AgentPete

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We’re making quite a significant change to the way we handle entries to Pop-Up Submissions, which means we’re looking for a couple of people to join Emily’s submissions team.

Until now, we’ve not really had a specific system in place to audition entries. Emily has very wonderfully and very carefully ploughed through each and every incoming submission, rooting out those that appear to be illiterate or barmy :) But basically, most entries have been accepted. This has generated a major backlog, particularly with regular (i.e. non-priority) submissions.

I feel it’s time we put a specific procedure in place to audition entries. This means that we will be rejecting more entries that we have done in the past. However, it also means that even for non-priority submissions, the maximum waiting time will be no more than about three months until they get onto the show.

I’m aiming for the show to become a fabulous and fertile stage / proving ground / showcase for writers to show off their work to the publishing business (and to readers!). Which means that entries must achieve a certain minimum standard before they are accepted the show.

And that’s what The Submissions Panel will do.

We’re looking for two more Litopians to join the new panel and work under Emily’s supervision and guidance. What does this mean?

  • You’ll be able to remotely assess submissions, i.e. you do not need to be in the same time zone or even log on at the same time.
  • All we’re looking for is a Yes / No vote. No manuscript assessments.
  • There may be occasions when you want to discuss an entry with the whole panel (i.e. the other Litopian panellist, Emily and myself). For this reason, you should be prepared to “meet” virtually at least once a month, at a time convenient to everyone.
  • You must treat all entries in strict confidence, not keep copies, and not discuss the procedure with anyone outside the Panel.
  • You should be OK with Google Sheets – you don’t need to be a spreadsheet wizard, simply be comfortable logging on and using it, since that’s how we receive and process entries.

If you’re interested, let me know below, and of course do ask any questions.

:) p.
 

CageSage

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I'm happy to assist if there's not a lot of writing (hand in cast), and although I haven't used Google Sheets before, I'm sure I'll figure it out.
Is there an approximate count of hours per week (mad scheduler here)?

Later edit: I am in South Australia, down the bottom end of the world, and although I arise early (for writing) my date/time location may be an issue to consider.
 
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AgentPete

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I'm happy to assist if there's not a lot of writing (hand in cast), and although I haven't used Google Sheets before, I'm sure I'll figure it out.
Is there an approximate count of hours per week (mad scheduler here)?

Later edit: I am in South Australia, down the bottom end of the world, and although I arise early (for writing) my date/time location may be an issue to consider.
The beauty of the system is that you can log on at any time of the day or night, and just do a few submissions. In fact, I'd encourage you to probably only do ten or so at a session. More than that and (I, at any rate) tend to get a bit word-blind.

It's up to Emily to decide how many to do per month. We don't want to go too crazy to start with, I'd have thought it might take you an hour a week.

There will be live team meetings, again I'm guessing at about one a month, but it's up to Emily and the team to decide frequency and to work out a mutually-convenient global time. Maybe one or two more just to start with, as folk get familiar with the system.

:) p.
 
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E G Logan

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You should be OK with Google Sheets – you don’t need to be a spreadsheet wizard, simply be comfortable logging on and using it, since that’s how we receive and process entries.
In my last office job, my team used to say (alarmed voice):

"Oh, don't give her the spreadsheet. She'll take it away and write all over it. Then when you get it back it doesn't work." Eventually, they would just do it for me...

If you think we could deal with that risk – and talk me through the Zoom/whatever meetings thing – I am very much up for this.
Back in the Dark Ages, I spent five years in the Fiction departments of the two top UK women's magazines, where I read countless submissions. Hundreds a week at one point.
 

AgentPete

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Just out of curiosity... What is someone submits an illiterate or barmy priority submission?
Good question.
At the moment, they get a refund. Frankly, this is a hassle, and I’m not keen on doing it, but there is no other way to be straight about it.
In the future, we’ve got to get something else in place. For example, folk entering a writing competition – and there are a ton of them on the ‘net – pay anything from $5 to an amazing $99 just as an entry fee. They don’t get a refund if they don’t win :)
The median cost of a writing contest seems to be pretty close to our own cost of entry, so what I’m working to put together is a total package for Priority subs that, even if they don’t get onto the show, still gives them far more than they’d get if they simply entered a writing contest.
More on this in due course.
 

KateESal

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I'm happy to help with the auditioning process, if you need me :)

I'm only in work 2 days per week from September, so theoretically, I've got more time to play with and could certainly manage to read through some subs.

Past experience has taught me that my work hours can shoot up at a moment's notice, so the amount of available "free" time I've got may change. But as things stand, I can certainly give you an hour a week or so.
 

Katie-Ellen

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Any source of revenue is not to be dissed. But, if we are now somewhat raising the bar on the entry standard (great, and air time is a precious resource, and wonderful opportunity for writers, but we have to be mindful of the viewers' experience) perhaps the objective of the panel is to select priority submissions, for a higher powered show deserving of air time with potentially more (monetized) subscribers?
 
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AgentPete

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The interesting thing is, when we have a show with better quality subs, everyone seems to enjoy it more. Quality of subs & viewers’ experience track quite closely.

I’m reluctant to get rid of the free level of subs to Pop-Ups. Some sections of the publishing business are clearly focusing on monetizing a particular demographic of aspiring writer (upper middle class, probably professionals). This sector can pay quite substantial sums for (e.g.) courses etc.

But if that then becomes the dominant recruiting ground for the next generation of writers, we’re then looking at a writing class with a pretty narrow/homogenous background of life experience. And that can’t be good for readers, writers and the health of the whole industry.

I may be veering a bit off-topic on this :) But not every aspiring writer can afford to pay to make a sub, and I’d like to continue to offer that option.
 

RG Worsey

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I reckon that people get drawn in by summat free, who then make a spur of the mo decision to pay and upgrade. I did.

I probably wouldn't have opted to try pop-ups with the psychological barrier of a payment up front, as I'd recently lost my job (lockdown) and then decided to try being a full-time writer (using the negative situation as an opportunity for as long as I could cope with it), so all unnecessary expenses got banned from my life. While filling in the form, I decided to pay, as otherwise I would have been impatient. Also, it seemed like such a reasonable price for what's essentially a service.

In other words, people who would otherwise walk on by are drawn in by a freebee... and then they decide to pay after all.
 

Vagabond Heart

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I reckon that people get drawn in by summat free, who then make a spur of the mo decision to pay and upgrade. I did.

I probably wouldn't have opted to try pop-ups with the psychological barrier of a payment up front, as I'd recently lost my job (lockdown) and then decided to try being a full-time writer (using the negative situation as an opportunity for as long as I could cope with it), so all unnecessary expenses got banned from my life. While filling in the form, I decided to pay, as otherwise I would have been impatient. Also, it seemed like such a reasonable price for what's essentially a service.

In other words, people who would otherwise walk on by are drawn in by a freebee... and then they decide to pay after all.
Totally concur with this. I’m on benefits so would have ignored the whole thing if I’d had to pay.
But then I started watching them, got totally drawn in, learnt a shed-load of stuff (still ongoing, thankfully), and decided to pay so I could get the feedback and crack on.
Xxx VH
 

Katie-Ellen

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Ah, I wasn't being clear, Peter. No. I think it all needs to stay free to all writers. What I meant was that priority submissions, rather than be booked by the writer for a small financial contribution, could be fast tracked instead on the basis of promise and entertainment potential (which is immediately apparent, the first line/para is never (or hardly ever) wrong about that. ) So that it all stays free. The monetization comes from (growing) YouTube subs (?) and hopefully, potential future book deals.

Was thinking about the hassle of refunding priority subs, when the sub is evidently too dull or plain sub-par to be fun for anybody, but it's not such outright dreck that it feels reasonable to turn it down and issue a refund. The guests, and you, Peter, do so much to save dull subs from overwhelming the show. But 700 words is, I think, a heck of a long time to listen; a big ask of a viewer not to just wander off if it's a bit dull.

Gatekeepers are everywhere, making money from writers, Litopia isn't about that, of which you - and we- are rightfully proud.

But without any gate-keeping at all, the show could now be hoist by the petard of its own good intentions, and be overwhelmed with subs from writers who really fancy their chances, especially with HOZ in the picture, but who haven't done really serious leg work yet. And that wouldn't make for a productive experience or an enjoyable one for viewers. So I think what you're doing here, introducing some element of pre-screening, is not remotely anti-equality of opportunity, but is only pro-quality, and absolutely timely.
 

AgentPete

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Thanks Katie, understood.
Yes, a “dull” sub that falls into the category you described is indeed a problem. 700 words of boredom is a roadblock on the show, even tho’ the narrators try all they can to breathe life into it. Often, these subs will have some promise, too. The most common reaction being “I think this submission starts in the wrong place…” How often we hear that!
 

Geoff N

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I came along to these pop-up submissions a few weeks ago, and have listened/watched most of them in order during that time. It's given me a good sense of what's worked, what hasn't, and where things have improved. Notably, the scoring system is much, much better now (Title/Blurb/Craft/Bang).

I have to admit (and I suspect I may not be the only one), that I enjoy the obviously less than stellar submissions as well. A lot can be learned from these, and it may even give some submitters a reason to pause before sending. Perhaps clean up their work and free up space for the show until they're more presentable?

I submitted a few days ago (paid), and was presently surprised to see the membership offer discount after doing so. I only joined for a month because I wasn't sure if Litopia would be a good fit for me anymore after being gone for so long (and I'm a cheap bastard). Any way you look at it, Litopia and the Pop-Up Submissions are an incredible value!

Peter, if Emily is still looking for help, I'd be happy to assist in reading.
 

Jonny

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There was an interesting segment on the show yesterday, when Pete was talking to Jack, on whether writers from 'The North' find it easy to get their work in front of mainstream London agents and publishers.

Although slightly off topic here, I feel this issue sits in tandem with the overall discussion of the thread.

I followed an interesting discussion on Twitter by two very successful authors from outside 'the shires' discussing this same issue (bestsellers both both by the way). One of the things they noted was that in most agencies and publishers, those who read spec subs are (frequently) young and female, coming from middle class or higher backgrounds and living in and around the metropolitan area.

Both authors questioned the suitability of such backgrounds. I.E. life experiences and interests to date, how much savvy they had acquired, and how works set in, say, Scotland or Ireland, dealing with working class issues and the seedy underbelly of life, could possibly find many, or indeed any, points of resonance with such 'gatekeepers'.

Both came to the conclusion that without a few lucky breaks along the way neither would have stood a cat in hell's chance of breaking through.

I think for that very reason it's essential that Pop-ups should keep a truly open door policy and have a free-to-enter category, although I appreciate the downsides to this too - larger subs piles to work through, many poor subs etc. - but in among the dross and dreck there will also be gems that would otherwise not be discovered.

I'm not saying that the priority facility should be withdrawn, and were I to be submitting too, then I would spring the very reasonable sum to hasten the process.
 

AgentPete

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I followed an interesting discussion on Twitter by two very successful authors from outside 'the shires' discussing this same issue (bestsellers both both by the way). One of the things they noted was that in most agencies and publishers, those who read spec subs are young and female, coming from middle class or higher backgrounds and living in and around the metropolitan area.

That’s been a long-standing, but ill-recognised, issue in publishing.

The way it works is this. Publishing companies can either employ commissioning editors who are really good at spotting great manuscripts – an uncertain investment and likely to be expensive – or they can simply employ people whose tastes in reading are representative of a commercial demographic. As one editor said to me (with no irony) “I acquire books that my friends would like to read”.

The latter option is cheaper and safer for most corporate publishers, since they can get young (usually female) graduates for a fraction of the cost of a more experienced pair of hands.

You can see where this policy leads…
 

Hannah F

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As a person who has to count the pennies, I tried out Litopia because it was free (then decided the huddles were worth paying the monthly sum for) and considered submitting to pop ups because there was a free option, then decided the priority payment was worth cutting the waiting time so I could progress with edits. There are folk with oodles of potential even worse off than me who don't have the means to make my decisions. For them, I think it's important to retain the free option. For those with quality work that will benefit from feedback, getting onto pop ups sometime is better than never.
 

Steve C

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What's so important about getting on Pop Ups? Anyone can submit 700 words or more to Writing Workshops and get great and more detailed and considered feedback. Not only that but they can then revise their work and come back for further comments without waiting 3-6 months.
 

Vagabond Heart

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Emily, O light of my life, if you still need anyone to help, I've found out that my Art Residency has been shunted to next June (quite happy about that actually) so I'm free if you need anyone else. No, I'll rephrase that: - I'm free if you feel up to the arduous job of coaching a willing, but fuck-witted, numpty through the tech side of it.:p
 

Vagabond Heart

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Hey girl,
Have to an 8 week stint at an art collective in Bath, UK, followed by a week’s exhibition. The gallery and studio space is in the middle of town, right next to the Roman Baths there.
It was set up about 10 years ago by some mature graduates of the Uni there. I was invited to submit a proposal for the residency.
I get free studio space and an exhibition, plus £500 towards costs. In return I do as much work as I can, whilst putting on a few talks, seminars and classes.
I called my proposal ’How to build an artist’. My degree was in Fine Art and Creative Writing. I wanted to do the MA in writing for children, but my hubby retired, so we shot off travelling instead.
I thought I might paint as we travelled, but I didn’t - I only wrote. Doing the joint degree was a bit schizophrenic, so I decided it was better to concentrate on one at a time.
Then, after 3 years of only writing, my husband suddenly passed away, and I had to sell our RV and try to rebuild my life.
Then lockdown, lol. Still writing, still no artwork. So when I was approached about the residency I hadn’t done any visual art for nearly 5 years. And my life had changed so dramatically. And I wasn’t the same person anymore.
So I knew I’d be starting from scratch - I really didn’t want to try to repeat what I’d been doing before I left Uni - it didn’t seem appropriate anymore.
And many of us get thrown by the terror of the blank page/canvas. Where do we start?
I thought it would be interesting to do a project on how to pull that creativity out of you from a place of blankness and the unknown.
Plus, this time I really must remember not to make art bigger than will fit inside my car with the seats down.