We try to have at least 30% unsolicited fiction in Guernica, meaning we get a lot of our fiction stuff from the slush pile.

In fact, we’re about to publish our FOURTH publishing debut this year.

I believe in doing this because my own writing has been published from the slush. And someone once took a chance on me.

And I think many published writers are no better than the unpublished. It’s just that once a writer has been published (and lauded by someone) their fiction is given a great benefit of the doubt. I wrote about all of that that before, here and here.

But the trouble with slush from an editor’s point of view: we don’t know you.

If you have typos in your cover letter or if you don’t follow the submissions guidelines, we don’t trust you. We think you’re not a careful writer—that means you’re not a committed one; you’re an amateur. That means we will bail on you.

More on that at Gabrielle Edits. That means:

1.) Read the guidelines.

2.) Re-read the guidelines.

3.) Follow the guidelines.

4.) Read the magazine to see if you’d fit in. If you don’t—don’t submit your story. Editors remember names. We remember the fools and the rude people most of all.

5.) Don’t assume you know the magazine. (Example: Guernica is NOT looking for political fiction: did you know that? You did if you read the guidelines. And you could have also figured that out, if you actually read the magazine.)

6.) Shorter stories are easier to place than long ones. It’s less of a commitment for an editor. Just a tip.

7.) But if you read the Guernica’s guidelines, you know that we’re not looking for flash fiction (not because we have anything against it—in fact, I write it myself). Flash just isn’t our mission. We publish INTERNATIONAL FICTION.

8.) Pay attention to your cover letter. Don’t be rude. Don’t treat me like I’m your servant. If I’m in a bad mood because of your sloppy, condescending note and your story isn’t the best I’ve ever read, I’ll reject. Why? Because in my slush, there are maybe 50 stories as good as yours. It’s likely that you’re a better writer than I am, sure. But it’s also likely other writers are better than you.

9.) Don’t try to go over my head. Jerks often try that. And jerks are more likely to be rejected.

10.) Understand the marketplace as best you can: it’s tough; that’s the short answer.

11.) And again: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. We love unpublished writers. We dislike amateurs.  That means: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

About Meakin Armstrong

Fiction writer, fiction editor, journalist, and copywriter.
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