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I've heard a few people recommend doing time volunteering as a slush reader (for a small press magazine, say), as the experience can be helpful for your own writing. What benefits do you get out of the experience of being a slushy? Are there any cons (other than that you have to give up some time to do it)?

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3 Answers 3

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There are a lot of pros and cons to doing this

Pros:

  • You'll be exposed to a lot of bad writing and you'll know what not to do in your own work.
  • You'll be exposed to some good writing as well and know what you should do in your work.
  • You'll have a chance to learn insider tricks about what to do and what not to do during submission.
  • You have a chance to network in the publishing world and find connections that could help down the road.

Cons:

  • You'll most likely be working for free. Unless you've got experience in the publishing world, they're most likely not going to hire you to read through their slush pile.
  • You'll be reading a lot of bad writings. Too many writers don't put the necessary work into a manuscript before submitting it.
  • It's going to be long and tiring. You'll most likely have to meet a quota and it can be time consuming to read through manuscripts and queries.
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+1 for "You'll be reading a lot of bad writings. Too many writers don't put the necessary work into a manuscript before submitting it." So so so so so true. –  Slick23 Jan 18 '11 at 16:29

I don't read slush for anyone, I read self-published stuff and other submissions to locations considered above and beyond the "writer's circle" for fun. What I get out of it is full perspective on the actually unspectacular nature of what someone might call "their killer idea".

I should point out I read a lot of SF/Fantasy/Horror and thrillers. In these books you want what Stewie from Family Guy once called a "compelling protagonist" and you also want some kind of hook idea which the protagonist encounters. A large number of authors have a serviceable hook idea but the wisdom and perception of the human condition one might expect from a breeze block. This has served to remind me since then that I'm not ready for even the small time until people like the people I write no matter how great my pontificating gets.

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The pros-

  • You get a sense, really fast -- of what works and what doesn't
  • You see all the stupid mistakes writers make when they submit and get a pretty clear idea of what not to do
  • Reading a lot just makes you a better writer in the long run

The cons-

  • It can be laborious. It's fun to read a really great submission. It's hell to slog through a 50,000 word piece of trash.
  • You have to be careful about reading when you're also actively writing and developing. Any publisher that accepts on spec should make it clear that the submitter is waiving the right to sue over copyright, but you don't want to get slapped with a suit somewhere down the road because you wrote something similar to something someone once submitted and you read.
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A waiver to sue over copyright infringement...really? I've submitted to a lot of places, and I don't recall ever seeing that. –  Ash Jan 19 '11 at 8:58
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Maybe you've not been paying attention. A lot of places use them, though it's much more common in television. It's so bad in writing for TV that when you write on spec, your spec script for say, the Simpsons, will never even go to the producers of the Simpsons even with a waiver but instead will go to the producers of Family Guy, who may then ask you to write a Family Guy script if you did a good job with the Simpsons script. –  Slick23 Jan 19 '11 at 13:39
    
Chicago Radio Theater does this. Years ago, Paramount Pictures did this when they accepted spec scripts for Star Trek from non-agented, non-union writers (WGA writers aren't allowed to be asked to work on or work on spec). I've submitted to a couple places where I've seen those kinds of clauses in the online terms. Tor, was maybe one? I can't remember. –  Ben Jan 19 '11 at 14:02
    
@Final: While a copyright waiver might make sense when you're writing for an existing copyrighted setting (TV show or franchise like Star Wars), surely you wouldn't want to do this for your own creations? It would mean, effectively, that an author's copyright is meaningless. While some publishers may require it, I'm not convinced it's the norm, and it's definitely not "Any publisher". –  Ash Jan 20 '11 at 8:38
    
@Ben: Can't see any mention of a waiver at the moment: tor.com/blogs/2010/05/… –  Ash Jan 20 '11 at 8:39

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