Join the Apex Magazine slush team!

by Lesley Conner

September 4, 2020

Lesley Conner is a writer and managing editor for Apex Magazine. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, proofreading, wrangling slush, doling out contracts, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on the @ApexBookCompany Twitter account. Most of her nights are spent with a good book and a glass of wine. Her alternative history horror novel, The Weight of Chains, was published by Sinister Grin Press. To discover all her secrets follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

Since reopening to submissions on July 21st, we have received 2,733 short stories for consideration. Our slush team has done an amazing job keeping up, but it wouldn’t be fair to ask them to keep reading at such a furious pace. Slush reading is a time commitment. It is work. But it’s also a wonderful opportunity to learn what makes an amazing story. It’s a great way to discover new writers and to feel a sense of pride and joy when you find a story that is truly wonderful and goes on to be published. Yes, slush reading takes time and dedication, but it should also be joyful.

That is why I am looking for new readers to join the Apex Magazine slush team. To keep asking our current readers to read as many stories as they’ve been reading since we reopened would be unfair. They would burn out and call it quits. We need a bigger team to handle the influx of stories we’ve been receiving. (Though, I don’t think we will continue to see this many stories each month. Before the hiatus, we averaged between 800 and 1,200 submissions a month. I believe we’ll be back to that range before too long.)

What is expected from an Apex Magazine slush reader?

I do not assign stories to particular readers. When a story is submitted it goes into a pile of unclaimed submissions and each reader goes in to claim stories and read them as they have the time. Our goal is to read and respond to every submission with either a rejection or a notice that it has passed the first reader stage within 30 days of its initial submission. To help us hit that, we ask slush readers to commit to reading at least 40 stories a month.

I don’t care if you read 10 stories four days out of the month, 1-2 stories each and every day, or 40 stories in one day (though that is a lot of stories and you’d probably hate yourself and me by the end of that day). How you break it down to work with your schedule is up to you. The goal is at least 40 stories a month. I’ve found, with a robust slush team, that this a good metric to keep us at the 30 day turn-around time.

When a slush reader is reading a story, they are looking for three main things: 1) Did the author follow our submission guidelines (as a slush reader, you should be familiar with our guidelines)? 2) Is the story well-written? Apex Magazine is a pro-level zine. That means we’re looking for pro-level writing. And 3) Is this an Apex story? If you have been reading Apex Magazine for a while, then you know there’s a certain quality that all Apex stories have.

Being an Apex Magazine slush reader is a volunteer position. All slush readers will receive new issues of the magazine when they’re released, be a part of certain editor-only behind-the-scenes events, as well as Jason and I’s deepest gratitude.

How to apply.

This all sound good to you? Ready to apply to be a slush reader?

Great!

To apply you will need to read three stories published in Apex: “The Chariots, the Horsemen” by Stephanie Malia Morris, “The Warrior Boy Who Would Not Suffer” by Abhinav Bhat, and your personal favorite Apex story.

Once you’ve read all three stories, you will email Lesley Conner at [email protected]. Your email should include a brief introduction and responses to the three stories. What made each story work for you? Talk about the theme, characters, setting, tone, and plot. How did the introduction stand out? What about the conclusion? Answer these questions for all three stories. Finally, we receive a fair number of excellent stories that are good enough for publication but are not Apex stories. In your opinion, what makes an Apex story?

We will accept applications for new slush readers through September 11th. We will inform those who will be joining the team by the end of the month.

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