Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tales from the Slush Pile

I've spent the last two days in a massive slush dive, and not only that, but I've had some in-depth conversations with our entire editorial staff about their pending submissions. It's desk-clearing time in my corner of the earth.

So here are the trends I'm spotting:

  1. Elves. We used to see an elf here or there, and we've even published one or two stories with elfin folk, but the preponderance of elves in the slush pile is a bit shocking. Every time I see an elf, I get a vision of Santa's workshop. Not sure that's the vision people want me to have when reading these subs.
  2. Don't ask an editor to "represent" your book a/k/a know the difference between an agent and an editor.
  3. Don't sum up your plot resolution with a generic cliche. For example, "The hero saves the day" doesn't tell me anything about how the conflicts are resolved. This is less snarky than inviting me to request the full to find out how it ends, but it's still not the mark of a professional.
  4. Always, always, always put contact information in everything. Here's a sad story. For some reason, an email submission is coming through garbled. I can't read the routing information or the message itself, and when I press "reply," I get a blank message instead of an auto-filled address. There's no contact information on the partial, and now we can't contact the author.
  5. If it says "we don't publish this" in the guidelines, and you send it anyway, we will reject it. Even if you apologize very prettily and make a passionate defense of why the story contains the element we don't publish. Sorry. Publisher's rules.
  6. We're in that cycle in the submissions cycle where almost everything we get comes through personal contacts at conferences. Not as much is arriving through the generic inbox. Same thing happens every year. I think I've already read 30 or 40 subs from RT alone, and they're still arriving. These tend to be higher quality across the board.

That's not too earth-shaking, I know, and you've heard a lot of this before if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time. But there are reasons we have to keep saying these things. Check the guidelines. Actually, don't just check them: follow them.



Anonymous said...

Elves? Really? After Raymond Feist, I like elves, even though I don't like them enough to write about them (except maybe for kids). For years I've been under the impression that the stock standard for all upcoming fantasy was 'no elves!'

Perhaps some writers think elves are the next vampires, lol!!

Exmoorjane said...

Had to laugh at the elves. My favourite ever rejection letter was from a US publisher when I submitted my truly atrocious first novel (with elves). It said something along the lines of...'This would work much better as an adult novel. Maybe make one of the elves gay?'
Maybe I should dust it off.. :)