I recently wrote a piece for the SFWA Bulletin on things I learned from the slush pile of Dark Faith. I figured it would be a while before I’d have anything good to share again, after all, I JUST WROTE ABOUT WHAT I DIDN’T WANT TO SEE AGAIN. As of December 1st, here’s what the slush pile for Dark Faith 2 should have looked like: stories I’ve solicited. Seriously, that was all that should have been there. So you have to wonder what caused this series of twitter updates from me not too long ago:
-So @jerrylgordon & I have waded into the Dark Faith 2 slush pile (which shouldn’t even exist for 12 more days)…
Total unsolicited submissions received before the January 1st date: 63.
-Don’t brag about your MA, MFA, and Ph.D in your cover letter if you still can’t read guidelines that say we’re not open til Jan 1st…
Actual cover letter. I actually get a nervous chill when I see folks laying out their MFA credentials rather than their publishing creds. It was at this point I questioned whether to have people bother to include cover letters, but Jerry Gordon insists that it helps him weed folks out. I don’t think that’s a good thing for many writers as I suspect poor cover letters give him an excuse to pass on your submission…
-Cover letters shouldn’t be so bad that your co-editor continues to read them out loud just to punish you. Much less through his laughter.
If you feel the need to tell us your plot, please don’t explain the “symbolism” for us. If you have a deep space, science fiction metaphor of the conquest of the Aztecs and a character who is a stand in for the Tea Party, let the story stand on its own. And don’t call your shot about how entertaining it’s going to be (especially if it isn’t). I will say that my favorite submission letter had this line:
“I have dedicated my life to learning the craft of writing so that my fiction can not only be understood by the reader, but felt, experienced on all levels of sense. The attached story is a product of much research, and a little obsession.”
-We’re dangerously close to starting a bad slush pile submission drinking game (thanks @mlvalentine), but @jerrylgordon has to drive home.
Speaking of Monica Valentinelli, she sent in the “perfect” submission letter:
Dear Mr. Broaduss and Mr. Sesame St. Gordon:*
Earlier today I sent you a profussional cover letter** and the 1st ten chps of my novel which also works as a short story. I am, quite frankly, apalled by your sheer lack of respekt! How DARE you ignore my submision. You call yourselves Christians? I spent two years werking on that story and the lest you could do is respond in a timely manner. Your blatant disregard for my work hurt my fellings. It really, really did! You shuld axe God for forgiveness.
Did you even read my cover letter? GOD TOLD ME TO WRITE THAT STORY HOW CAN U NOT EXCEPT IT.*** “The End Is High” is a reimagining of the Book Of Ruth crossed with the Book of Revelations. If you look closely, you’ll notice how I was very careful in my interpretation of the sex scene between The Beast of the Apocalypse, the Archangel Michale, and Ruth’s father. All the details are there and this is why beastiality is a bad thing and why the horsemen are comung for us. Do NOT miss this opportunity to spread the good news! The end of 2012 is almost upon us and it is my missun to get this story out to as many ppl as possible to warn them not to fall into adultry or have too many beers cuz the chosen r going up to heaven on December 21, 2012 at midnight.
I look forward to hearing from you. I no, in my heart, you’ll do the right thing.
Yours in peace my brotherz.
- The bestest author evah!
Number of people who can get away with a letter like this: Monica Valentinelli.
-So @jerrylgordon had to hand me a glass of Riesling as he read this cover letter. Something to drown the pain of this submission…
Hmm, I’m beginning to question just how much Riesling can be attributed to the Dark Faith submission process…
-Another free pro tip, having your “assistant” send in your novel submission to an anthology (that’s not open) STILL doesn’t help your cause.
Mind you, said assistant has already submitted two novels thus far. The final total of novels submitted to us before the January 1st date: 12.
I am sending you the manuscript of the first instalment of my fantasytrilogy,[SERIES TITLE DELETED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT]: the 100 000 word novel [TITLE WITH THE WORDS ‘SHADOWS’ AND ‘REALM’ THUS SEPARATING IT FROM ANY OTHER FANTASY NOVEL OUT THERE].
-Here’s a pro tip I shouldn’t have to offer, you probably shouldn’t take shots at the editor you’re submitting to IN YOUR COVER LETTER!
“This is a story for those people who thought I had ‘negative talent‘” a reference to my blog post … 7 years ago. Too bad his story came in two months before we opened.
Before I get too carried away with mocking our slush pile, I try to keep in mind: I’m sure I have been the object lesson in an editor or two’s bar story; I’m sure I WILL be the object lesson in an editor’s bar story; I’m still going through the same submission process (even receiving a rejection the day I do this). Ah, the slush pile is a many splendored thing …