Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All the Answers Are No

As we've been discussing, the slush inspires some mixed feelings. For some people (persistant, talented people), it pays off. And for other people it's hay-baling time.

So at the risk of aiming a post at people who don't read this blog, I'd like to point out some instances of slush-related correspondence in which the answer is no:
  • You found a typo on page 76, and here's the corrected page. Could we just replace it in the manuscript you sent us last week? No.
  • Whoops, you moved. Two months ago you sent us a manuscript, and here's your new address. Could we just tuck this notice in with your previous package? No.

  • You air-mailed your aged grandmother to the slush (her rocker was too big for the envelope), and you're starting to worry that she might expire while she waits to be evaluated. Could we give her this bottle of water and kit of emergency rations? No.
I think we've established that hunting through the slush is a dubiously productive activity at the best of times (look, two-month-old chocolate!).

But hunting through the slush just to fix some small thing for you is the kind of pointless that makes old editors look back on their lives and weep bitter tears for their wasted youth. Even considering that it would be editorial assistants and interns doing the hunting, it makes me weep bitter tears for the time they could be spending writing my catalog copy or requesting my contracts.

The occasional typo we don't care about.
New address? Submit again.
Grandmother? Our submission guidelines clearly state that we are not responsible for the health or longevity of any materials sent to us.

There are a few editors and a number of ex-slush readers who seem to read this blog (for companionship, I think). Would anyone like to start a list of the stranger things they've found in slush? I'll start:
  • a crate of tangerines
  • a wool stocking full of jellybeans
  • a hand-made hand puppet that really farted (mini whoopee cushion)


Anonymous said...

I'm a slush pile contributor.
Have you found aluminum in your slush piles? Because I advise people to submit their manuscripts wrapped in aluminum (so the aliens cannot scan their mss...we need to protect our first galactic serial rights!)

By the way, you'll find the shirt for that here;

I I have to come and help you with the slush, I'll put on my wading boots. Maybe I'll find that submission of mine that I never saw again? ;)

Wendy said...

I've found:

a flashlight

a box of plush dinosaurs in a variety of different sizes, all of them wearing Santa hats

numerous packets of tea or cocoa with attached notes encouraging me to "relax" or "treat myself" while I read the enclosed manuscripts

8 x 10 color photocopy of writer wearing clown costume and makeup

8 x 10 color photocopy of writer (different writer) wearing ball gown and tiara

a dead pill bug displayed in a makeshift slide of cardboard and clear tape and enclosed in a plastic bag

glitter confetti PLEASE GOD NO

Anonymous said...

What if you know you have plans to move, say, four to six months from now? (I was in precisely this situation myself, though it's now down to less than two months). Does this mean that you shouldn't submit to any publishers until after your move, unless you are confident that the publisher is one who responds in less than four months? If that's what you're saying, that means that choosing to move would pretty much carve six months out of one's writing career. Sounds a bit harsh to me.

Or what if you move unexpectedly, and a publisher has already had your manuscript for six months? Does it really make sense to resubmit? For all you know, the manuscript is already out to a reader being considered, so resubmitting would only cause confusion and duplicated effort by the publisher.

I recently sent something out with a cover letter explaining that I would be moving in a few months, and providing my anticipated address as of a certain date. I wasn't sure whether I was giving the editor too much to think about, though I suppose if they actually want to publish my work they will take a few extra seconds to figure out how to contact me. I also provided an email address and the cell phone number I will be sure to keep.

Editorial Anonymous said...

The number of unsolicited manuscripts we receive means that a resubmission is unlikely to be noticed. If it is, then as long as you've mentioned the address change that prompted the resubmission, we'll certainly understand.
What you did sounds just right. And yes, if we want to publish your manuscript we'll absolutely take extra steps to contact you (it is in that instance that we're most likely to use email, or maybe phone. I still prefer email). But in the case of a rejection letter (and perhaps it's a rejection letter with feedback and an invitation to resubmit), I'm going to use snail mail. So I hope you have a forwarding service.

Kidlitjunkie said...

Probably the strangest thing I've ever, ever gotten in the slush was dental x-rays. That's right, x-rays of someone's teeth.


I've also gotten a handmade yarn doll, a packet of seeds, and once, memorable, four dollars.

The money was from a woman who had submitted her manuscript and had forgotten to include an SASE. Now I could buy an envelope and, no.

I've also gotten stamps from people like this.

Chances are, that submission is loooong gone.

Wendy said...

I don't see as many of those change-of-address issues as I used to, and I think it's because people now routinely include an email address with their contact info. It's best to use an email account that travels with you, like Gmail or Yahoo or your own domain.

Susan at Stony River said...

Ooo, hey, how much do you want for the farting puppet?

Anonymous said...

I once received a proposal for a history of the contraceptive pill. Instead of a query/synopsis/manuscript/sample chapters/etc, the author sent in a fake box of pills, complete with foil pill pack. The 28 'pills' were Menthos mints. The description of the book was printed in tiny tiny writing on bible-thin paper, like the 'warning/side effects' sheets that come with prescription drugs. All very realistic and thorough, but also kind of... gimmicky and also icky.

After everyone else had gone home, I did eat one of the mints.

Anonymous said...

I'm a recovering editorial assistant. A man who'd written a new-age inspirational novel about a Mexican shoe-shine boy who becomes a millionaire (through hard work and decency, naturally) submitted his manuscript to us in a hand-made wooden shoe-shine box containing shoe polish and brushes. It had a metal plaque engraved with my boss's name. He delivered it by hand and refused to leave reception until somebody (me) came out to speak with him.

What got me most was the thought that he'd presumably made these personalised boxes for every editor he submitted to. Authors, please don't do this!! It makes us no more likely to publish your book (in fact it makes us think: 'Watch out, here's a crazy person!'), and it's a waste of your valuable writing time. At least I got to keep the shoe polish.

Anonymous said...

These are hilarious. My sympathies! (But I suppose at least it brightens the slush pile with a laugh?)

Anon 8:13: Three things: 1. In the U.S., at least, the PO will forward for six months. Anything you get back through the mail after that is a rejection anyway. 2. I know only a very few instances of authors getting "yes" in the mail, usually from very small presses. E-mail and phone will cover you for a yes, which is the only answer you really care about. 3. It sounds dreadful, and I rejected it earlier in my career too, but at the pace of this business, six months is really nothing. If you know you're moving in two months, just wait to submit. If they're going to buy the book at all, they'll still buy it in six months. This is a long-term career or none at all.

ICQB said...

Anonymous said...

"After everyone else had gone home, I did eat one of the mints."

That is too funny! You have great comic timing, and a wicked dry wit!

Janet Reid said...

I got a rock once.
I wasn't sure if the subliminal message was "you have rocks in your head" or "I'll leave no stone unturned trying to catch your eye."

It cost him $10 or so to mail it.

Form rejection.
The rock however remains.