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Old Hack
11-10-2005, 03:12 PM
I just read a great site which discusses rejection from an editor's viewpoint. It is well worth a look, especially if you are in the throes of rejection-misery. It might just make you feel a little better!

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

Jamesaritchie
11-10-2005, 07:15 PM
I just read a great site which discusses rejection from an editor's viewpoint. It is well worth a look, especially if you are in the throes of rejection-misery. It might just make you feel a little better!

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

Or a little worse. Read long enough on that site, and you get some plain, hard truth about the quality of what editors see.

Storyteller5
11-10-2005, 08:28 PM
Thank you for posting that link. It's an interesting read, even though it is negative and positive in different places. :)

Old Hack
11-11-2005, 12:07 AM
I used to work as an editor in London and was always amazed at the submissions. The slush pile was one of my favourite places to hide. We packaged esoteric non-fiction--books about meditation, retreat, various religions, myth, all sorts of things: no fiction, no children's books, no poetry. And yet we once had a fantastic submission (in the truest sense of the word): it was a heavily-illustrated children's story book, in verse, about trolls. Written in Dutch. No translation provided.

Jamesaritchie
11-11-2005, 08:58 AM
I used to work as an editor in London and was always amazed at the submissions. The slush pile was one of my favourite places to hide. We packaged esoteric non-fiction--books about meditation, retreat, various religions, myth, all sorts of things: no fiction, no children's books, no poetry. And yet we once had a fantastic submission (in the truest sense of the word): it was a heavily-illustrated children's story book, in verse, about trolls. Written in Dutch. No translation provided.

I think that beats anything I ever received. I'd like to have seen it, though.

Pat~
11-11-2005, 09:04 PM
Rejections don't bother me; even ones that aren't overtly tactful. It's when an editor sits on a submission forever...I've got a book manuscript, as well as several poems that are 'being given further consideration'. I've learned to move on, regardless, but it's still mildly aggravating at times.

Old Hack
11-14-2005, 09:05 PM
Yes, it can be irritating (!) waiting to hear. I used to try to have a daily date with the slush pile and towards the end of my second year as an editor I had managed to get it down to nothing, so we dealt with submissions on the same day that they arrived. It took a gargantuan effort but it seemed to me the way to go.

The things which we liked we did hang on to a little longer, as they had to be discussed in our editorial meetings. If all the editors agreed on them then they'd go onto our sales team, for them to make up their minds. This obviously took time as everyone would have to read it and have some time to think. Turnaround went up to about six weeks on those. Far too long, I felt, but far better than most publishers.

Jamesaritchie
11-15-2005, 05:40 AM
Yes, it can be irritating (!) waiting to hear. I used to try to have a daily date with the slush pile and towards the end of my second year as an editor I had managed to get it down to nothing, so we dealt with submissions on the same day that they arrived. It took a gargantuan effort but it seemed to me the way to go.

The things which we liked we did hang on to a little longer, as they had to be discussed in our editorial meetings. If all the editors agreed on them then they'd go onto our sales team, for them to make up their minds. This obviously took time as everyone would have to read it and have some time to think. Turnaround went up to about six weeks on those. Far too long, I felt, but far better than most publishers.

That's great, when you can do it. But sometimes, at some places, you receive twice as many manuscripts each day as it's possible to handle, no matter how hard you work. When this happens, the only logical solution I've ever seen is the slush party. Slush parties may not be kind, but they work, and sometimes they're the only way.

Tiaga
11-15-2005, 05:49 AM
I wish writers could sit around and have Editor Review party's.

Every editor and agent should write a novel and go through the submission/slushpile abomination. It is a humbling experience.

I would rather read about new ways editors are implementing to do away with this medieval system. That would be news.

Euan H.
11-15-2005, 09:10 AM
It doesn't seem like such a bad system to me. I teach freshman comp., so every week I have to wade through a stack of essays and mark them all. It's not slush, but it's comparable. Things that I've heard slush readers do--like looking for reasons to reject an ms.--are things that I do as well. Frex, wrong format=no grade. Another example is one of the writing courses I teach requires referenced essays. So, the first thing I do when I mark the essay is turn to the reference page. No reference page=no grade. Not enough references=no grade. If there's too many grammatical errors or spelling errors, I stop marking. So when an editor says they look for reasons to reject an ms., I don't get angry about it; I just try not to give them a reason to do it. Similarly, if an editor says they can tell in the first few sentences what the rest of an ms is like, I know what they mean. When marking student work, by the end of the first paragraph (often just the first sentence), I've got a rough idea of what their grade will be.

I don't think the slush-pile and the submission system are broken, or medieval as such. I just think it's the least bad system (like democracy is the least bad system of government) for dealing with incoming mss.

Birol
11-15-2005, 11:36 AM
I have to agree with Euan.

It's not that editors like the system any better than writers. Who would like to have piles of paper lying around on their desks and in their offices as a constant reminder of how much work there still was to do? I think if anyone could come up with a better system, most editors would love to hear about it.

Jamesaritchie
11-15-2005, 03:20 PM
I wish writers could sit around and have Editor Review party's.

Every editor and agent should write a novel and go through the submission/slushpile abomination. It is a humbling experience.

I would rather read about new ways editors are implementing to do away with this medieval system. That would be news.

Many of the best editors and agents have gone through the process. News would be anyone who could find a better system. It's easy to complain about the present system, but until someone finds a better one, and so far no one has, this one will have to do.

This system works very well, in fact. Humbling or not, finding anything worth reading in the slush pile is a great thing, but it's so rare that no one really looks at a slush pile with much hope. I'd love to see a new system that works, but in all truth, I don't think there is a system that could possibly work any better than the one we already have.

This one may be painful and depressing to writers, but it still works very well. It gets rid of the junk, and just about everything in a slush pile is junk, fairly quickly, and it finds the good. I don't know what more any writer could ask.

blacbird
11-15-2005, 06:41 PM
I don't think there is a system that could possibly work any better than the one we already have.


(Repeated from another thread):

Wasn't it just a little while back that we heard you got an agent on the first and only query you sent, and that agent sold your book to the first publisher who saw it, or something like that?

caw.

Cathy C
11-15-2005, 07:09 PM
I would rather read about new ways editors are implementing to do away with this medieval system. That would be news.


You have heard of the new way --- it's called "agented only submissions."
:ROFL: if you will, but it's true. Publishers have discovered that if a writer is agented, then the agent felt they could earn money from the writing. It's the early filter.

Unfortunately, the reality is that there are far more writers in the world than readers willing to pay for the books. As it is, just in my own genre of romance, there are approximately 300 mass market romance novels released into the bookstores EVERY MONTH! There are an equal number of e-books and self-pubbed books. This is just ONE genre! Several major review magazines have stopped reviewing the ebooks and self-pubs without the author or publisher first advertising in the magazine. It's medieval, out-moded and insulting -- but there's a limit to what their staff can accomplish in X amount of time.

It's the same with publishers. Every single day, someone in the world decides "I want to be a published author!" and every single day the hundred that said the same thing a year ago submit their first offering. The mail at Tor (my publisher, where Ms. Nielsen-Hayden works, and one of the few who still accept slush) is filled with piles of manuscripts, most of which will be rejected.

Electronic submissions might someday make the difference. Maybe someone will develop a software program that can "read" a manuscript and send an e-mail to an editor when it finds a gem in the slush. Short of this, only human eyes and a human brain that can be moved by the words on a page will suffice.

And we all have to bear rejections until our work becomes the shining gem in the slush! :)

Pat~
11-15-2005, 07:27 PM
Well, how about a new system for the "stash" then (not the slush, but the pile of stuff they like, but aren't ready to move on yet)? I've had a book in the stash now for a year and a half, and I just last week got an acceptance on a poem that had been stashed for a year. (That acceptance came after I wrote to tell them that 2 others also being held there had gotten published.)

Birol
11-15-2005, 07:28 PM
(Repeated from another thread):

Wasn't it just a little while back that we heard you got an agent on the first and only query you sent, and that agent sold your book to the first publisher who saw it, or something like that?

caw.

Blacbird, I'm not certain why you're following James around repeating this, but it's getting old and needs to stop. If James was accepted on his first-time out, kudos to him for writing something salable and for doing his research in order to properly target his query, which is something James has strongly encouraged the up-and-coming writers on these boards to do.
Just because James' first submission was accepted, that does not mean his later ones were not rejected; it does not mean he knows nothing about rejection. In fact, he has told his story on these boards before and that is exactly what happened. Life got a bit more demanding.

Now, if you have another problem with James that I should be aware of, PM me. Otherwise, if your only beef is that he got accepted quicker than average, it's time to end the little digs.

Old Hack
11-15-2005, 08:50 PM
I had the luck (or the talent!) to get an agent with my third submission; I've not sold a novel yet but have written non-fiction. My first novel had three editors want it, but each time their sales teams decided my writing was too bleak. I'm now writing a second novel which I hope will be a little more cheery (although I do find that bleakness easy to drop into). I recently changed agents and was offered representation by my first choice. So I can't pretend to understand the misery of years of submissions.

However, I've seen submissions from the other side, and I wonder if that's got something to do with it. The huge majority of submissions I had to deal with as an editor was completely wrong for the company I worked for.

1) The company I worked for was a book packager which is very different to a publisher: we put books together for various publishers, so usually worked to their commissions, and found appropriate writers and artists to complete those commissions rather than finding a project we liked and then trying to sell it to a publisher. This alone made it highly unlikely that we would ever be able to publish something from the slush pile.

2) We dealt in "esoteric adult non-fiction". So produced books about meditation, religion, prediction, mythology, retreat, tantric sex, all that sort of thing. And yet I would daily receive proposals for childrens' books, novels, books about cars, weaponry, computing: can you see the problem? No matter how good the proposals were (and most of them weren't), the books simply didn't fit our remit.

3) We were looking for writers who could write quickly, write competently, and work well with our editors. The vast majority of the work submitted (somthing like 95% of submissions, I think) was simply not good enough to be published, regardless of the genre it dealt with. Or it was centred around a weak premise, or the submission was peppered with spelling mistakes or errors of grammar. No matter how interesting the ideas were, all proposals with more than a couple of mistakes in it would be rejected.

When I went looking for an agent I spent the better part of a year researching. I looked for books written by people like me, which dealt with similar subject matters (difficult, that one!) and in similar styles. I then found out who their agents were, and considered who else those agents represented. In the end I submitted to a short list of three, two of whom offered me representation.

Since then, my agent (a wonderful woman!) has told me about her slush-pile. Which is, like mine was, full of submissions which simply don't fit her, or submissions which were from novice writers who were not yet good enough for publication. A waste of time and money for everyone involved.

Now, I don't mean to upset or offend anyone here with this, and it isn't aimed at anyone here: but one very effective way to reduce slush piles would be for writers to take more care over their submissions. To not send work off before they are competent writers; to target their submissions more accurately; and to error-check them more closely before they send them off. If these steps were taken then slush-piles would reduce dramatically and editors and agents would have more time to work with the writers who DID have a good chance of publication. I can't see that happening, though. Can you?