- What are the most common problems with manuscript formats?
- Do you ever read cover notes?
- I’ve been rejected several times now … you hate me, don’t you?
- How does your slush-reading process work?
- Isn’t your slush reading process a bit arbitrary/time consuming/unfair?
- The reader clearly misunderstood my story!
- The Comments were useless/wrong/blatantly unfair!
- Do you accept Resubmissions?
- What’s a trope?
What are the most common problems with manuscript formats?
We have a page outlining our preferred Manuscript format, (here) and it would be really nice if people could stick to it as closely as possible. However the most important issues are as follows:
- Always include full contact details in the body of the MS … it’s how we keep track of which story belongs to which person. Always include an email address. Don’t put your name and address in the document header.
- Never use weird fonts. I don’t care how cool it looks, we want a simple, preferably fixed width font. Courier or Courier New 12pt is preferred.
- DOUBLE SPACING … actually, we don’t care much either way about double spacing. It’s a standard manuscript format, so we put it in the spec to make life easier all around, but it’s not a big thing with us. Don’t go manually inserting them if your word processor doesn’t support them. It just causes headaches. Single spacing is adequate in those cases.
- HEADERS all headers get stripped off before being sent sending to the readers, so don’t waste time putting anything in the header. Ditto for page footers, although a page number is acceptable. Don’t manually insert header or footer lines if your word processor does not support them.
Do you ever read cover notes?
Not really, so it’s not worth spending a lot of time on them. Anything longer than a paragraph will probably be ignored. I don’t care what the story is about, the readers and editors will find out for themselves. A short list of writing credits is fine.
I’ve been rejected several times now … you hate me, don’t you?
Trust me …rejection doesn’t mean we hate you. So far, for every story we select, we reject around 100. Apart from questions of quality, there is a limit to how many stories we can print. What is more, each story is sent to the readers with no author details attached, so every story has to stand entirely on its own merits. There are all sorts of reasons a story might be rejected, ranging from the fact that the author does not know how to write basic English, through to “this is great, but we’ve already GOT a shapeshifting transvestite elf story in this issue”. What we do try and do is not leave you hanging … generally, if we do reject a story, we do it very quickly. It’s the ones that almost make it that take a while to decide. We do try and keep you informed at every step of the process.
How does your slush-reading process work?
When a story arrives (correctly formatted as an attached RTF!) it is entered into a submissions management program developed explicitly for Andromeda Spaceways, affectionately dubbed “Slush-o-matic”. The author details are stripped, and the story is then sent to a random reader. At this stage, the reader marks it with a “Yes”, “No”, or a “Maybe”. “No”s are sent back to the author (often with reader comments), “Maybe”s are sent to another random reader for a second opinion, and “Yes”s are send to round two.
In Round 2, the story is sent to three different readers, each of whom gives it a rating between 1 and 5, with 1 being great and 5 being the opposite. Once all three second-round readers have rated the story, the ratings are added up, and compared to an arbitrary minimum number (which varies a bit depending on circumstances). At this stage, the reader will get either a Reject (with all the reader comments attached) or a Hold.
A Hold request means that your story has passed into Round 3, and is in with a real chance. It means that your submission is considered good enough to go into an issue of Andromeda Spaceways, and you should feel proud because it is in about the top 10% of all stories received. It will be placed in the luxurious Slushpool for the editors of upcoming issues to ogle. However, with the number of submissions we receive, only about 1 story in 20 makes it out of the Slushpool and into print. If no editor selects it within two-three months, the story is reluctantly booted out of the Slushpool and back to the author (again, with reader comments attached)
Isn’t your slush reading process a bit arbitrary/time consuming/unfair?
Arbitrary? Yes, it is. It is possible that your story could hit a reader on a bad day and get rejected out of hand. It’s possible it could be the best story ever written, but languish in the Slushpool for two months and be eventually dropped because it doesn’t happen to fit into any of the upcoming issues. That, unfortunately, is life in the world of publishing. We do our best, though. The important thing to remember is that every other magazine goes through some variation of this process. We’re just more open about it than most. Most magazines have longer response times than us.
The reader clearly misunderstood my story!
The Comments were useless/wrong/blatantly unfair!
Well … tough. The comments are supplied because we here at ASIM are bending over backwards to make our magazine as writer friendly as possible. We make no guarantees as to the usefulness or fairness of the reader comments, or that any will be supplied at all. The readers are all unpaid volunteers (apart from the ones we caught and chained in the cellar. Still unpaid, but not so much volunteering…) and we are not a critiquing circle. (If you’re looking for one, I strongly recommend Critters.) The overwhelming response to our practice of supplying reader comments has been enthusiastically positive, but once in a very long while somebody writes back to complain that we got it wrong. Again: tough.
However, sometimes the comments have clearly been attached to the wrong story… it happens sometimes when the Slush Wrangler’s medication is off. In that case, they’re quite happy to sort it out.
Do you accept Resubmissions?
We don’t normally want resubs. It’s not a deep-seated pathological loathing, we just have a touchingly naive faith in our slushing process.
Sometimes, though, we’ll get a feeling of unrealised /potential/, that the piece could be exactly what we want, but isn’t, yet. In those cases, we’ll make the suggestion to you, along with providing, as usual, the heartfelt, educated and above all free advice of our slushers.
Note that if we do suggest that a reworking might be useful, we’d want to see the resubmission actually reworked. This may come as something of a surprise, but we’re firm on the matter.
In short, you’ll know if we think it might be worth a resubmission, because we’ll tell you. If you’re in doubt, you should ask. If we say no, it’s not because we hate you. We don’t hate you. That Barrow guy, we hate. Lousy, whingeing, prying…
Thanks to Stuart Barrow for that section. He’s due out of therapy real soon now…
According to Abrams , 5th edition:
“‘Figure of thought’ or tropes (meaning ‘turns,’ ‘conversions’), in which words or phrases are used in a way that effects a conspicuous change in what we take to be their standard meaning.”