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james_nicoll
Will Entrekin on professionalism issues related to editor/writer correspondence.

Wil Shetterly links to the article and offers his views.

A discussion follows.

Nicked from slapfights, your online source of energetic discourse.

I am a little baffled by "If an editor rejects you, the only proper response is to send that editor another submission." That's a response but what if it's clear that that the set of things you will ever write does not overlap with the set of things the editor will ever buy? What are you accomplishing by sending them more work? It just ties the material up for the duration of a rejection cycle.

Digression: How does ownership of the words in letters work again? IIRC the physical document belongs to the person who receives it but who owns the actual words? I know how it works in the UK because of the Diana letters but not how it works in Canada or the US.

[Added later: and how does this apply to email, where there's not really anything physical involved, aside from the medium on which the email is stored?]

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When you break in slush readers, don't you tell them to start reading, stop when they're bored or convinced the story has serious problems, then skim a little or check the ending only if they think it might be worth more work? I'm pretty sure that was one of the first speeches I got at Ace when I was hired.

Yes. And, generally speaking, they insist on doing it their way, or have a very high threshold of boredom initially because they want to "give writers a chance", or are "stuck" on a story because they don't know "why" to reject it, and it takes several conversations and a lot of slush to convince them that the usual method is actually usual for a reason. It takes a few days, sometimes even a week for some.

and in your most case, outing noobs to ridicule them.

Is the word "recent" missing here? At any rate, as has been explained several times, few people are "outed" (that is, named) and not everyone whose mail was posted is a "noob." At least one person has himself been an editor for most of a decade, and another had been widely published and had been harassing people after rejections since email made it easy to do so.

But within the profession, it's, well, exceptional. I'm pretty sure I also got a speech on hiring day about responding politely to all correspondence.

Yeah, I'm also pretty sure that Ace actually got rid of its slushpile due in part to the volume and nature of that correspondence. As did most book publishers and, increasingly, even agents. You're arguing for a method that is not only not sustainable in the days of email, but that indeed has NOT been sustained.

As far as what is exceptional, yes here are a couple other things that are exceptional: email submissions, no form rejections, no hierarchy of slush readers only sending up the best stories for a final decision from the editor. Slush piles look great if one has a "professional shit-eater" that takes care of 98% of it for you.

I've said many times, if enough people don't want editorial comments, I'd be pleased to other shut down the slush pile entirely -- the magazine can be stocked indefinitely with solicitations -- or go to 100% forms. The choice, as always, belongs to the pool of would-be submitters. The only thing asked, and explicitly in the guidelines, is that people do not argue with rejection slips. Well, the overwhelming majority of submitters who have spoken up have been pleased with the methods used so far. (If I posted all the grateful correspondence, I'd post three-five a week, as opposed to twenty over the course of two years.) Only a lulu.com author who sees no need to submit and get paid for his work, and you, who doesn't seem to have sent me any stories either, are taking specific exception.

Why speak on behalf of a group of which you are not a part, and whose ideas you don't share?

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I'm sure that ending the slush pile was a pure business decision.

Yes -- it didn't pay to be polite in the face of the sort of correspondence they were getting (and politeness generally includes a timely response), so better to end it all.

Also, I love publishing, and I love new writers. I think it's bad for both if editors follow the examples that Will Entrekin was wondering about.

Well, I don't think editors should tell their actual contributors to "eat shit and die", regardless of whether or not they are "new" writers, but if you want to actually help writers -- new or otherwise -- I'd recommend explaining ever more carefully that in these days of email, it's a really bad idea just to fire back in response to a rejection.

Frankly, the way to recommend it be handled, it becomes a not very bad idea, and thus there is no reason for anyone to stop. No surprise that at least two of the people I've dealt with were writers/editors with a decade or two of experience who engage in the practice regularly because nobody ever stood up to them before I did.

Finally, hen I speak for groups of which I am not a part, I do try to make sure that the sentiment I express is itself expressed by at least some significant political or numerical faction of the group, and not virtually exclusively by people outside of the group.

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Like I said, politeness is part of the problem with slush, and you even acknowledge it when you allude to the model of "gentleman's publishing." Opening the slush is a matter of politeness, as is responding to it in a timely manner, which would involve paying someone to do it or opportunity costs surrounding intern time, etc.

And as I said to you in another venue, form letters get angry responses as well, albeit ones that are generally more inexplicable because forms don't really say anything.

Indeed, speaking of new writers, one publisher for whom I worked used a form letter that read, in part, "We only want to support new writers, but we cannot publish everything we receive" (I didn't write this form, btw.)

The most common responses to this form were, "But I am a new writer! Yeah, I listed a bunch of publications in my cover letter, but I still feel new," and "Only new writers, eh? That's ageist and stupid and I should sue. Veteran writers who master their craft are important too!"

Then, as I mentioned to you already as well, was the guy who responded to the form rejection by comparing the publisher to Hitler.

When I was slushing, I figured out very quickly how little of a story you need to read to know if it's worth reading more (With really special stories, the title alone is enough.) I frequently would keep reading long past that point (sometimes for the whole story, but I read quickly), just to see if I was wrong. I never was--bad stories stay bad the whole way through.

I also went with a generic more-or-less form letter--something like "Thank you for your submission, "X". Unfortunately, it's not quite what we're looking for, good luck placing it elsewhere." If I liked the story, even while it wasn't good enough to get past me, I might throw some suggestions in there as well, but I went with such a generic letter specifically to avoid having people argue with me about the rejection. Of course, this didn't always work--I once rejected the same guy three times in a row, and he wrote in with a snit because he ran an online magazine, and really he deserved to be rejected by the editor-in-chief, not just a slush reader.

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