Our Submission Evaluation Protocol

Learn how our Gatekeepers (first readers) and Elder Gods (editors) evaluate submissions.

Hello!

I’m Tina (aka Alin), the executive editor of The Dread Machine. We saw some talk on Twitter about how obscure the slush reading and rating process can be, and we completely agree. While we’re open about all of our protocols in our Discord server and happy to answer questions, we agreed it would be a good idea to share our practices here, where everyone can see them.

Every publication processes submissions differently, but it’s important for writers and poets to remember that art is very subjective. Some of our editors’ favorite stories were rejected up to twenty times before finding a home with us. If you’re interested you can see our submissions metrics here

We utilize a blind review system.

Every submission put before our Gatekeepers has been stripped of the author’s identifying details. Only after a submission has been accepted do we learn the author’s identity. This system creates a level playing field. Stories must stand on their own merit, separate from the author’s name, reach, and professional accomplishments.

Whether your submission will be read in full depends on its quality.

We receive a lot of submissions. To keep our workload manageable and our response times prompt, Gatekeepers are instructed to read the first 3-5 paragraphs of each submission, then ask themselves two questions:

1.) Is the writing grammatically and mechanically sound?
2.) Am I compelled to read more?

If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” they are to stop reading, rate the submission on a scale of 1–10, and explain why they couldn’t continue.

If they’re interested and engaged with the text, they continue reading until they reach a conclusion about the story, one way or another.

We rank submissions on a scale of 1–10.

Our team weighs the quality of the writing, originality of the premise, our level of investment as readers, the submission’s suitability for The Dread Machine, and more.

Once a reader or editor rates a submission, they explain their rating in a detailed comment.

Your submission will be evaluated by at least one editor.

Whether your submission receives more rounds of review depends on its rating.

If a submission is rated between 1–4 by a first reader, it will be forwarded to our acquiring editor (Monica), who will read the comments and perform a quick review of the submission. The acquiring editor will then decide whether to reject the submission or reassign it to another reader for a second opinion.

Submissions rated between 5–7 are forwarded to another Gatekeeper to receive a second (or third) rating.

Submissions rated from 8–10 are forwarded to our acquiring editor (Monica), who decides whether to reject, reassign, or elevate the submission for consideration.

Elevated submissions are considered by all three editors before a final decision is made.

In some circumstances, a single editor will be the only person to evaluate your submission. During initial screening, for instance, an editor may notice you have forgotten to remove personally identifying information from your submission and send you a rejection for failing to adhere to our submission guidelines. 

If we have time, we will send feedback, but only if invited.

We don’t send unsolicited critique. If you’re open to receiving constructive feedback about your submission, please indicate so in your cover letter. We can’t promise we’ll have the time, but we will try!

EDITOR PROFILES

Try to anticipate our fickle whims.

ALIN

Executive Editor

Tina (aka Alin) is a content strategist, certified copyeditor, and editorial project manager with over fifteen years of publishing experience. She serves as The Dread Machine's executive editor, web designer, and overall HBIC. She earns a living as a content strategist and editorial project manager at Quasar Editing.
Personal Facts:

I’m a 36-year-old mother-of-five. I have been an avid gamer (both PC and tabletop) and a voracious reader my entire life. 

Favorite Authors:

Charles Yu, Jesmyn Ward, Ken Liu, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Jenny Offill, Ling Ma, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood.

Dislikes: 

Excessive use of passive verbs, real-life trauma leveraged for shock value, arbitrary pet murders, and cheap twists.

Likes:

My tastes lean literary. I like intelligent, meaningful stories featuring characters I can’t help but care deeply about. I enjoy active, present-tense writing, unforgettable settings, tight POVs (first, second, close-third), interesting unconventional structures, driven protagonists, and a well-executed ambiguous ending. I prize beautiful language and tend to favor quiet, emotional stories, creeping dread, and dark humor, but I have a chaotic streak and an enduring love of gritty narrators.

I enjoy reading stories about technology being used or behaving in unexpected ways and seeing new takes on futuristic civilizations.

Alin's Top 12

Of all the things we’ve published recently, these twelve stories resonated with me the most. They are generated here in no order, but it’s important to note that these are provided to show my personal tastes. If you’d like to see which stories best represent the spirit of this publication, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

Like an Itch You Scratch

The playground’s got this tunnel we figured we could hotbox. This was right at the start of everything, so it was shut down, caution taped, and Jen figured we might as well use it if no one else was gonna.
Read More

Coming Soon

Expect this to be updated sometime next week (Aug 15-19, 2022) or when these two jokers get around to giving me the info, whichever comes first. —Alin

MONICA

ACQUIRING EDITOR

Monica Louzon (she/her) is an editor, translator, and writer who currently works as the acquiring editor at The Dread Machine. Her prior editing experience includes serving as Lead Editor and project manager for the anthology Catalysts, Explorers & Secret Keepers: Women of Science Fiction, as well as Managing Editor for the open access, peer-reviewed academic MOSF Journal of Science Fiction.

Monica's Top 12

Of all the things we’ve published recently, these twelve stories resonated with Monica.

Like an Itch You Scratch

The playground’s got this tunnel we figured we could hotbox. This was right at the start of everything, so it was shut down, caution taped, and Jen figured we might as well use it if no one else was gonna.
Read More

TIM

MANAGING EDITOR

Tim Burkhardt is a freelance journalist, writer, and the managing editor at The Dread Machine.

Tim's Top 12

Of all the things we’ve published recently, these twelve stories resonated with Tim.

Like an Itch You Scratch

The playground’s got this tunnel we figured we could hotbox. This was right at the start of everything, so it was shut down, caution taped, and Jen figured we might as well use it if no one else was gonna.
Read More

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