Lesley Conner is a writer, social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications, and Managing Editor for Apex Magazine. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, proofreading, wrangling slush, doling out contracts, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on the @ApexBookCompany Twitter account.
Most of her nights are spent with a good book and a glass of wine. Her alternative history horror novel, The Weight of Chains, was recently published by Sinister Grin Press. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are co-editing an anthology coming out in early December called Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1. This looks like an awesome anthology, and I’ll be standing in line for a copy. Well, sitting at my computer, clicking and clacking for a copy.
Apex Magazine is also in the middle of a subscription drive.
The magazine is attempting to hit these Kickstarter style “stretch goals” :
- $500 – A 5th piece of poetry UNLOCKED
- $1,000 – New short story by Chikodili Emelumadu UNLOCKED
- $2,000 – Interview with Chikodili Emelumadu
- $2,500 – A 6th piece of poetry
- $3,000 – New interview with Ursula Vernon
- $4,000 – 2nd reprint exclusive to Apex Magazine eBook/subscriber edition
- $5,000 – New novelette by Ursula Vernon set in her “Jackalope Wives” world
- $6,500 – Stretch Goal! We’ll open to Apex Magazine submissions in December, 2015, rather than January, 2016
Subscriptions are $17.95 until the end of the drive. It will conclude on November 13th.
Support Apex Magazine via Patreon;
Or you can donate subscribing.
If you miss the drive, don’t sweat it, you can still support the magazine later.
Lesley was kind enough to provide us with an interview, allowing us an inside look into the workings of an online literary magazine.
Galleywampus (GW): How long have you been at Apex? How did they find you, or did you find them?
Lesley Conner (LC): I’ve been part of the Apex for around 5 years now. I met owner/publisher Jason Sizemore at a convention called Context. We kept in contact after the con through Facebook and when he posted about needing a blog editor, I applied. Jason didn’t feel I was a good fit for that position at that time (I did end up filling that roll at one point) but he did think I’d be able to help out with social media. That’s where I started – managing the Apex Publications Twitter and Facebook accounts – and from there I learned other skills and took on more responsibilities until one day Jason asked if I would take over the role of managing editor.
LC: Boiled down to the simplest terms, being the managing editor of Apex Magazine means that I make sure everyone else has what they need to be able to do their jobs.
Doing that involves a lot of different tasks. I divvy out all of the submissions to our submissions editors as they come in, read stories being held for further consideration, and answer queries. Once we’ve selected the content for the magazine, I search for artwork, fill out contracts, make sure we have our interviews set up, help find and select nonfiction and reprints, collect the authors’ bios and payment information, and help proofread and deal with copy edits. On release day, I send out our newsletter, send the final issue to all the contributors and our editorial team, write blog posts and a press release.
The day after release, we start all over again.
GW: You wear a lot of hats for Apex. Which hat fits you the most comfortably?
LC: After 5 years, all of my roles at Apex fit relatively comfortably – Apex is a part of who I am – but by far my favorite task is searching for cover art. My grandfather was an artist and my dad has a degree in art. I grew up in house where art hung on every wall and I’ve always loved spending hours roaming through art museums. I, in no way, think this makes me some sort of art expert, but I have a passion for it and I think that comes through in the pieces that I select for Apex Magazine and Apex Book Company.
The reader response to the cover art for Apex Magazine has been amazing. I love to see so many people excited about a beautiful image, and being about to shine a spotlight on wonderful artists like Adrian Borda, Carly Sorge, and Beth Spencer has been great.
LC: Ah, slush …
When Apex Magazine is open to submissions, we receive between 800 and 1100 submissions a month. I divvy those out to our slush readers. Our slush readers are amazing and I’m incredibly grateful to have such a wonderful group of dedicated readers. They are the first eyes that see the stories sent in to Apex. Any they feel should be held for further consideration I read, and from those, I send the best of the best up to our Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore.
Reading stories is only part of slush wrangling. Another big part of it is making sure that we have a quick response rate. Apex’s goal is to respond to every submission within 20 days of when it was submitted and sometimes it’s necessary to send reminders if we’ve had a story for a while. It is incredibly easy to fall behind and then you’re playing a forever game of catch up.
Finally, I also answer queries from the writers. If writers have any question at all, they can send me an email and I will try to reply with an answer as quickly as possible. If I don’t have the answer, I go and find it.
GW: Apex and its published stories have won and been nominated for several awards. Are there any particular awards Apex has been nominated for, or that your company has won, that you feel most proud of?
LC: It’s always thrilling to hear that a story or poem Apex published has been nominated for an award. It’s that moment of validation that we’re on the right track and that people are enjoying what we’re doing.
Then winning an award! That’s even better. Apex has had stories win the Nebula in short fiction for the last two years – Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” in 2014 and Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” in 2015. Both stories are amazing. But that’s not surprising. Both authors are incredibly talented.
Apex Magazine was also nominated for the Hugo Award for best semi-prozine in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Even though I wasn’t the managing editor at that time, working for a magazine that has been nominated for such a big award is amazing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope that we snag another Hugo nomination.
LC: I don’t think people realize how much work goes into running a monthly publication. It isn’t just finding stories you like and posting them online. It’s finding the perfect stories and figuring out how to put them together in a way that is cohesive. It’s copy edits and proofreading and sending all of the contributors the proof copy to make sure we haven’t missed anything. It’s finding cover art, and nonfiction, and reprints, and excerpts. It’s marketing and promoting and building eBooks and updating the website and unforeseen problems that pop up at the worst time. And it’s doing it month after month without a break. There’s a tight schedule to keep and, no matter what is going in your personal life, that schedule marches on and the new issue has to be ready by the first Tuesday of the month. If one person falls behind, then we’re all scrambling.
That type of schedule can be draining, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. I get to work with some of the best scifi writers of our time and with new writers who are just beginning to get their feet wet in the publishing word. The excitement over discovering an amazing story in the slush pile doesn’t fade. And recognizing names that repeat in the slush pile and seeing an improvement in the writing never fails to bring a smile to my face.
GW: When you wake up and have taken care of all of those incredibly important “life things,” and head to where you work, what’s the first thing you do?
LC: First, I feel I should point out that I work from home, so the important “life things” I do before work are more or less just brushing my teeth and pouring a cup of coffee. I jump into Apex work when I’m still sort of groggy from sleep, so I tend to work on things that don’t take a lot of deep thought first thing in the morning.
When we’re open to submissions, the first thing I do is deal with those. Anything new that came in over the night gets assigned to a reader, I send out rejection letters on stories the slush readers have decided to pass on, and let authors know if we’d like to hold their story for further consideration. I know authors want to hear back about submissions as soon as they possibly can, so finishing this first thing is a good way to start off the day.
When we aren’t open to submissions, I tend to check my email first thing, dealing with any that can be completed quickly. This helps whittle do my to-do list and makes things seem more manageable. Anything that needs a closer look, I save until after my coffee has taken hold.
GW: Books: do you read monogamously or polygamously? In other words, do you read one book at a time, or juggle multiple books?
LC: I really want to say I read monogamously – that seems like the proper, less mind-twisting answer – but it isn’t true. Most of the time I’m reading three books: one on audio that I listen to while I do chores and exercise, a hefty hardback that sits beside my seat on the couch that I read in the evenings, and either a graphic novel or paperback that I take with me whenever I leave the house. That way I always have something close at hand to read.
For the most part I don’t find this problematic. Since I visit all three on a daily basis, it isn’t difficult to remember what is going on in each story and most of the time I can keep the story lines separate. The only time I can’t is if I happen to be reading two novels that are the same genre with similar plot lines. If I happen to be reading two scifi novels set in space, it could get tricky. The other thing I find is if I’m reading two books that are the same genre at one time I tend to get really bored pretty quickly. Recently I was reading two novels that both dealt heavily with teen romantic angst. It was a bit of a slog to get through them both.
About Apex Magazine
Apex Magazine received a Best Semiprozine Hugo nomination in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Apex placed two stories in the 2010 Nebula Award category of Best Short Story, and their stories won the category in 2014 (“If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” by Rachel Swirsky) and again in 2015 (“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. Dozen of their stories have been selected for the annual Year’s Best anthologies over the past five years.
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