One of the jobs I do is plowing through the Dragon and Dungeon submissions inbox (email@example.com, if you're curious), or the slush pile as it's affectionately known in publishing. Many editors I've known dislike reading the slush, but I enjoy it. In fact, I'd say it's one of my favorite parts of the job. Everything that comes in 'over the transom' these days gets read by me. I try to respond to everything, even if that response usually is nothing more than "Thanks for the submission. This one isn't quite what we're looking for right now."
That response often leads to a follow-up note from the writer asking "what are you looking for right now?"
The answer I send back is, "I'm looking for article ideas that make me sit up and go 'wow'."
I suppose that a lot of writers find that answer not very helpful. From my perspective, it's the best answer to give. The reasons for that are more numerous than I can cover in one short editorial, so I'll cover just two this time around and delve into others in upcoming blogs. (And I'll make this resolution: to post at least two blog entries per month letting people know what's going on in the magazines.)
First and foremost, we see many proposals that are more of the same: an arcane controller 'with a twist', a divine leader striker 'with a twist', an elf psion 'with a twist', etc. If that's your angle, then the twist needs to be amazing—it needs to make me sit up and go 'wow'.
The second and related sale-stopper is new class and/or race combinations which are too narrow and specific: a dwarf arcane barbarian controller, a wilden divine bard defender/striker, etc. We look for articles that will have wide appeal. An article on a goliath psion leader from a distant corner of Faerun is going to lose readers who don't play goliaths, don't play psions, don't play leaders, or don't play a Forgotten Realms campaign. Not all of them perhaps; someone who doesn't care about goliaths, psions, or leaders but eats up FR may still read that article. But as it narrows its focus, it narrows its appeal, and fewer people find it interesting.
Finally, most proposals of these types involve a dozen new feats and powers. For quite a while, 4E needed new feats and powers to complement the new classes and races in the Player's Handbooks. Now, the DDI Compendium contains thousands of both feats and powers. Less-experienced players are overwhelmed by choices, and even many experienced players can't keep track of all the subtle differences between them.
That's not to say we won't run more feats and powers; we will. Gaps still exist. Some character archetypes can still benefit from fleshing out. But expanding the feats and powers library is not going to be our #1 focus going forward.
What is? I'll delve into that in the blog. And I think I'll begin with the hot-button topic of crunch vs. fluff. As always, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.