I just saw an article on The Wall Street Journal warning of the death of the slush pile. For those of you outside the world of publishing, the slush pile is the hundreds and thousands of unsolicited, unagented manuscripts that are sent in to publishers in the hope that they will be discovered by an editor or editor's assistant.
I have seen slush piles. When I visited Dorchester's offices on Madison Avenue last October, my editor Leah Hultenschmidt showed me hers---a neat pile that only stood a few inches tall on one shelf. But not all editors work through their submissions and make decisions so quickly. Some of the other editors' piles were waist-high and ringed their entire office.
Forget about getting a response in a timely manner.
The main thrust of the WSJ article was that publishing houses are not spending any time on slush piles and many are refusing to accept non-agented material because of concerns over plagiarism lawsuits. For example, if someone submitted a story about vegetarian vampires before Stephanie Meyers' Twilight books came out, they might have a case to make for a cash settlement.
It underscores the importance of having an agent. I know there are still some publishing houses that allow unagented submissions, but take a good look at that slush pile. Imagine you are an over-worked acquiring editor and have limited time to spend looking for new talent. Ask yourself if you'll wade into the slush pile or leaf through the manuscript that's been vetted by an agent with whom you've worked successfully in the past?
Finding an agent is arguably as difficult as finding an editor, and finding the one who's right for you is almost as challenging as finding the right spouse. But if you've completed a manuscript (and polished it to within an inch of its life) this is your next task if you want a writing career. It's an important milestone and worthy of its own blog post.
Tomorrow, I'm hosting Helen Scott Taylor here on my blog. She has a new title out ~ THE PHOENIX CHARM! And she'll give away a copy to one lucky commenter on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, I'll post my 10 Commandments for finding the right literary agent. Hope to see you both days!
What do you think about WSJ's prediction about the slush pile? Have you submitted an unsolicited manuscript? (I did very early in my writing career. I sent off my sad little western and it came back rejected with astonishing speed! Good thing. It deserves its obscurity.) Have you been plucked from the slush pile and found success?