Frequently Asked Questions
Why are your Submission Guidelines so strict?
We realize that our Submission Guidelines may seem strict to some people, but it is the stated mission of Rooftop Sessions to present Beatles fan fiction in a professional, highly literary milieu. We at Rooftop Sessions pride ourselves on presenting to the public the “finest in Beatles-related fiction,” and without some kind of guidelines in place, we would not be able to clearly identify exactly what it is we expect from the authors who are showcased in our pages, or what it is that makes our high-caliber fan fiction stand out from the pack. It is our belief that the reason we have lasted for nearly five years, and the reason Rooftop Sessions is still around after all this time when other fan fiction sites have come and gone, is the fact that we have such “strict” guidelines. If you believe our guidelines are too strict for you to follow, you are welcome to put your stories on your own website – no one is forcing you to submit them to us.
Why do you want a “proper submission letter?” What should be included in one?
A proper submission letter lets us know that you are a serious and professional writer. If you were submitting your manuscript to a “real” agent or publisher, it would not be accepted without a submission cover letter containing at least some basic information, such as your full name (or pen name), a brief synopsis of your story, a brief bio of yourself and a request for review of your manuscript. The same thing is required when you submit to Rooftop Sessions.
Your submission letter should be a cover letter. Do not put the cover letter information in your attached document. Otherwise, we are likely to send it back to you because we don't think you've followed the instructions. The editors should not have to go looking for your cover letter information anywhere but in the e-mail note. Put the required personal information in the body of your e-mail and the story only as the attachment!
A good basic submission letter should read something like this:
My name is Candace Baker, and I would like to submit my Beatles fan fic "In Another Lifetime" for publication in your Rooftop Sessions e-zine. I have been writing fan fiction for about two years now, but this is the first time I've sent one of my stories to anyone for publication. Besides writing fan fic (and spending time being a Beatles fan!), I am currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin, where I'm majoring in International Business. I am also the assistant editor of the Entertainment column in the university's weekly newspaper
A short summary of my story... a 16-year-old John Lennon wakes up one morning to find that he's somehow traveled back in time to the year 1900. Everyone and everything in his new world is a stranger to him...except for one very mysterious young woman. (It's a short story, so I don't want to give away too much of the plot!)
I hope to hear from you soon whether or not you decide to publish my story. My contact information is below. Thank you so much for your time!
How long should it take for you to acknowledge receipt of my story and let me know whether or not it is accepted for publication?
In theory, we will acknowledge receipt of your submissions as soon as we get them. In practice, however, it might take a day or two before we let you know we have received it. However, we will do our best to get a note off to you and at least let you know that we have received your story as soon as possible.
Acceptance or rejection decisions will also be made as soon as possible, but of course we have to take the time to read and review the submission before we can make any decision. The ultimate decision will be made by Susan Ryan, the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, but sometimes a second or third opinion is necessary and your submission will be forwarded to other associate editors for review. In such cases, review of a manuscript may take a little longer than normal, but we do try to make the turnaround time as quick as possible. If the review is taking much longer than normal, we will endeavor to send you a follow-up letter letting you know the status of your story. (The editors have “real” lives that sometimes must take precedence over anything else. Please be patient with us!)
In general, if you haven’t heard from us at all within two weeks of sending something, please drop us a note. E-mail is notoriously unreliable, and though you think your submission may have gotten to us, there’s always a chance it did not, particularly if you didn’t get any kind of acknowledgement of receipt from us. But whatever you do, don’t make your follow-up letter nasty and argumentative! There is no reason to yell at the editors for something that may very well be beyond their control before you know the whole story of why you didn’t hear from us – and nothing is a surer turn-off than a nasty and accusatory letter!
I thought writing fan fiction about real people was illegal! How can you get away with it?
Writing fan fiction about real people is actually, at this time, far less likely to get an author into trouble than writing about other fictional characters that they did not create. Real people, i.e., celebrities, have a certain amount of their privacy removed from them simply by virtue of their fame, their “public personae.” Real people are used all the time in historical fiction. How many times have you read books with a historical setting that includes famous figures from whatever time in which the book is set, for example, the works of Norman Mailer, who constantly uses real people in his historical fiction? Because celebrities’ lives are so out in the open, it’s a simple matter to take what is commonly known to the public and expand it to speculate on what might have been in private. And the Beatles, particularly, had so much of their lives documented and accounted for publicly that it’s a very easy thing to take what is known from the vast compendium of information available and insert a fictional interlude into their history.
Why won’t you accept crossovers? I have a great idea for a Beatles/Harry Potter (Star Trek, Xena, Buffy) fanfic, but you say you won’t accept them!
Copyrighted fictional characters (such as Captain Kirk, Buffy, Xena, Harry Potter, etc.) belong to the people who created them or the corporations who hold the copyrights on them. They are not “public domain” and “there for the taking.” Of course, some fictional characters are no longer copyrighted because their copyright holders are deceased and there are no heirs holding the rights any longer or because the time limitations under international copyright laws at the time of creation have expired – e.g., the characters used in the recent film “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which uses fictional characters that are now in the public domain to tell another, entirely new, fictional story. But if you use a contemporary fictional character in your fanfic and that character is owned by another entity – such as Paramount (for Star Trek characters) or Fox (for Buffy) or J.K. Rowling, Scholastic and Warner Brothers (for Harry Potter), you are courting trouble – you’re better off writing a fanfic about William Shatner, Lucy Lawless or Sarah Michelle Gellar than the characters they played.
Why aren’t you running any Paul (John, Ringo, George) stories?
We can’t run stories if we don’t have them! Generally, we have enough stories for the current issue and the one after it in the queue when a new issue goes up on the first of a month. But we have no control over what people choose to write about or submit to us. If no one is submitting Paul stories that are up to our standards, for example, then it stands to reason that we can’t run them because we don’t have them! The same goes for whichever Beatle is your favorite; it seems that stories run in waves, and sometimes we have a lot of Paul stories, or a lot of John stories, or a lot of George stories, or a lot of Ringo stories. Other times we have a lot of stories about one Beatle and absolutely none about the others. It really does depend on what people are writing and submitting. If you don’t think you are seeing enough stories about your favorite Beatle, you might want to consider writing and submitting something yourself and trying to rectify the situation first-hand!
Why do you insist that your authors do research? This is fan fiction, not a history lesson! Who cares if my character talks on a cell phone or uses her VCR to tape Ed Sullivan?
If for no other reason than that of credibility, it is important to do research and get the small details right. No one says you have to become a historian, but a good fanfic writer must take special care to create an air of reality and authenticity, and lack of attention to such details is an instant killer of believability. For example, just because we now live in a wired world, with personal computers in every home and VCRs, CDs or other modern conveniences does not mean they have always existed, yet these types of errors crop up time and time again in fan fiction stories. It is not uncommon to read about characters putting tapes in their VCRs for the Ed Sullivan Show, putting on pantyhose in a story set in 1961 or wearing clothes that are completely wrong for the time period in which the story is set. Try to remember, for instance, that John Lennon never saw a Compact Disc or a cell phone – he died before they were on the market! If you are not absolutely certain that something existed at a particular time or place, look it up and get it right! With the wealth of information available in books and on the Internet, there is no excuse for such glaring mistakes and inaccuracies.
Regional errors are another big problem. You don’t have to have lived in or even visited a place, nor do you have to become an expert in its history, in order to write about it well. However, if you have never set foot in the city in which you want to set your story, it’s a good idea to get your hands on a guidebook or local history book or look at a website so that you get the little details right. For example, you can't ski to work in Denver, go to a fast-food drive-through in Midtown Manhattan or go to a modern American-style shopping mall in 1960s England. Accuracy can mean the difference between a successful story and an unsuccessful one, and attention to the little things can pay off with big dividends.
Why should I proofread and spell- and grammar-check before I submit? Aren’t you an editor?
There is a difference between a copy editor, who deals with the nitty-gritty details of each individual story (e.g., sentence structure, grammar, spelling, etc.) and a creative editor, who is involved in the “big picture” issues (e.g., editorial vision, tone, voice, management of the ‘zine as a whole). Susan Ryan is the creative editor for Rooftop Sessions (though she has professional experience as a copy editor), and as such cannot devote the time and energy necessary to basic copyediting on manuscripts. It is the job of the author to do the best job he or she can to proofread and otherwise check a manuscript before sending it in, and self-editing is a valuable skill every good writer should learn. Then you should consider giving your manuscript to a beta-reader for further copyediting before submission. No one says it has to be perfect – errors get past even the best of writers and editors, and the Rooftop Sessions editors are happy to do minor copyediting that gets past the author and beta-reader. However, any manuscript that is submitted with huge and glaring errors does not create an air of professionalism, but instead makes the editors wary of reading the submission, and certainly does not add to your credibility as a writer. Shoddy manuscripts that are rife with easily-corrected errors are a huge turnoff. If you submit a story that has not been spell-checked, grammar-checked or proofread, the impression you give is that you are lazy and sloppy, not professional or anyone who should be taken seriously.
Please also be aware that spell-checkers and grammar-checkers that are included in most word processing programs are not foolproof. Many times, these tools will mark items that are correct as incorrect, and vice-versa, and a real person can catch things the computer does not. (For instance, I once saw a story where someone had written Brian's name as "Brain" in a few places, a very common typo. However, the spell-checker did not catch this error and it took a human being to correct it!)
What is a beta-reader? Why is it important to have one?
A beta-reader is someone with a good grasp of proper English grammar and usage whom you trust to take a look at your story before you submit it or put it up on the Web. Typos and grammatical errors get past even the best of writers, and definitely get past computerized spell-checkers and grammar-checkers; when you have written the work yourself, you are too close to it to catch all the possible mistakes. Having another pair of eyes give your story the once-over can frequently yield a much more polished work. Likewise, a good editor (if you have the opportunity to work with one) can help an author tighten up a story that rambles or loosen up one that is too constricted. A good editor will never change a writer’s “voice,” but he or she will work with an author to produce a final version that is clear, concise, engaging and free of problems.
What is slash and why won’t you publish it?Simply put, “slash” is fanfic with a homosexual theme, usually involving sexual liaisons between two of the characters. The term comes from Star Trek fan fiction, when such stories were frequently written about Kirk/Spock, etc., and are named for the “slash” between the characters’ names. In Beatles fanfic, these stories frequently involve sexual encounters between the Beatles themselves. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of stories that explore homosexual relationships between the characters, the reason Rooftop Sessions will not publish slash is because it can definitely be considered defamatory by the people being written about. Remember, these are real people who are not or were not gay (except for Brian Epstein) – and while they do give up some of their privacy through their public personae, speculation in areas that could be considered controversial, such as homosexuality, can bring about lawsuits. Additionally, in the experience of the editors, most slash stories border on the highly pornographic – and while Rooftop Sessions will publish stories that have sexual content, it must be tasteful and not lewd or full of vulgar anatomical description. Rooftop Sessions will publish stories with a homosexual theme, incorporating people who were or are really gay or gay fictional characters, provided the story is not vulgar or otherwise defamatory to the people named therein, but it is difficult to write such a story without falling into the questionable category of slash.
Copyright 2004 Susan Ryan
FAQ Last Updated April 2004
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