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Get Published: How to Avoid the Slush Pile

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Get Published: How to Avoid the Slush Pile

The best way to get published is to avoid the “slush pile.” The slush pile is that stack of manuscripts and submissions that never make it onto a publisher’s “maybe” list. Every publisher has at least one editor. Most have a team, and every editor has a slush pile.

However, following a few quick tips will help your masterpiece shine, stay away from the slush pile, and ease into serious editorial consideration.

Avoid the slush pile…Know your target audience

Knowing what your article, poem, or book is about and who will most enjoy it is the first step. Novice writers think everything they create is brain food for all, which is how the slush pile got started in the first place. Experienced writers take the time to narrow the scope of their topic and have a clear, illuminating idea. This is the thesis of your creation.

The thesis of your creation can serve as a filter to sift through potential publishers and focus your list down to likely publishing venues. For instance, if your article is about theology, now matter how hip you think it is, no one uninterested in religion will want it. Likewise, if you want to publish a hot and steamy romance, a publisher who states “no erotica” will not consider your work of art, even if it is highly literary and worth a Pulitzer.

Check the Publisher’s website…with your Yowling Creator’s eye

Whether you want to get published in a print magazine, academic journal, or an e-zine, you’ll need to review the publisher’s official website. When you get to the home page, look for “Submission Guidelines,” “Writer’s Guidelines,” or “Manuscript Submissions.” Follow the instructions EXACTLY. Editors hate having to repeat themselves, so they put everything you need to know to stay away from the slush pile in a convenient place. Sometimes guidelines are found under “Contact.” So, check here if there is no “submissions” or “guidelines” at the top or the bottom of the home page.

Editors also despise trudging through literary sludge or manuscripts that don’t match their mission, so…

Manuscript = Mission   Slush Pile

Above all, make sure your manuscript falls in line with the stated mission, or purpose, of the publication. Matching their reason for being causes your creation to shine. I’m not saying that you should change your creation and compromise. My point is this: find a publisher that already embraces your topic. Check out the home page, “About,” or “History” for the publisher’s mission.

A strong starting point for researching this is Writer’s Market (or Poet’s Market, Short Story Market, etc…), available at any public library or online for a fee. Writer’s Market has done a lot of the research already and narrows your search by grouping publishers into categories. If you know what your piece is about, finding a category is easy. Writer’s Market then offers a list of potential places to publish your manuscript along with the websites, names of editors, their pet peeves, and general guidelines. Once I narrow down the list, I always visit the website for the most up-to-date information.

Read the Archives with your Yowling Creator’s eye…

Most publishers contain “Archives” or a section of the site that displays past work published. Take a moment to compare your masterpiece with what the editors have chosen. Often the selection is subjective. In other words, with so many submissions that match the mission, editors sometimes will publish what they personally like. Reading the archives will give you an idea of which pieces rise to the top and avoid the slush pile.

Format…Creating with a professional touch

If your piece isn’t formatted to their specifications, editors will assume you didn’t take the time to read what they wrote under “Guidelines.” Nothing makes an editor toss you to the curb faster than this lack of professionalism and courtesy. Editors receive thousands of submissions every month, depending on the publication. They’re busy like the rest of us and fast-track through their reading pile.

Besides following the submission guidelines, proper format includes correct spelling and grammar, keeping within length requirements, and sending the suggested number of pieces or poems. Some specifics are industry standards and are not mentioned on the publisher’s website. Click here for a quick review on formatting like pro. If you don’t format like a pro, an editor will slide you into the slush pile without even reading your magnum opus–no matter how good it is.

Have you ended up in the slush pile? How do you avoid it? Share your Yowling Creator’s thoughts and help others.

7 Responses to “Get Published: How to Avoid the Slush Pile”

  1. Luis Alvarado says:

    I really like to write stories, i am thinking that i am falling in love writing stories for kids. i am not a writer but, some day i would like to be a professional in this area. Is there anyone who can let me know what is basically the format or rules to write a story, if so please send me an email, thanks….kids can make a great contribution to this country when they grow older.We just need to fulfill their hearts with dreams and happiness. Sooner or later, an explosion of creativity and new ideas will come out of their hearts……

  2. eyrwqey686@gmail.com says:

    These are impressive articles. Keep up the noble be successful.

  3. Jace says:

    You know what, I’m very much incilned to agree.

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