The Slush Pile: Can We Get Out?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Nobody wants to be in the slush pile, but when you are starting out in the world of trying-to-get- a-book-published, you might just wind up there. In today's technology age with ANYONE being able to easily type up a manuscript on his computer and send it out, publishers', and some agents', slush piles are growing bigger and taller as we read and type. So, what can we do to help get out of slush piles and on to book shelves?

1. Find an agent. Okay, I know this is not easy to do, but agents generally have less of a slush pile, and I'm not sure why--maybe someone out there knows. Just follow the guidelines of each agency carefully. If they only want a one-page query, then only send a one-page query, even if you think it doesn't capture the true essence of your book or your project. Most won't even read your submission if you don't follow the guidelines.

An agent is helpful for staying out of the slush pile because he or she knows editors, already has built relationships with them, and keeps up on the constant staff changes in the publishing world.

2. Go to conferences. If you can afford to go to a large conference where there are several agents or editors speaking, GO! Most of these speakers are looking to acquire new talent, and they will take unsolicited submissions from conference attendees for a period of time after the conference. Some will give you a key word to write on your envelope, so don't just pretend you went to a conference and send your manuscript in. You could easily be found out. Any opportunity you can find to meet agents and editors face-to-face is a great way to stay out of their slush piles.

3. Use your friends, contacts, and networks. Don't really "use" them in the old high school sense, but ask your published friends and contacts if they could recommend you to their agents or editors. This doesn't mean you automatically will get published because you know the right person, but it helps you to get your foot in the door and your envelope on the stack of mail that will be opened in a month, instead of in six months.

If you don't manage to get out of the slush pile. . .
Don't stress out. There are success stories throughout the publishing world of authors being plucked from the pile of unknowns and making it to the bestseller list. Just keep your eyes open for opportunities that will get you a little closer to the bookshelf. Of course, there's always hard work and good writing that needs to come, too! :)

Happy Writing,
Margo Dill These Books and Use Them!


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