1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading the slush file

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Sep 13, 2012.

    Has anyone had a job reading through the "slush pile" of stuff that comes in?

    I'd like to hear what it was like, and the variety of material that is received, what shape it typically is in, etc. I don't mind if it's for a big publisher, magazine, volunteer work for small sites, etc.
     
  2. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    No such experience, but thank heavens I'm not an aspiring children's author! (Or a woodcut lover.)

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  3. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    When my son was younger, I read him a lot of children's books. Some of them are utterly awful, and those are the published ones. If you're from NZ, I presume you know the Hairy Maclary books. I found those read really well and were a joy to read. But, if the other ones were the top of the slushpile, I can't imagine what the rest would be like.

    I am actually however half of a normal Leicestershire couple, but I think we stay within normal boundaries once the lights go off, and we don't make any woodcuts.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Guess the problem is everyone wants to be a writer, and probably not helped by the popular mentality of "write whatever you want, however you want, just write for you!" and then sending it off for submission based on that.
     
  5. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Sadly we don't have a monopoly on this issue.

    Look at how art (we'll say painting for our purposes here) went from a highly disciplined skill to just do "whatever you feel."

    When you point out that something is just paint slapped onto a canvas, the typical response is "I cannot control how you receive my work."

    You should write "for you." you should derive pleasure and meaning from your writing. You should write whatever you want. BUT, you also need to be aware that the "whatever" may not be suited for bookshelves. I have notebooks filled with little flash pieces that, to me,Vicere nothing more than "studies" in scene setting, character development and tone. I wrote those for me, but I'm not gunking up an agent's mailbox with them either.

    I had the same problem when I was studying as an undergrad (I was a philosophy major). Every class I took had one non-philosophy major there who would say "I took this class because it's easy, there are no wrong answers in philosophy." and they would mysteriously disappear after the first quizz.

    People love the idea of getting rich off of zero effort. People love the idea of easy fame (Jersey Shore anyone?). The sad thing is people in our society are willing to humiliate themselves for the chance at 15 minutes of fame rather than try to be recognized for something positive.

    In writing, we have a lot of people who spend entirely too much time querying a manuscript they spent entirely too little time writing, tweaking, editing, reworking and otherwise improving. They expect the MS they threw together will land them a big fat advance from Simon & Shuster and they will retire to a fancy beach community and spend their days writing fan mail.

    I think if you want to read the bottom of the slush pile, try picking up a self published ebook with no "amazon best seller" ranking (because they have no sales). You may find something decent, there are tons of decent books that are self published, but I would say the majority will make you weep for the downfall of humanity.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read slush for the magazine/ezine MindFlights for several years.

    A good number of the submissions are decent, but most are not strong enough to merit publishing. There is a larger than might be expected % that need some help with grammar and punctuation, although the story is fine. A few have excellent grammar, etc. but the story is weak. We sometimes get submissions that show the writer didn't even look at the guidelines and what we publish. That is frustrating. Poorly formatted (did not follow guidelines) happens too often and it doesn't help a manuscript get accepted.

    It's a never ending job. Get caught up and the next day there might be a half dozen or dozen new subs, when we're open for submissions. It's just part of the job.
     
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  7. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've only sampled a handful of self-published ebooks. They range from an interesting tale, if not necessarily my style, to competent but lacking magic. I didn't notice any that were horrible. I'm not disagreeing with you, just noting that my random sampling didn't make me week for the downfall of humanity. Who knows what I'll find if I search further.

    I did find people on Amazon who had reviewed very large numbers of self-published ebooks, and given them all five or four star reviews. Don't know what that's about.

    That's interesting, and much more positive than some impressions of the slush pile that I've read.
     
  8. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    >all five or four star reviews. Don't know what that's about.

    I've read that a majority of on-line reviews are posted by paid services, authors using alternate accounts, or friends.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I was guessing to be the case. Thanks.
     
  10. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    And I'm not saying all of it is garbage. Heck, I have stuff self published on amazon. But there is some trash out there. I don't mean "not my style" trash either (usually my complaint about a lot of trade pubs). I mean, you pick up a book filled with grammatical errors and horrible one dimensional dialogue with no structure. People really do publish their first drafts.

    But when I see a self published book (I ran into a self published biography that had 38 five star reviews. Compare that to the 232 total reviews that Salman Rushdie has for The Satanic Verses and I become suspicious). All of them raving about how the book was "inspirational" or changed their lives or whatever. When I see that, I always look to see what other reviews they have written before I buy the book.

    Very few books changed my life or way of thinking. So either other people are easier to sway than I am, or they have a lot of friends and family (or paid reviewers).
     
  11. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm reading a site which quotes the reactions that some authors have to rejection, and this often includes lashing out at the person or organisation who has rejected them. I can understand people being upset at rejection after a huge amount of effort. Particularly if their hopes have been raised by unrealistically positive reviews from F&F etc. And the length of time they had to wait.

    I've put two pieces of mine into online slush piles. One for a website that rejects more than 99% of submissions. In some ways I'm looking forward to my first rejection slip. As it's going to be something I'm going to have to get used to if I want to keep on submitting.

    I've also read a comment that authors learn a lot when they work on reading slush piles themselves. Because having seen the other side, they realise the necessity of rejecting the overwhelming majority of what they receive. Both for reasons of quality, and also because publishers can only take on so much material.
     
  12. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Truthfully, I cannot understand being upset at a rejection. It just doesn't register in my mind. I may be disappointed, but I can recall only one occasion where I felt anger. That was because an agent went back and forth with me via email regarding my self-promotional efforts. During the course of those emails, he twice told me he wasn't interested and then changed his mind. Then, when I sent the manuscript, he ultimately rejected it. I was upset because I felt like I had been sucked into a silly mind game that wasted my time.

    But I get rejections often. I would prefer to see offers, naturally, but I could never harbor resentment toward an agent, editor or publisher for rejecting my work. In many cases, rejections I have received were based upon suitability. That is, I queried an agent who specializes in scifi (usually by mistake) and was rejected because my work was in an area they did not represent. I received a reply from a small press publisher once telling me that my MS was well written and he liked the story but he didn't feel it would be commercially successful. How can I be mad at that? I was disappointed. But I harbor no ill will.

    I have gone on job interviews and had everything go well only to receive a rejection letter a few days later. Do I think they deemed me a "bad prospect?" Do I think they didn't believe in my abilities? No! I think someone walked in before or after me who had more relevant experience or just established an even better rapport with the interviewers.

    But people feel that a "this isn't for us" is the same as a "your work is crap." So they stomp and complain and act like two year olds. I have no sympathy for them. I have no sympathy for them because somewhere out there is an editor, publisher or agent who made a decision that they felt was in the best interests of their business and is now getting flamed on the Internet.

    If someone does something that is bad (silly mind games, rude response) then I can understand being mad. But if they're mad and upset and want to write nasty things on the Internet just because someone said "Not for us at this time" then they need to focus on developing your emotional maturity. Because there are going to be a lot of "not for us/not at this time" responses to them in other areas of their lives and lashing out on the Internet is not a productive use of time.

    So, I would be careful about trying to gain too much insight from the malcontents.
     
  13. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not trying to gain insight from the mal-contents. I'm finding it entertaining to read their comments as they appear to be a metaphorical car crash.

    However it was interesting to read some of the rejection comments that famous books and authors received. Which is easily googlable. Some classic books have been rejected, and not just "we like your book but can't take it on right now" rejected either.
     
  14. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Well, if you consider that people today get unprofessional query responses, I wonder what kind of responses people received before there was fear of having it end up on a blog.
     

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