if unacceptable. This means that he will front the little
extra postage and packing.
   Think of something as simple as a letter. The postage is 22c
at this time. The envelope is maybe 5c. Employee costs to open, 
read, repack and return could be as little as $1, but could be
more. But forget the labor costs. You're willing to work free (which
is a stupid statement - although many new writers expect that of
the editors). So the cost is just 27c, tops. Round it off to 25c.
   In comes ONE submission. It's a piece of garbage, and you don't
want it. Fine. So you spend a quarter to get it back to the author.
But, you don't get ONE submission. You get 100. Now it's $25. Or
you get 1000 - $250. That's today. Tomorrow the same will happen.
Within a month of just 100 submissions your costs soar to something
like $500 - or $3000 for a year. For the larger magazines multiply
that times at least 10.
   That quarter to you, the submitter, turns very quickly into
thousands of dollars for the editor and publisher. I've heard many
times from would-be writers, "25c isn't much," but they think of
it from their own 25c side. And then wonder why they don't get
that manuscript back again.
   When you submit, be SURE to include return packing and postage.
Not just a check or cash. Doing that means that someone has to
deposit that check, and someone else has to take the package down
to the post office for return. More labor costs.
   The key for ANY salesman (and a writer is just that) is to make
the purchase as easy as possible for the buyer. The more difficult
that becomes, the less likely it is that you'll make the sale.
                       Copyright and Theft
   "I'm warning you right now that this story has been registered
with the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., and if you steal it
I'll sue you."
   What better way is there to insure that your story will be
rejected? Accuse the potential buyer of being dishonest.
   Again and again I've been asked how the writer should go about
preventing publishers from stealing stories. Actually, there is
very little reason to be concerned.
   Most magazines have more submissions than they can possibly 
use. With hundreds of manuscripts from which to choose, why bother
   Second, the publishers and professional writers have little need 
of "new ideas." Ideas abound. With very few exceptions, it would 
take me less time to write something of my own than to edit or
rewrite something from someone else.
   In short, there's no need to steal, and every reason not to.
So why bother?
   However, if you feel that you have to protect your masterpiece,
there are ways. First, whatever you write is automatically protected
by the Copyright laws as soon as you've written it. Formal 
registration is just that - a formality. It isn't necessary.
   The cost is $10. To formally register a manuscript, send a couple 
of copies along with the proper TX form (available from the 
Copyright Office) and the ten bucks.
   The purpose of registration is to have legal recourse if someone
steals that work and publishes it as his own. The formal copyright
will prove in court that the piece is your own. You can prove the
same thing almost as well by merely placing a copy of the manuscript
in a sealed envelope and mailing it to yourself. By keeping the 
seal in place, the p.shtmlark on the envelope will date it. This 
isn't quite as good as a formal copyright, but comes close.
   You'll notice the copyright insignia at the opening of each 
issue. This is one more formality. It's not necessary when you
submit a manuscript. I use it here simply because this magazine,
although electronic, is a form of publication. (You'll notice that
it also contains a disclaimer, allowing you to reproduce, without
charge to anyone, any particular issue - as long as it remains
exactly intact as is.)
   One misunderstanding of the copyright law that many people have
concerns ideas. You CANNOT copyright or patent an idea. For example,
if you write a story about someone going to the moon, that doesn't
mean that someone else can't write a similar story. However bizarre
your idea, you don't, and can't, own it. All you can own is the
specific way in which you treat that idea.
   Take one of the more popular magazine issues - "Beans, Bags and
Smiler Jack." The title is unique enough so that it can be
copyrighted. (Not all titles can be.) The specific story is also
copyrighted, as is the character of Smiler Jack. However, if you
wish to write a story about someone going to Jupiter (or anywhere
else) who has a problem with gas - fine. (Although, you *could*
be walking a fine line if it's an obvious duplication of my
story - like a rewrite with just changes in the names to mention
an obvious example. Some violations aren't quite so obvious. But,
if you were to take the idea of someone in space with flatulence
and write completely on your own from there, chances are that you
will not be in violation of copyright laws. Sit there with that 
story in front of you as a guide and the chances are good that
you'll violate those regulations at one point or another.)
                          Getting Ideas
   At every class I've ever given, and often in conversations with 
interested people, the question invariably comes up, "I'd like to
be a writer, but how do I get ideas on what to write about?"
   That question has always puzzled me. One of the reasons you
rarely have to be concerned with theft of your stories is that a
professional has no need to steal your ideas. Ideas abound. The
professional will have more story ideas going in his head than he
could ever write up. For that professional, the problem isn't in
getting ideas, but gleaning away the less useful ones.
   Ideas are everywhere, if you just look and open your mind.
   A classic technique for fiction writers is to ask the "What if" 
question to a given situation. For example, take the simple and
everyday action of walking out your front door. What if one day 
you opened that door, stepped out, and found yourself in a parallel
dimension. Or, what if the moment before you were to open the door,
it exploded inwards on you.
   With both you have a wide variety of possibilities. You could,
conceivably, spend the rest of your life writing about nothing but
opening doors and the things that happen. Stepping into another
dimension could be treated as science fiction - the science (although
more of a psuedo-science) of how such a thing can happen. Or you
can drift into fantasy, and the adventures of that dimension. Or,
you can turn it around, and instead of stepping out into that
dimension, that dimension can step in, in through your front door
and into this dimension.
   With the second, what caused the explosion? Perhaps there has 
been a nuclear war. Or maybe that crazy amateur scientist across
the street has come up with a new explosive that got out of hand.
Or perhaps you prefer treating the idea as fantasy again, with
the amateur scientist then becoming an amateur magician who has
let netherworld powers loose.
   If you let it happen, each of the ideas, and then variations
on those ideas, and variations on the variations - well, you could,
as I said, spend the rest of your life exploring nothing but the
possibilities of what could happen if you open that door. (Or if
you don't. Or the fears of opening a door due to reading something
like this. Or . . .)
   See what I mean? Open your mind and let it roam, and you'll
soon have more ideas than you'll know what to do with.
   An exercise I'd have my students do in class would be to have
them close their eyes, point in a random direction, and then come
up with a viable story idea about whatever they were pointing at.
The result comes out the same as before, but instead of having
to think up the front door as the beginning point, your finger
will start things for you.
   If enough people have an interest in this, one day I'll do a
second article on the topic - continuing where this one (already
too long) leaves off. Meanwhile, if any of you have any questions,
by all means ask away - either here on this board or in mail.
   One thing, though. Don't do what so many have in the past. Don't
tell me you want to be a writer (or worse, that you *are* a writer)
and then tell me about the 3 pages you've written in the past 6
   Over the past few weeks the number of users of The Establishment
seems to have dwindled a bit. Maybe it's the Easter Vacation Syndrome.
I don't know.
   In any case, we really *do* need to spread the word about this
board - or it might not exist much longer. I hate to sound like a 
Channel 8 Pledge Drive, but your help is needed. Not your money -
just a bit of your time.
   Seeing the "Call this BBS" messages around the Valley should let
you know that they don't work very well. What we need are some
posts scattered here and there telling WHY to call. 
   For example, and excuse my vanity for a moment - to the best of
my knowledge this is the only board in the state (perhaps the country?)
that carries a weekly electronic magazine. Others have tried, and
most quit after a short time. Most are (no offense) amateurish in
the first place.
   Then we have the Bob Howard's discussion board (#5). Although 
this isn't unique in itself, from my experience most "discussion
boards" are little more than War Boards. Very few I've seen carry
out the discussions with proofs, backing and references. Most are
(no offense) Opinion Boards.
   Anyway, don't force yourself - but if you happen to like a 
particular issue of the magazine, it would be very much appreciated
if you would say that on other BBSs around the Valley. Even if 
you can think of a back issue that you liked - like the Smiler
Jack story - share that with other computer buffs. Back issues
ARE available for download.
   Next week:
   Summer is coming, and with it the end of school. Some of you will
be going back next fall, and will be after just a summer job. Others
of you will be heading for a more fulltime job, and maybe even a
   So, next week's issue will be on how to find a job - and how to
get the job you want. There's a little more to it than just filling
in a mass of application blanks. Although that *can* get you a job,
there are tips, hints and even tricks for getting a better job, at
better pay, and better conditions.
   So, if you reach into your pocket and find nothing but some loose
change - stop by next week. You just MIGHT learn how to convert those
nickels into dollars.

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.