Showing posts with label submission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label submission. Show all posts

Why It's Called The Slush Pile

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Every writer pitches their ideas to literary agents and publishers. I've listened to many of these pitches personally at writers conferences and I've received stacks of these submissions as an editor and agent.

In a matter of seconds, I can tell if something is going to be worth reading and considering. Yes, seconds. Millions of submissions are in circulation at different offices. The editors and agents are actively looking because it is their business to find fresh talent and publish authors.
I've received many unusual submissions. The number and variety of these submissions grew that I started a file in my desk and labeled it, Strange But True. Recently, another one landed in my mail box. Just to be clear, I've worked at Morgan James Publishing for eight years. Our primary mailing address is in New York City. This handwritten letter was addressed:
Manuscript Review Committee
Morgan James Publishing
9457 S. University Blvd, Suite 621
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
It came to my personal address yet it was addressed to the “committee.” OK. I opened it and thankfully it has an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). The letter (typed) began, “Dear Sirs,” Why would you address a single editor to his personal mail box with the plural Dear Sirs?
First paragraph: “If you could hold in your hands, this moment, the most urgent, significant, consequential revelations of the century, a manuscript so meaningful as to rival the Holy Bible of old, a manuscript containing the most sacred and controversial heavenly truths ever bestowed on the eath (she meant earth); would you publish it?”
OK, this paragraph is engaging yet full of exaggeration. It is in many respects over the top.
Second paragraph: “This manuscript exists. _______ is about 900 pages of the most sacred words of the holy angels of God. This is a powerful, dynamic manuscript from a heavenly perspective, not a mortal imagination. These are deep, thought-provoking, intelligent, inspirational words which will invoke an indelible emotion in the reader. Some will tremble in the soul. Eyes will fill with tears as they recognize these are actual truths of angel's wisdom. This is not another “angel book.”
A typical nonfiction book (which this claims to be) is 40 to 80,000 words. The world of books and magazine looks for the word count--not the page count. Estimating 200 words a page, this manuscript is 180,000 words or over 700 pages of a typeset book. That fact alone is enough to get this instantly rejected. The author has no concept of the challenges of book production or the difficulties that such a large book will mean to any publisher--much less thinking about the contents. I'm speaking only of the word count. It is way beyond the normal range.
Whenever as a writer you submit your material to an editor or agent, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. I answered questions about book proposals in a free teleseminar. This teleseminar launched my Write A Book Proposal training program. In 12-weeks, I teach step-by-step how to craft a book proposal and sample chapter which will gather the right sort of interest.
Every writer needs to learn all they can to make the best possible impression on the agent or editor. They are searching for a champion who will move their idea through the publishing process and they will ultimately get their book published and into the marketplace. As for this “submission” to the Manuscript Review Committee, it will only land in my “Strange But True” Manila folder. My hope is my article gives you an explanation why unsolicited submissions are called The Slush Pile. Rarely do you find something golden in there but it is possible and hope springs eternal. 
Are you targeting your submissions to the right editor or literary agent or leaping into their slush pile? Let me know in the comments below.

Wonder why the unsolicited submissions are called The Slush Pile? This prolific editor and author explains what type of submission might be in this pile. Get the details here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers. His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has  190,000 twitter followers

Q&As and How To Take Control of Your Own Submissions

Upping Your Chances for Publication In MY Newsletter—and Most Everywhere Else!

I have been publishing SWW (SharingwithWriters) newsletter since 2003, and though it’s sporadic (it must take a back seat to the traveling I do!), it is long and full of tons of tips and resources. I also encourage subscriber participation through several of its features including one of my favorite formats, the Q&A.

When I was a young staff writer at The Salt Lake Tribuneback—well, way too long ago to mention—I was sometimes assigned the job of making Ann Landers ground-breaking self-help columns fit into the allotted editorial space once the advertising department had set up all the stuff a paper needs to survive—that would be stuff people and businesses pay a newspaper to publish. I became addicted both personally and as a nonfiction writer.

Q&As are easy ways for people to learn new information and to apply it to real lives, maybe even their own. Below is one of my favorites from my newsletter. Q&As a la Ann Landers solve a problem for me. They make it easier for me to handle submissions and allowing me to continue to offer my newsletter free—or to offer it at all!

QUESTION: Thank you for your offer to run an announcement of my newest “Author Success.” Please just extract what you need from the press release I attached.

ANSWER: I would love to run your success, Annie.  But here’s the thing. I don’t like to work this way.

I live in fear that I'll make a mistake or leave something out and it is very timing consuming to extract from a release when you can tell your own story much better and faster.

Dan Poynter used to always make the point of saying submissions to him should be ready for him to cut-and-paste.  His heart was always with us.  He wanted to help but could help more of his contributors if he could get them to make it easy on him! 

There is another aspect to my being so picky!  I don't know if you have a copy of my The Frugal Book Promoter, but because I wrote it to help authors get more free media exposure, I consider it my job to set an example for my authors and readers.  In this case--specifically—to encourage you to submit the way you 'd like to see your information in print while taking in consideration the editor's submission guidelines to the style of the journal etc.  Doing so gives you an edge for promotion because editors are busy. 

A story that is not as good may get the exposure while your media release or submission gets ignored or lost. Another may get preference over yours because the editor or other gatekeeper is so short on time.  The author who submits according to a gatekeeper’s guidelines benefits by having more control over what is said. The author has more control of the details selected for the story when he or she doesn’t expect the feature editor, newsletter editor, business editor, or other gatekeeper to do all the work.

So, here are my SWW guidelines:

1.     Send your information in the body of an e-mail. You’ll find all the reasons why this is important for almost all gatekeepers including the biggies like large media organizations and academic institutions in The Frugal Book Promoter!

2.     Put clear, concise information in the subject line: “Author Success [or tip or letter-to-the-editor] for Sharing with Writers.

3.     For Author Successes, give me one paragraph that includes author name, title, short pitch for the book, link, and an image of your book cover in jpeg.

4.     For other features like “Opportunities,” read a past issue or two and submit information similar to what you see there. You have probably seen literary review journals give you the same advice. There is no point in submitting poetry to them if they only publish short stories, or experimental fiction if they only publish another genre. Generally speaking, I try to make each story useful to my audience (as do most media folks!) and my audience is mostly writers like you.

5.     Be prepared. I will probably just copy and paste but may edit for style or space.

6.     In your media kit include a media release, a first-person essay, a related article, and an interview that includes a note that the author gives permission for it to be reprinted and that the author (or publicist) may be contacted for other articles, blog posts, essays, etc.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoterand The Frugal Editorwon awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethicallyis the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.
You can find all Howard-Johnson's books at:


Plot and Your Story - Four Formats

The Promodoro Technique for Getting Your Writing Done

Developing Dialogue

Literary Magazines with Themes, Fall 2016

It's that time again:  my roundup of literary magazines with themes, all with due dates this fall.  Read website guidelines carefully and have fun!

Theme:  Musics
Genres:  Speculative
Dates:  Opens November 5
Word Count:  1500-5000
Pay:  1 cent per word (Canadian)

Tacitus Publishing
Theme:  Shattered Space (Stories taking place in space—with a horror element)
Genres:  Sci Fi
Dates:  October 31,2016
Word Count:  1500-5000
Pay:  1 cent per word

Third Flatiron
Theme:  Weird West/Steampunk
Reading Period:  November 1-December 31, 2016
Word Count: 1500-3000
Pay: 6 cents / word
Ouen Press
Theme:  The Journey
Genres:  TRUE travel story
Dates:  October 31
Word Count:  3000-10000
Pay:  Contest winners:  100-300 GBP

The First Line
First line must be:  "In the six years I spent tracking David Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn't exist."
Deadline: November 1, 2016
Word Count:  up to 5000
Pay:  $25-50

THEMA Literary Journal
Theme:  The Missing Letters
Deadline: November 1, 2016
Pay:  $25

Theme:  Janus (Inspired by, not actually about)
Reading Period:  Dec 31
Word Count:  the shorter the better
Pay:  $.01/wd

Theme:  Women of War
Deadline: November 1, 2016
Word Count: 1000-5000
Pay:  2 cents per word ($15 per reprint)

Enchanted Conversation
Theme:  The New Year
Genre:  Fairy Tale
Reading Period:  Nov 1-Nov 30
Word Count:  700-3000 stories, poems of any length
Pay:  $30

Infective Ink
Theme:  Overheard
Deadline:  October 28, 2016
Pay:  $10 for stories 1500 words and up

Theme:  Cities
Genres:  Stories, Poetry, Non-fiction
Dates:  October 16, 2016
Word Count:  2000-7500
Pay:  Up to 25 GBP

Melinda Brasher's fiction appears in Nous Electric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and other magazines.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-KnowingVisit her online at

The Submission Grinder--a useful resource

Submitting short stories to magazines takes a lot of time and effort.  I’ve found a resource that’s helped.  It’s the (Submission) Grinder website, a listing of magazines, e-zines, anthologies and contests you can send your fiction to.

I like it because the magazines are searchable by length, payment, genre, whether they accept reprints, and even style of writing.  It also has a good layout for each magazine's main page, clearly showing the most important information and giving fairly reliable links to their website and specific guidelines.    

You can also sign up for an account and track your submissions, helping keep you organized and giving valuable information back to the community about rejection rates and response times.

They plan to add non-fiction and poetry listings in the future (though some of the magazines here accept non-fiction and poetry too, so it can be useful if you have a portfolio of various genres).

Head on over to the Submission Grinder and submit some of your work!  

Melinda Brasher currently teaches English as a second language in the beautiful Czech Republic.  She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books.  Her travel articles and short fiction appear in Go NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite pieces, check out Leaving Home.  Visit her online at

Does Your Manuscript Pass the Quality Control Test?

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

“Does Your Manuscript Pass the Quality Control Test?" by Joan Y. Edwards

Is your manuscript a quality manuscript? Is it the/best you can do at this time? Does your manuscript pass the quality control test below?

If your answer to all of these questions is “YES,” you have a quality manuscript. It is the best you can do at this time. Your manuscript is a quality product ready for submission. 

1. Does your writing show your distinctive voice?

Two articles that explain voice are: 

2. Did you choose the best person to narrate your story - First, Second, or Third Person.

Here are two articles to help you decide.
Deanna Mascle. "Should You Write in First or Third Person?"
Ginny Wiehardt. "How to Start Writing in Third Person."

3. Does it have an Unforgettable Character with a flaw and a goal he is willing to jump off a cliff to achieve?

1.       Tell what he wants to do, what he wants to happen. Which characters keep the main character from achieving his goal? Which characters help him? Write so that the reader feels the emotions that your characters feel. Let the readers know the contradictions that go through the character’s mind. Tell the experiences that cause your character great stress, worry, anxiety, anguish, and/or sadness? What gives your main character great happiness? Make your character have to change in order to reach his goal. 
Think about the theme(s) of your story. This will help you determine the flaws of your protagonist. If you know what the character learns from his experiences, your fatal flaw is its opposite. In Liar Liar, the protagonist learns how to tell the truth. Lying was his fatal flaw. When the protagonist learns to be dependable, his fatal flaw was irresponsibility. If a protagonist finally gets up enough nerve to stand up for himself, he gains courage. Fear or cowardice was his fatal flaw.

4. Does it have a complete, compelling plot?  

1.       Does your manuscript have a beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending with each page filled with tension of inner and outer struggles of the protagonist so that reader anticipates the good and bad consequences of this character's choices. 
Ordinary Day
Inciting incident with new goal to solve a really big problem
First failure
Second failure
Third failure
What's it like on the new ordinary day

5. Does it take place in an appropriate setting? 

Choose a setting that heightens the suspense of the plot and the problems of the main character. Where does this character have these problems? Why here? Why not somewhere else? Put your character with people, circumstances, and settings that make his flaw more noticeable in the beginning and his strengths more evident at the end. Enhance your manuscript by making the setting an integral and indispensable part of the story. 

6. If your manuscript is not in quality condition yet, revise it. 

Look at it with a skillful eye. Change what you know needs revision. Then send it out for another look by your critique group, writing partner, and/or 3 beta readers. Give them three main things on which to focus.

    Does it have proper formatting and few pet words? Does it have correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure? 

    Would your high school teacher give your manuscript an A or B? Any grade lower than a B is not acceptable. It has to be above average in this area to submit it. Did you repeat pet words or phrases numerous times within the manuscript with no purpose for emphasis, such as: just, real, very,what's up, what do you know, and it's a shame. Use the search and find tools in your word processing software to find words you usually repeat.  Replace with a better word or delete it. 

    Here are examples of words or phrases that might be repeated:
    The box is very flat. The hills are very steep. Her veil is very long.
    I just don't know what I'm going to do...repeated on page 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, and 32.
    What do you know?...repeated on page 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, and 17.
    Here are hints to help you get your manuscript in quality condition:
    Go through 6-7 versions (revise all the way through the whole manuscript).
    Use critique groups, writing partners, and/or beta readers to critique your manuscript.These trained eyes and ears will find and suggest ways to improve grammar and spelling, as well as improve the story, plot, characters, setting, continuity, and believability.

    7. When you have a quality manuscript, you can honestly make the following statement: 
       "This is a quality manuscript. This is the best I can do with this manuscript with the knowledge and skills I have at the present time."  
    After your revisions get your manuscript to the quality condition and it's the best you can do stage, then it is time to submit your manuscript. You are ready to start Week 1 of my Pub Subbers plan for submission. Do all the Steps for Weeks 1, 2, and 3. They take you through submitting your manuscript.

    Week 1 Get final proofing critique. Choose an editor, agent, or contest for your submission.
    Week 2 Follow the guidelines to write necessary documents: pitch, query letter, cover letter, proposal, resume, or bio..
    Week 3 Pub Sub Friday-submission time. Not ready. It’s okay. Submit it when you’re ready.
    Week 4 Write, revise, critique, live, educate, motivate, celebrate.

    8. Did you follow the guidelines of the editor, agent, or contest?

    Don't sabotage your own success. Follow the guidelines.

    Following the directions for the guidelines is the final requirement for a quality manuscript. When you don’t follow the directions, it lowers your grade to a C or lower. If it says, email submissions only and you send it by U.S. postal service, the agent or editor may not even read your submission. It may seem heartless, however, your submission may end up in the trash can. The editor or agent may think if you can’t follow these simple directions, you won’t be able to follow suggestions to make your manuscript a top notch best-selling book.

    1. Alfonso Coley. “Common Writing Problems New Writers Can Face:”
    2. Amanda Patterson. “The Five Most Common Problems First Time Writers Share:”
    3. Dara Marks.  The Writer’s Store. ”The Fatal Flaw, The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life:”
    4. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Illinois State “Common Mistakes of English Grammar, Mechanics, and Punctuation:”
    5. E.H. Williams, Hamilton, Biology Department, “Common Writing Mistakes:”
    6. Gordon Silverstein, editor. University of “Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes: Advice from generations of Teaching Fellows at Harvard University:”
    7. Judy Rose.  Writing “Ten Common Writing Mistakes Your Spell Checker Won’t Find:”
    8. Laura Spencer.  Free Lance “20 Writing Mistakes That Make Any Freelancer Look Bad:”
    9. Pat Holt. “Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do):”
    10. Tom Walker. Get Paid to Write “Ten Most Common Writing Mistakes:”

    I hope these ideas help you keep going, even when you feel like giving up.
    Good luck with the publication of your best quality manuscripts!

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    My Books:
    Flip Flap Floodle, even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck
    Paperback, Kindle and Nook
    Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release date June 2014 by 4RV Publishing

    Don’t Depend 100% on Your Publisher

    By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) In 2007, America’s Publicist Rick Frishman invited me to participate on the faculty of MegaBook Marketing Uni...