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My Sale to Linn’s Stamps
by Tom Sanders

I knew a solid story idea was sitting on my desk in the form of a thrift shop 78 rpm recording, in its stamped mailer, of a message sent home by a U.S. serviceman during World War II.

I had collected stamps all my life, and had always been interested in postal history. The disc brought another lifelong interest, record collecting, and a pastime, browsing thrift shops, to the query I was preparing.

Who might be interested, I asked myself.

Linn's, no doubt. Try the hobby's publication of record, one informally known as the New York Times of stamp collecting, for a first sale?

Why not? They love stuff like this.

I wrote and printed a one-page query, in Linn's editorial style of short paragraphs of no more than two or three sentences. I included photocopies of the disc and mailer, to let the editors know I had material for illustrations, and mentioned in passing that I had been a long time reader and subscriber. Linn's made the query process easier by providing detailed writer's guidelines on its web site.

Back came an e-mail response. Send a first draft. I did, on hard copy in manuscript format primarily to indicate that I was familiar enough with publishing to use it. Stamp collecting and record collecting, along with a more than casual interest in U.S. history, had already provided me with the background information needed to tell the disc's story. The only detail requiring research was the rate paid in 1945 by a one and one-half cent stamp (third class sent unsealed).

Then came the wait.

A week or two later I received an envelope bearing the Linn's logo in place of the SASE I had sent with the draft. Good news was inside, I sensed, in one of two forms: my contact editor wanted a revision, or I had made a sale.

The letter's opening: Linn's has purchased the story GEM BLADES...

That made the frosty March day go by a little faster.

During the query process, my primary concern had been providing quality illustrations. I didn't have a scanner yet and had no idea what commercial scans would cost. My editor wrote: send us the material if you can't do it yourself.

I sent everything in a photo mailer, using stamps and not a meter strip on correspondence to a newspaper devoted to the use of stamps. Linn's editorial content, I remembered, could be very pro-stamp, anti-meter.

Linn's pays on publication. Another wait began. The guidelines explain that there is often a backlog of material for some editorial departments. That summer, after hearing nothing, I did find myself remembering tales I'd heard about publications that hoard material indefinitely to keep it from their competitors.

That September, while browsing the library's periodicals section, I thumbed through the new Linn's and came to a full page headline:

WWII VOICE RECORDING WAS SENT BY MAIL

I remembered to not go to the reference desk, hold up the page, and tell the librarians: I wrote this. That's my name on the byline. It's me. Here. I'll show you my ID...

Making the moment a little more special was being in the same library where I first discovered newspapers and magazines, and daydreamed about how great it would be to someday write a story and read it in one of them.

My first sale piece, revised for another market, can be found at: www.mainspringpress.com/gem.html

© Copyright 2004, Tom Sanders

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