Writers, can you estimate the chances that your story will make it through the slush pile?
I’ve come up with a formula.
Some background: A couple of years ago, I saw a post on a forum somewhere by a writer who said their story had “zero chance” of being passed on to the Publisher.
They may have been right, unfortunately. But why?
The chance that I will recommend a story to the Publisher is directly related to the quality of the story, the clarity of the storytelling, and the appropriateness of the subject matter. Each of those is a subjective measure, yes — what I think is a great story you might think is mediocre; what’s crystal clear to you might be indecipherable to me; etc. — but all three must be present in sufficient measure for a story to make it through.
It’s really not as complicated as all that. (Image: “Factoring & Expansion Formulas,” by CMLorenz16, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)
Thus I express the probability of any given story being passed on to the Publisher as
P ≈ Q * C * A
So if a story really has a “zero chance” of being passed on, it is only because one or more of those factors approaches zero.
The good news is that’s rarely the case. (For us, “zero chance” is only when someone submits a memoir or children’s book or something else we don’t publish; then, appropriateness = 0.) So writers who have an accurate assessment of the strength of their story, how well it’s written, and if it’s appropriate should be able to estimate their chances pretty well.
But the thing to realize is that for the probability to be high (we’re talking percentages here, so it will almost never be 100%) each of those factors — story quality, writing clarity, and subject matter appropriateness — must rate very high indeed.
That’s the challenge.by