Tales from the slush

Paul Raven @ 04-02-2010

Mmmm, tasty slush...Short fiction writers would be well advised to follow the Apex Book Company blog, as I think I’ve mentioned before; they have lots of guest posts from writers, editors and other niches in the fiction food-chain, containing plenty of sound advice. Like this post from submissions editor Maggie Jamison, for example, which offers a little hope and solace for those of you who fear the anonymity of the slush pile:

Believe it or not, a submissions editor can remember your name, particularly if you wrote something she liked, even if she passed on it. If you pay attention to rejection comments (if she gives any), and keep working to hone your understanding of her market, chances are your next attempt will be closer to what she wants.

And here’s the funny thing (though maybe it’s just me): we want you to succeed. Of all the other submissions editors I’ve spoken to, the vast majority would much rather send an acceptance letter than the typical form rejection. Heck, even a personal “This was so, so, SO close!” rejection is more fun than the form. I think most magazines want to be the one that nabs the first few publications of a great up-and-comer, and I’ve always enjoyed the vicarious excitement when a manuscript from my slush pile is accepted and bought.

I know that’s the attitude Futurismic‘s very own hard-workin’ Chris East takes to the slush pile… if we didn’t want to publish good stories, we wouldn’t offer $200 per story and throw submissions open to all and sundry! [image by misscrabette]

Maggie makes some sound points about rewrites and re-submissions, too:

Unless I’ve specifically asked you to tweak the story and send it back, DO NOT resubmit the same story. The only other way it might be acceptable is if you rewrite the story so completely that I can’t tell I’ve read it before. But then, it wouldn’t be the same story, would it?

As a submissions editor, I do try (when I have time) to give suggestions for what might make a rejected story just a little bit better. I do this so the author knows and can utilize this information to avoid the same issue in her next story submission, not so the author can tweak her story and send it right back to me. If I want to see a rewrite or a reworking, I will be very, very clear.

Of course, all this advice follows on from the basic rule of making sure you read the submission guidelines carefully for the venue you’re sending your story to. As Chris has pointed out here before, a great many of the stories we reject aren’t bad per se, they’re just not the sort of stories we publish. Researching your market is a great way to lessen the chance of the dreaded “thanks, but no thanks” response. 🙂

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One Response to “Tales from the slush”

  1. Chris East says:

    I agree whole-heartedly with all the points you singled out, Paul. Good advice across the board. (And yes, we have better memories than you might think!)