If the American Idol auditions are like writers submitting their stories to a slush pile, then that would make the judges the equivalent of editors. I want the record to reflect that I want all of my editors to be as drunk as Paula Abdul when reading my stories (you hear that Sizemore?!? You too, Puglisi!). Let me tell you, if I had to read the equivalent of these auditions as slush, I’d be drinking, too. Heavily.

What kills me is how frivolously some people take their opportunities, though I try to take the American Idol auditions with a grain of salt since, after all, they are mostly teenagers. Here you have judges dressed like normal people and you have people showing up in costume in the name of standing out. If we want to talk about being professional, this is the same as sending in your manuscript on colored paper or sticking glitter in the envelope.

Here’s the thing, editors have a job to do. Just as the Simon Cowell et. al. are searching for the most marketable talent, editors are trying to find stories they want to publish. They have magazines, anthologies, and web space to fill and want to find the best stories to do so. They especially want to be the ones to break new talent. They aren’t the enemy and aren’t out to get you. Realize that you are not the exception: read the guidelines and submit your best work. Sure, you might get a rejection letter from them, but if you’re lucky, you will get feedback from them also. Feedback aimed at why your story didn’t work for them and how you can make your story better.

So then how do we as artists respond to our judges, critics, or editors having to reject us? Too many are quick to respond with “they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re a frustrated [insert vocation of choice]”. Worse, they put that response in print and hit the send button (much less those who do it on camera on American Idol), fearless as to how many bridges they may burn, due to their lack of professionalism, in the process. We have to remember, it is only that editor’s opinion that matters … but only for that market. (And it’s funny how we respect/crave their opinion before the audition/submission, but their opinion holds no water should you flop). To quote Nick Mamatas from a Shocklines discussion:

I don’t think musicians or fine artists or automotive manufacturers or chefs should respond to their critics either, except insofar as defamation may be at issue (e.g., a review claiming that a safe car is unsafe). The reasons are simple:

1. It doesn’t matter. What can one say? “No, my book is scary! My flavor pairing were appropriate! My car does make your penis feel larger!” There will be no persuasion, so one may as well save one’s energy.

2.The public has a right of response and responses will always be varied. There’s no substance to negative complaints about the response because of this diversity of response.

Now, reviews can be poorly written, and God knows that in genre fiction they frequently are, and the public has a right of response there too. But when the only complaints one can make is about reviews of one’s own work, it becomes transparently obvious that one is just whining and cares nothing about reviewing itself as an art or craft. A writer can respond to reviews as a reader of reviews, and talk about reviews generally, but shouldn’t complain about his reviews.

If you have to respond, and I mean, if the voices in your head won’t leave you alone until you say something to your reviewer, at least keep it to e-mail (actually, it’d be best if you wrote that e-mail, printed it out, and put it in your trash can). What you really don’t want to do is go to message boards griping about your review. You will only look like a cry-baby (and you can probably consider that reviewer site dead to you).

American Idol” judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul say they’re no crueler than usual this year, and that people who audition should know what they’re going to get.

I imagine that editors reading a slush pile probably do sound a lot like Simon. Thank God I’m not actually at ground zero when they are reading my stories. All I have to put up with is the occasional self-addressed stamped envelope with a rejection letter in it. (And I know how to take rejections, even from friends.) At their first stop, the judges picked 17 people to move on to the next round out of 10,000 applicants. That’s a worse average than most slush piles (where, at the risk of antagonizing yet another editor before I submit to them), where it’s close to 1 story in 100 moving up the editorial ladder. Our job as writers is to be that 1 in 100.

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