Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ask the Editor: Slush Pile Suggestion

Jack Belck wrote:

Slush piles are huge for one simple reason: vast quantities of writing coming in are, as slush readers know only too well, rubbish whose nature boils down to those submitting being close to illiterate and blithely ignorant of the way the language should be used, not abused.
Possibly the only cure for this excessive volume would be to require would be submitters to first email an item on the subject of x and no longer than Y lines.
The subject needs to avoid the overworked like love, loss, illness,ageing and birth. Length should be short because only the skillful can write tightly and well.
Those unable to meet these specs will not be assigned code numbers clearing them for future submissions. The slush pile will therefore shrink greatly.

That's an interesting suggestion, but impractical for several reasons.

1.  First, I can make a very quick judgment about a submitter's talent, or lack thereof, by simply reading the first paragraph of any submission.  A submission is its own 'audition.'

2.  Logistically, it would be more work for me to have to 'audition' writers before allowing them to submit, because...

3. There are far fewer writers who submit again and again and again than you might think. And VERY few who submit repeatedly, only ever receive a form rejection, do nothing to consider why they're repeatedly receiving form rejections, and continue to submit. 

If I were to do as you suggest, I would be auditioning nearly as many authors as I would otherwise be receiving submissions from.  It wouldn't significantly reduce my slush pile, and it would only make more work for me.  I don't like more work.  I'm human, and therefore inherently lazy.  I prefer to lighten my workload.

4.  An editor can only ask authors to jump through so many hoops before he starts offending not just the ones she DOESN'T want submitting, but the ones she DOES want submitting.  

5.  I would hate to have been black-balled from submitting when, as a hopeful but hopelessly naive teenager I had decided to submit a hopelessly immature story.  While it's true that there are some people out there who should rethink their dreams of being a successful author, there are far more who are developing as writers, who will learn and grow and progress, and maybe even write something worthwhile.  

6.  Our submission software (Submittable) doesn't allow me to ban authors.  I wish it would.  But I wouldn't ban authors for incompetence.  Only for inexcusable rudeness. THOSE are the kinds of assholes who shouldn't be allowed to submit stories--anywhere.  I'm much more forgiving of incompetence than I am with deliberate assholery.


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