On slushing…

Image courtesy of whisperwolf on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

In reading for Apocalypse Hope (working title), this is the first time I’ve opened my slushpool doors internationally. It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve been flooded with submissions from all over the world (particularly the US), and what has been the most heartening part of the process is how well the Aussie subs stand up against the international ones. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been quality submissions from all over the world, but the top Australian submissions are surpassing any from overseas, which is fantastic to see.

I ended up with over 200 submissions (I’ll do a stats breakdown when I’ve finished reading, for gender, nationality, reprint vs original works etc), and with a rather manic month and a half just past (starting with two weeks of being very ill, then school holidays and my mum’s ongoing journey of discovery of illness), I’m down to the wire on the actual reading deadline I gave myself. I plan to have all first round reading done (that is, any outright rejections) by the end of this month. Two days away. Eep. And then I’ve got another stack of second round readings to do, which I don’t want to go much beyond mid-November on. That’s my plan, right at this moment, and I’m so grateful to the wonderful authors who permit me to hold on to their stories a little longer than I’d originally hoped.

I’ve been interested to see how some authors deal with their submission. I really should have had a column for “Didn’t follow guidelines” to put in the stats, because it’s been surprisingly high. Top offenders were stories outside the word count (without query), submission of reprint (without query), multiple (without query) or simultaneous submission, and completely not fitting the theme. There were also plenty of emails without any information in the body of the email (not even a “Dear Editor, please find my submission attached”). Weirdest “Didn’t follow the guidelines” was a snail mail submission from the UK (what the WHAT?!). Typewritten. I kid you not.

Image courtesy of irina slutsky on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons

And it’s also been interesting to have more than one author take rejection very badly. Newbie writers, please take note – being aggressive with the person who publishes the work is a really bad idea. I’m an editor and publisher and sure, I don’t put out a whole lot of anthologies. Right now. At this point in my career. But my goal is to go on to bigger things. And I happen to have lots of friends who are editors and publishers. And we talk. About writers. And unprofessionalism in a writer is something we are interested in talking about, because if you can’t handle the rejection of your precious story (and yes, they are all precious, we understand), the chances are you won’t deal very well with the editorial process. Or, should you make it through that, with negative reviews (the very BEST of stories gets them – live with it).

Read a few pro writer blogs. Read about the rejections slips almost EVERY pro writer gathered when starting out (and may still gather, if they are the most wonderful type of writer who continues to take risks, who writes without contract, who submits on spec, even though they probably don’t HAVE to any more!), and consider their graciousness with this process. Rejection hurts. We all KNOW this. But you have to learn to deal with it if you really want to write.

The thing is too, you sometimes have no idea why you’ve been rejected (such as when the editor is very busy and doesn’t have time to give you more than a standard rejection). It could be that your story was actually pretty good, but just a bit too similar to another story already accepted. Or that the story just didn’t quite fit the interpretation of the theme in the editor’s head. Or any number of reasons (including, yes, that it was just plain bad). And if you behave badly in reaction to the rejection you receive, guess what? You just got crossed off that editor’s list of people she wants to work with in the future. To be honest, the best response is no response; trust me, there’s no point in arguing, and if feedback has not been freely offered, don’t ask for it. There are plenty of online and face-to-face crit groups who will give that to you.

I need to say though, almost all the writers I deal with are fantastic. They are wonderful to edit, respond promptly to email, and handle rejections gracefully. And they are the reason I continue to do this job – the good guys outnumber the bad, thankfully!

Right, so now I’ve got that off my chest, excuse me while I dive back into the slushpool, to fish out some more gems.

If you enjoyed this rant post, you might also be interested in the (more reasoned) post Alisa Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press made recently on the same topic.

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