1. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    WSJ Article: Death of the Slush Pile

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by TWErvin2, Jan 16, 2010.

  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, Terry. Interesting reading.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is interesting, but I fail to see how it's not all bad news.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Many years ago, I endured a prison camp...not a real POW camp, but a simulated one, staffed by American soldiers of Asian descent dressed as enemy combatants. They brutalized us. Starved us. Put me in a bamboo cage with my hands tied to the top. Then, they lowered my cage into a cool stream until I could only breathe by forcing my face between the bamboo slats at the top of the cage. Nearly an hour passed until they lifted me out of the water, removed me from the cage and brutally interrogated me, trying to find my breaking point.

    After this experience was over, I asked why it was necessary to subject us to such abuse. Their response was, "There are two important reasons for this program. First, if a soldier understands what might be coming, preparation makes him more likely to survive. Second, if a soldier understands what might be coming, preparation makes it more likely he will fight harder to win."

    This article did just that for me. I'm a fighter. Katherine Rosman made the road to getting published more clear. She actually lifted the shroud of uncertainty off the publishing industry, and she provided a contemporary view of publishing obstacles. If you are prepared for the fight, you are empowered.

    She said, "From a publisher's standpoint, the marketing considerations, especially on non-fiction, now often outweigh the editorial ones." Does this influence your query letter? It should. When you submit a query letter, and you know the importance of marketing concerns, why not address (briefly) how your book meets a certain market demand?

    Another of her quotes caught my attention, "These days, you need to deliver not just the manuscript but the audience," says Mr. Levine. "More and more, the mantra in publishing is 'Ask not what your publisher can do for you, ask what you can do for your publisher.'" How does such a perspective influence your writing, your query letter and your expectations of life-after-acceptance of your manuscript? Truth is, there is no better salesman for your novel than you. Might influence a publishing industry decision maker to know that you have already established a following through a blog campaign or other offerings on your website.

    So, don't get discouraged by this article. Quite the contrary. Ms Rosman shined a light on the trail ahead so writers can better navigate the publishing wilderness.

    Thank you, Terry, for bring this article to my attention...good stuff!
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, she tells us what to do to give us the best chance, but I still see this article being about why trying to get published is the most pointless thing in the world because nobody wants to bother with you if you're new. Yes, it says what you need to do to increase your chance by keeping in mind marketing, but that isn't good or bad news. It's just a guideline about the way the business works. Everything else in the article is about what is getting in your way.
     
  6. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really interesting article, Terry, thanks for posting it!
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rei,

    The article shows the increasing barriers, and that sometimes even despite the barriers, one can get through and be very successful.

    But I am along the lines of NaCl. It helps one know how to navigate the terrain to help insure success.

    The market is very slow right now, with editorial layoffs and smaller purchasing/marketing budgets with many houses, especially the larger ones. But things will get better, and eventually they will need new talent/writers.

    My goal in posting it was not to deter writers here, but to help keep them informed to enable them to be successful in their efforts.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I learn a lot from what others come away with from such articles.

    Terry
     
  8. Sabreur
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    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Mr. Ervin and with NaCl. Sometimes, just being informed is a blessing in and of itself.
     
  9. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rei, the simple fact is that this article is mostly speaking of the major publishing places. The best way, as anyone could advise a writer, it to start small before you try and go big.

    What I bothered to read of this article, all spoke of the big places. Now if you are an unknown writer, are you really going to submit to the biggest name publishers in the world? Erm... NO!

    You are going to go for the small fiction presses to begin with, then once you have a bit of a name for yourself, aim slightly higher and higher and higher and eventually, are persevering for 20 years, you may just get to the point of Jonathon Mayberry or Brian Keene.

    Take what you can from the article, and work on the points that you feel are going to help you.

    Yes, the article does put a tad downer on the hopes of many wanting to make it big, but the simple fact is, not many people ever do make it big with writing. Sorry, but it is true. Most writers who are writing full-time are now having difficulties due to the economy the way it is. I read a blog entry by Brian Keene saying just that.

    So it is damn near impossible to get published and make money, but hey, who cares!? YOu enjoy it right? You write for the love of writing? You write to entertain? Then keep on writing and keep on submitting. Send queries to agents all the time and expect to get a rejection from 99.9999999999999999999% of them, maybe all of them, but that doesn't mean give up. It just means that particular piece you sent them didn't fit right and you need to try, try again.

    Don't give up because some article, which are ultimately just random words on a screen pieced together to make sense, say it is impossible. Because it isn't impossible, it just isn't the easiest thing in the world to do.

    If you want something bad enough, you will go out there and do whatever you can to get it. Nothing in life worth having comes easily, but if it is worth while having then it is worth while fighting for. Just keep writing and keep subbing. Dedication is the key to success in any career path you choose.
     
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  10. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I noticed a lot of the article was about screen plays. I see why good movies are so rare. If they want the best they need to take risks -- just like in the stock market.
     
  11. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a really good point, Dragon.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Torana, the platitudes are not needed. What I said has nothing to do with my own attitudes and motivation, but what I saw in the article as something that had nothing encouraging to say because while it did provide those examples, which are so rare that there is no point is comparing anyone else to them, it ended with the sad statistic. I know all those good things you're talking about exist, but they were not in the article. Find me something specific in the article that is actually encouraging other than saying that rare anomolies exist.
     
  13. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wish I honestly could Rei. I read about 3/4 and then didn't bother continuing basically because it just seems to put too much of a downer on the whole topic really. But there are some good points raised in the article.

    It was a very negative article really.
     
  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the things that I remind myself is that while there are tons of submissions out there, it makes the odds seem steeper than they are. Much of what is submitted isn't fit for publication--not even close.

    So if you're even a competent writer, you're going to be ahead of 70% of the 'competition.' If you're really skilled, you're going to be ahead of 90%. That makes the mountain to overcome to get noticed, get picked up by an agent, or whatever route selected, a little easier to accomplish.

    I know this, not only because I have been told by editors and agents, but I have read slush--and there is a wide range of ability resulting in a wide range of quality submitted for publication.

    Terry
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got to echo Terry here and say that quite a lot of submissions, especially those sent directly to the publisher, are just not readable--let along worthy of being published. Given this fact, the numbers become slightly less scary.

    I won't give myself airs and say I 'worked in publishing' but I did have a very brief traineeship with Heinemann many years ago, and the unsolicited dross that piled up in every corner was an eye-opener, even then, and it seems like it's got even worse. Publishing houses really can't deal with the amount they get, which is why they only want submissions from agents.

    Even magazines get thousands of submissions--but the magazines I've submitted to do appear to read through everything eventually, and they have a very good eye for what their readership likes. This is something that a writer should develop, I suppose, by studying the magazine or looking through what that particular publisher usually goes for. This doesn't exactly mean that it has to come out of a mould.

    There is a lot of competition out there, and being 'good' isn't enough if you aren't 'right' for the agent or publisher you're submitting to. You need to increase your chances of success by familiarising yourself with what is commercially viable, as this article says.
     

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