The Job Interview

The Job Interview

by Patrick J. Swenson (from The Market List #3



Manny Manuscript has a big day ahead of him. He has an interview.

Manny knows that if he is to have any success at all--if he is to bring good fortune and fame to his Creator--he must look his best. He shouldn't arrive in anything less than a 9 x 12 manila envelope. He has heard stories of manuscripts arriving jammed into envelopes half their size. He also shouldn't overdress. No fancy artwork on the envelope, no scratch-n-sniff stickers, just a plain envelope with correct postage. A paper clip is all he needs to keep himself together, not a staple.

Manny knows that if his interview is with Bob Bobson, the editor of Bob's SF, he should address himself directly to Bob Bobson, editor. He knows that this will get him moving in the right direction, particularly when he goes looking for bigger jobs at bigger magazines. "Always address your envelope to the editor by name, if known," Grandpa Maurice Manuscript told him.

Manny knows that he should wear clean white paper, non-erasable, and print on it with a near-letter quality printer. If using a typewriter, make sure the ribbon is good and black. Margins should be one inch on all sides. Headers should contain the Creator's last name, a portion of the title, and the page number, and shouldn't appear until page two in the upper right hand corner. He uses a 12 point Courier font, because he hates to put undue strain on an editor's eyes, and because it is non-proportional and makes column-inch estimating easier. He makes sure he is double-spaced. He goes into an interview with the word count rounded up to the nearest hundred in the upper right hand corner of the first page, so the editor can tell at a glance if he's even right for the job. He has a good handle on grammar and spelling. When he's done with what he has to say, he tells the editor "End" or "The End" on the last page.

Manny knows to bring a resume, what editors call a cover letter, but to keep it short and professional: Name of story, writing credits, a nice thank you, and that's about it. Sometimes, if Manny knows an editor, or has met one at some professional gathering, he'll add a personal note. This can help land those tough jobs. It doesn't hurt to know the people who do the hiring. He knows not to do what his brother Michael told an editor once: "Dear editor. I know I'm several thousand words over your limit, but read it at least halfway through, because I know you'll want to read on. If you don't, you'll probably wonder for the rest of your life how the story ends. Please hurry with the response because I can feel the noose tightening around my neck, and my feet are at the edge of the chair."

Manny knows not to put copyright information or a social security number on himself. An editor will ask for those things if Manny gets the job (although a few magazines specifically ask for them in advance--putting them in a cover letter would be best for those few cases). He also doesn't submit himself to more than one interview at a time. Simultaneous submissions are a no-no. It will give Manny's Creator a bad name, particularly when two different editors suddenly want him to work for them.

Manny knows to put his best paragraph forward and grab the editor's attention right away, make himself readable from beginning to end, but he also knows that the final decision could take some time. So he's prepared to wait. He might sit in the office for months. But he's ready. He has left a self-addressed stamped envelope (also known as an SASE) for any response the editor might have. The SASE will not have the editor's address on it, just in case there is insufficient postage. If the editor has told Manny no, the last thing he wants is Manny returned to him by the post office. The SASE shouldn't have weird art on it, because it's not professional. Manny's SASEs are not run through postage meters because it's illegal. He uses stamps. It's okay for the SASE to be a #10 business-sized envelope if Manny mentions he is disposable. Manny 's first page can survive the trip back to the Creator while the rest of him is recycled by the editor. The Creator can always clone Manny from computer data and send him to the next interview. Manny mentions in his resume that an SASE is enclosed, because if the Creator forgets the SASE, the mere mention of an SASE might prompt the editor to give the Creator the benefit of the doubt and fork out thirty-two cents to return a part of Manny along with any editorial comments.

Manny is a professional. That's the bottom line. That's the top line too, and all the lines in between. Manny knows he must keep on trying, but he also knows that he might not be good enough for some jobs the Creator sends him to. That's okay. The Creator writes more Mannys, learns from comments the editors make, and tries not to be a jerk. Manny's Creator checks the papers for market information about every job, because editors have specific likes and needs. Manny doesn't bother editors at professional gatherings. He doesn't hang around the editor trying to worm into his good graces; Manny wants to win the editor's praise on his own merit.

Manny knows all this.

So should you.


Patrick J. Swenson is the editor and publisher of the new quarterly SF & Dark Fantasy magazine, Talebones: Fiction on the Dark Edge. A graduate of Clarion West (1986), his fiction has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Figment, Northwest Writers, and the small press. Although he also plays trombone in a 17-piece Big Band and carries luggage at a major Seattle hotel, Patrick mostly makes his mundane living as an English teacher at a local high school.


Copyright © 1996 by Patrick J. Swenson. All Rights Reserved.

  • Posted by Admin
  • August 16, 2012 4:27 PM PDT
The Job Interview by Patrick J. Swenson from The Market List archive




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