Here’s another public service announcement/entertainment piece for you. Here’s what really pisses me off when I’m reading slush.

  • Getting the name of the publication wrong. I received a submission today to Our Spirits Speak. Now, if I ever do an antho of ghost stories, that’d be an excellent title, but really. You’re going to work your ass off (at least, I hope you do) on a story and then botch the cover letter? I’ll tell you what… I don’t remember the author’s name or the story’s title right now, but I remember that mistake. I’ve gotten a few other emails like that. Bad first impression.
  • Not even trying to write a cover letter. If the above pet peeve is a mere botch, the following is a critical failure:
            "hope you wanted this submitted with attachment
             if not i guess i'm sol.
             writer x"

Hope he read the damn guidelines, I thought when I saw this,if not I guess he’s SOL. Then, just for the lulz, I opened the story and gave it a quick glance. Story was alright, but I’ve been accepting a steady stream of better AND it was 1200 words below my specified minimum word count. That’s OK, he’ll hear back from me in a couple months. Giving me a quick laugh doesn’t push someone to the front of the line. But no joke; that was the writer’s ENTIRE cover letter, name changed to protect the guilty. Almost any possible avenue through which he could have gotten the OSS submissions email address would have also directed him to my guidelines. I don’t know what else to say.

  • Not following guidelines. Like, blatantly and on purpose. I’ve gotten pretty fonts, stories pre-formatted as if ready for printing, stories well below word count (as in, 750-word flash’s for a 3-5K stated word count) and a few other miscellaneous failures to obey. My guidelines are easy and what I like best about them is that they don’t dictate how to be creative. My anthos are wide open (unless you like kiddie porn or other such dumb shit), so if my guidelines pretty much just stipulate method of delivery and word count, why hurt your chances by blowing them off? No editor I know wants to read 5K words of fiction formatted with three different fonts for headings, etc. Come to think of it, I wasn’t too impressed by the guy’s fiction, either. Maybe if he didn’t spend so much time formatting. Nor does your typical editor have time to waste on flash fiction when he’s asking to publish longer works. Think about it: sending a work, even a well-written one, to the wrong publication just means waiting unnecessarily for a rejection before sending it elsewhere. These days, a story sits in my pile for 2-4 months. Read and follow guidelines. They’re there for you, too.

Bonus Peeve: Sending multiple, highly-derivative works. This one’s the bonus peeve because I haven’t seen it again since Summer/Fall ’06 when I was reading for OSS1. This clown sent me a grisly story about a killer playing games with a guy; the highlight of the story involved him cutting a key out of his girlfriend’s corpse but HOLY SHIT she wasn’t really dead. I wrote back, told the guy he was good at stringing words together but I had already watched SAW. I invited him to send something else, and he promptly delivers a story about monsters scaring kids to generate fear to power their world’s devices. I thanked him for sending me the abridged Monster’s, Inc. and invited him not to send anything else. I think that writer has been spotted pumping gas outside Vegas with John Denver and Princess Di.

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