Five Important Lessons I Learned By Reading Slush

1. If your cover letter is bizarre/arrogant/horrifyingly uninformed, you’re sabotaging yourself. I make a special point to read the submissions blind because too many writers shoot themselves in the foot. (More on that in a later post.)

2. Well, whaddya know, this business really is subjective! And we thought that was just a brush-off line.  It’s true, though. Perhaps I love your story so much that I want to wrap myself in it to sleep at night, but it didn’t sparkle for the rest of the staff.  Does that mean your story sucks?  Not at all!  But different strokes for different folks, and all of that.  Don’t give up. Submit it somewhere else.

3. People who put out magazines are normal people, too.  Not gods.  Not sadists. They have homes, families, jobs, and oh yeah, the magazine.  But at the same time…

4. People who put out magazines are omnipotent.  Say you send in your sub and say, “I love your magazine, publish me, kiss kiss”  and five minutes later you’re on your blog condemning the mag and everybody associated with it…uh, we’re going to stumble across that. Either somebody will point it out, or we’ll find it on our own. Google Alert, anyone?

5. Similar stories come in all of the time.  Similar titles. Similar plot lines. If somebody says, “Good story, but we recently accepted something just like it,” then guess what? They’re not lying. Don’t worry, I didn’t believe it at first, either.

I used to take rejections personally, but working at Shock Totem has really helped me to thicken my skin.  We’re not rejecting you, but that particular story doesn’t suit our needs at the time.  I imagine a perfect world where we hold hands and nobody has wounded feelings when their stories aren’t accepted.  It can hurt sometimes, especially at first, but we just get stronger, better, and savvier as authors.

8 Comments on “Five Important Lessons I Learned By Reading Slush”

  1. No, no…I refuse to believe this. I shall still take every rejection personally, and shall continue to maintain my sekkrit Tumblr account where I post hateful things about the journals that have rejected me. *nods*

    (Wait…is Tumblr the site you can upload photos to? Did I mean Flickr? Crap. All those sites that leave vowels out of their names run together for me….)

  2. Great post Mercedes, thanks for sharing your knowledge and insights. It is great to hear from someone who actually wades through the slush.



  3. Thanks, J! I’m trying to take some of the scariness out of submitting. Heavens knows it can be intimidating at first.

    Simon, this post applies to everybody except you, of course. We all know that editors have it in for you personally. 😉

    Thank you, Ardee-ann! I certainly learned a lot when I started sitting on this side of the desk as well. I think it’s helped me as a writer, especially when it comes to not being as intimidated. If I can pass that on, great!

    Yay, Kate! The word is out: we’re not evil! 😛

    Ha, Natalie. Your perfect world would also include an entourage of Kings. I’d come visit sometimes.

  4. Thanks Mercedes,
    Both for being honest and for being the one to push me to start submitting and going to conferences etc…

    I have had rough year so far, only rejections, but hey it took me a while to start geting YESES and considering that I am going for harder markets now I figured that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Plus some of my no thank yous last year became yeses when I kept trying.

  5. I totally agree Mercedes & wish every aspiring author could “do time” in the slush pile/submissions trenches – changes your perspective entirely.

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