most of my contributors are solicited, so idk. i would never think of my submissions as a slush pile. i have a very very vague idea of what i’m hoping for from a contributor i’ve solicited, but other than that, usually i’m pleased or interested in some way by what they send me.
We don’t solicit, unless we’re soliciting a specific piece. In which case we already know we want it. This isn’t so much a stance as a practice, though. Mainly it just seems awkward to have to reject something from someone you’ve solicited.
If I’ve solicited a writer, her work will jump to the front of the line, so it does get preferential treatment in that way. I like to think there isn’t bias for the submission automatically, though. It still has to be publishable.
We’ve solicited in fewer than 5 instances and in each case, we knew we wanted to publish the work in question. If we ever really solicited, the primary consideration would be that the submission would be moved to the front of the queue.
Same standards, but if you’ve solicited them you’re inevitably gonna be more interested. Roxane, why does it burn? They obviously like you enough to solicit, but maybe you just didn’t send them stuff that worked?
At the very least solicited work is jumping to the front of the queue and is definitely being read by the editors instead of any readers a magazine may have who are the first slush filters. Realistically you are more likely to try and salvage a solicited work than a slush pile piece.
Solicited stuff goes to the front of the queue for me. But I’ve found that about half the time I’m not getting the solicited writer’s great work; usually it’s something that he/she has shopped around and couldn’t get anyone to bite on. Sometimes they come through with a better piece, sometimes not. Either way, there has to be an understanding that not every piece is going to be right for the mag, even if I love love love that writer’s work. Just like not every issue of the mag is going to kick it for every reader every time. The way it goes.
Alexis, it burns because more often than not, editors don’t tell me what they liked that compelled them to solicit me and then I send them something and they say, for example, “OH we wanted one of your sex type stories.” Now, that’s fine, but man, you just said you wanted to see something from me. You didn’t tell me how you wanted me to dance. This has happened at least three times and with a clearer sense of what they wanted, we worked things out. In the grand scheme of things, this is a great problem to have. I find it terribly flattering to be solicited. Sometimes, I just wish editors were more specific about what they want.
That’s a tough question. I’ll echo what many say here and say that if I’ve solicited, it’s really as good as in. For Colored Chalk I solicited several writers (Joe Meno, Joey Goebel, Karen Brown) and all of their work was in the good to great range. I mean, it would have to really suck to get rejected, IMO. If you solicit, it means you like the author’s work, and want to publish it. Often, we solicit because we’re new, or need to pad an issue with some names or talent, and that’s fine, it’s all good writing after all, but I can’t IMAGINE soliciting an author and then rejecting it. I’d find a way to work with that story, edit it, or ask for something else.
Roxane, when you get specific requests, do you consider writing a piece to fulfill that request or do you go through what you’ve got? I ask because it seems that would be fun fun, but I can imagine some people being annoyed by such specificity.
Tim, I’m generally more than happy to write to fulfill a request. I don’t sit on a lot of unpublished work so generally, when I am solicited, I am sending new work I wrote to respond to the solicitation.
I have rejected plenty of stuff I solicited and I never feel bad about it. I do think that maybe I could do a better job of explaining what I’m looking for, but at the same time I am always looking to be surprised, even when I ask.
Solicited work gets read faster (mostly) and I always read the whole piece, whereas I rarely make it through something in the slush before deciding to reject.
As more or less a first time editor (had done one or two other things), I had a few big whoops moments editing the Pank special issue. Here’s two stories related to solicitations:
~I solicited an online writer friend of mine. This is a somewhat hard-won friendship in that when I first “met” him I was not sure I liked him (we met on a workshopping platform and I was seriously turned off by his feedback style) and he has been pretty candid abt feeling jealous of me (actually, though, his honesty is actually one of the things I ultimately like best about him). I knew pretty soon after he sent his pieces that none of them were fully clicking for me, but I told myself I should sit with them for a little while, give them further consideration out of respect for our friendship and my appreciation for his other work. And then one of the loves of his life died unexpectedly, and he was in an especially bad place for a while, and I didn’t want to send a rejection in the middle of that, so I sat on the stuff for even longer.. and then mid-summer I got busy and lost control of the submission queue a little bit and Roxane came in for a day to help me with rejections, and I forgot to tell her to leave this person’s piece for me, so he ended up getting a standard form rejection from Roxane instead of a personalized one from me, I sent him an apology, everything is fine now but it still created some anxiety for me.
~I solicited a real-life writer friend who I both hang out with pretty regularly and am also in a writing group with. I solicited a specific piece because I’d heard him read it live and I LOVED it. The first time I saw it as text, it was his first draft, which he submitted for our writing group (I didn’t go the day they workshopped it). Then he struggled for a few weeks to revise it because it was a piece he felt really, really close to and wanted to get right and all that. And finally he sent me a new draft. He was all, You should look at this, if you hate it let me know, and I was like, I’m sure I’ll love it. But by then, this was already late August, and I ended up not looking at it until like ONE WEEK before the issue was supposed to go live, when I was doing my final edits, when I realized parts of the new version I did not like nearly as well as the earlier draft. So there was a lot of fevered last-minute editing where I made my own composite version of what I liked best from each draft, and then this writer did some additional edits and sent his version back, etc…
That’s a good point, but then again: an editor doesn’t always want to narrow the focus to a specific area, especially if the solicitee doesn’t have anything available that ‘sounds like’ such-and-such a piece, but also because we like to be surprised, don’t we? We’re looking for something new.
Also, there is sort of the assumption that the solicitee is going to check out the journal anyhow, to see if he/she thinks he/she wants to be published there, and also whether or not their work will actually fit [nevermind that this is suggested by the solicitation]… and then if interested then, accordingly and by habit, will obviously go through their unpublished works looking for something that would be the most suitable . . . I mean, is it really the editor’s job to psychically read a person’s unpublished collection?
Also: How many writers’ entire collection can be defined by one piece? There’re some, not all. Isn’t it a little insulting for someone to come along and say: Hey, could you write me something that sounds like that?
However… as a writer who never, ever really knows what an editor is looking for in my own work [as opposed to others’]: I do often wish that I could just put all my material up on a website and direct an editor there to pick and choose . . . the way that you do with visual artists. It’s often so hard to figure out what an editor really wants in [i]your[/i] writing, since analyzing the works in a journal only tells you what they like in somebody else’s writing . . . at a certain moment in time and a certain situation, at that.
So far, I’ve rejected exactly one writer I’ve solicited. That was in the first issue (by necessity, of course, half solicited… of course, that’s a somewhat different situation from soliciting to an established journal). There were a few others, but in all those cases I received work I really liked.
I agree that a solicitation sort of implies that the work will receive special consideration.
Anyhow, the issue that seems a lot more problematic for me is how you handle a writer who’s a friend of yours. Sometimes you read a piece in a journal that doesn’t quite seem to fit, but you notice that the author is somebody who’s friends with the editor . . . or toured with the editor . . . so you can’t help but get the impression that the writer received special consideration or even some sort of spoken or implied promise that their work would be published in the next issue.
Me, I feel sort of obligated to read through the whole thing, but if I’m not very interested then I’ll skim. Admittedly: sometimes I’ll get a work that I don’t like much but I’ll hold onto it anyway, and when I return to it I decide I actually kind of like it.
What bothers me is when editors look for excuses to dump your work. I mean… I know they have big slushpiles, but what if they get a really great work whose author failed to double-space, or did not title the work correctly, or whatever? I mean… I have lain out certain guidelines about how to send the piece and how to outline it, but this is mostly because this is the sort of formatting I prefer… . In the end, I generally ignore the formatting, since I’m much more interested in the words than the formatting.
If it’s a sense that they’re not getting enough respect from a person who’s submitting . . . that’s pretty lame, I think.
The only thing that bugs me is when people submit lined verse even though the guidelines specifically say no verse, prose poetry is okay. I mean… I’ve wondered whether or not my description is specific enough, since a few people were puzzled and wrote back asking for me to clarify… but… how can I get more specific?
When we’re submitting our work someplace: we’re always so concerned about whether our work has met all the guidelines, and if we accidentally send something that hasn’t met all the guidelines, we nearly freak out, thinking it’s not gonna be read, and we can’t re-submit or we’ll look like an ass… at least, this has been the case with me.
Well the thing is nobody’s rejecting anything JUST because the margins are wrong or the text isn’t double-spaced or whatever unless they have *so many* submissions that there isn’t really any other choice, in which case, well, we’re not entitled to their patience anyway — it’s kind of them to read at all.
If someone says they’re rejecting X because of formatting what probably really happened is that they didn’t like it at the start and then the formatting was also bad. Especially online. If I don’t like someone’s formatting but I want to keep reading their piece, I *fix the formatting.* If I don’t like their piece and I’m trying to decide whether to keep reading in case I ought to like it, sometimes sloppy formatting changes my mind.
Being a good writer is usually the way to solve these problems.
Well, I’m saying this because of things that editors have written here and there about just how much improper formatting bugs them and the fact that if submissions aren’t formatted and organized and titled just so, then the work will get dumped because it shows a lack of respect, or attention, or maturity or whatever, or blah blah blah. In the end I could only read this as “Any excuse to dump your work in the trash will be exploited.”
It’s been said before, and I agree, that if you’ve entered this profession it’s assumedly not out of charity but because you love literature and want to help getting more of it out there and in front of people’s eyes, and that if you’ve come to hate being an editor then perhaps it’s time to stop, rather than venting your frustrations on the writers.
Thing is… while attention to guidelines demonstrates maturity and respect… artists are absentminded. We’re also impatient. I’m lenient in regard to guidelines because sometimes interesting writing comes in crude packages. If I just threw something out without reading it simply because some guideline wasn’t met . . . I’d worry about what I might’ve lost.
I also think that this strict sort of editorial attitude is disrespectful to writers who like your journal and want their work to be a part of it. Really: If anything, I think it’s editors who should be thankful to contributors, more than the other way around. If an editor starts thinking they’re some sort of god that contributors ought to worship: it seems to me that somebody’s taken a wrong turn, someplace.
that’s fair. I think specificity is a problem across the board. I mean, in life. We speak in vague generalities and then get mad at each other when another person doesn’t meet the expectations we’ve only outlined in our heads. For all the beauty of language, I’m not sure humans are very adept at using it precisely. Which is a total veer from this topic of conversation, but I had a misunderstanding last night that made me think of it.