Happy Discoverer’s Day … and A Publisher’s Public Slushpile

Those who know me well know that I prefer politeness to political correctness, so my personal reference to Columbus Day as Discoverer’s Day is not (I repeat, not) (I tell you three times, NOT) the usual anti-Columbian protest on behalf of the American aborigines.* Rather, when the government decided that Presidents Washington and Lincoln would share a holiday with all the others who have occupied that office, I decided that other holidays named after famous people should also be renamed to share with those with similar accomplishments. The obvious exception to this is Christmas, since I can’t find anyone else in history who has changed the world as profoundly as did Jesus Christ.

End of rant/sermonette, and Happy Discoverer’s Day to one and all.

In other news, I was pointed to what appears to be an experiment by Harper Collins to let the online reading public sort through their slush pile for them. Called authonomy, it’s “a brand new community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins.”

From their FAQ page,

authonomy invites unpublished and self published authors to post their manuscripts for visitors to read online. Authors create their own personal page on the site to host their project – and must make at least 10,000 words available for the public to read.

Visitors to authonomy can comment on these submissions – and can personally recommend their favourites to the community. authonomy counts the number of recommendations each book receives, and uses it to rank the books on the site. It also spots which visitors consistently recommend the best books – and uses that info to rank the most influential trend spotters.

…. HarperCollins hopes to find new, talented writers we can sign up for our traditional book publishing programmes – once we’re fully launched we’ll be reading the most popular manuscripts each month as part of this search.

In a way, this is similar to the process on Baen’s Bar whereby short story submissions to Jim Baen’s Universe can be critiqued and catch the eyes of the editors. The electronic slushpile for Baen Books works a little differently — the submissions aren’t available to every member of the Bar.

I’ll be interested to see how the Harper Collins experiment works out.

*Disclosure: I may fall into this category myself, having a percentage of Cherokee blood; I’ve never gone the route of documenting how much to see if I qualify for tribal membership.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

ConCarolinas Schedule

Opened my ConCarolinas schedule this morning to find that I’m assigned to a half-dozen panels, including one I specifically didn’t want to be on. So here goes:

6:00PM – Best Books You’ve Never Heard Of – NOW ACCEPTING SUGGESTIONS 😮

9:00AM – Fantastic Animals – That is, animals as characters in fiction … done well and poorly
10:00AM – The Science Panel – What’s up in the world of science, especially with respect to story potential
5:00PM – Putting the Science in your Science Fiction – A nice follow-on to the 10 a.m. panel

11:00AM – Where’s My Personal Jetpack? – In which I whine (and channel Daniel Amos*) about not having a rocket pack
3:00PM – Cover Letters – What to do and what not to do, as demonstrated by the slush pile

The con is the 30th of May through the 1st of June, in Charlotte. Visit the ConCarolinas web site for more info.

*Quick, without resorting to Google: who was Daniel Amos?

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The View From (Under) the Slush Pile

Some of my writing friends asked me about what I look for when I read slush for Baen Books; especially, what makes a book a good potential fit for the Baen line.

Before I answer, let me point out that if a manuscript is at all close to being publishable, I pass it to the publisher, Toni Weisskopf, and let her make the call. She instructed me early on that she only expected me to send her the top 1% of submissions, but I’ve actually sent her more than that. Some I’ve only marginally recommended, if I thought they were good books but might not be quite right for Baen.

That being said, I don’t know if this characterizes any kind of Baen “profile,” but I look for:

1. Stories that are adventurous and fun at their core. Think “golden age of SF.”

2. Stories that are exciting, if not actually action-packed. (Lots of people believe a Baen book must have a battle, brawl, barfight, gunfight, knifefight, or fistfight on every other page. That’s not entirely true, but it’s not entirely false either. Baen fans appreciate action; and what’s more, they know well what makes for realistic action and are ruthless about inconsistencies.)

3. Stories that make sense — e.g., with science, economics, etc., that ring true — and are internally consistent. (This requirement is quite clear in the Baen guidelines.)

4. Stories in which characters’ actions and the consequences of those actions make sense and seem plausible.

5. Stories that, under all the events and characterization, are essentially hopeful. Basically, in a Baen book you should know pretty well who the good guys and bad guys are, and the good guys need to win. Dark and difficult things may happen in a Baen book, but the whole story can’t be dismal.

Note that manuscript mechanics — spelling, grammar, and punctuation — aren’t on the list. That’s because, as Toni puts it, “Story trumps all.” So a good story (i.e., a good SF or F story) has a chance even if the manuscript isn’t pristine. But you still need to proofread well and correct all the typos you can, because you don’t want us to get distracted from the story you’re trying to tell.

When I ran this list by Toni, she wrote,

You can also add that I want to be charmed by the author. Slush is like a blind date — heck, it’s like speed dating — first impressions count. And there won’t be a second date if we don’t see something that could sustain a longer relationship.

Respectfully submitted,
the GrayMan

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

91 pounds of slush in the box, 91 pounds of slush …

Okay, there were two boxes, not one, waiting for me when I returned to the land of sweet tea.* But the latest shipment of unsolicited manuscripts, proposals, and queries did come to 91 pounds, and right now they’re spread all over the floor as I try to catalogue them. (I try to maintain the FIFO approach — first in, first out — whenever possible.)

So, back to work ….

*The South, where sweet tea comes standard. Although I was pleased to find that Famous Dave’s BBQ sells sweet tea even out west in Utah.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather