If you’ve been around publishing for long, you’ve probably heard of the infamous slush pile. Where did that term come from? It generally means the stacks and stacks of manuscripts that come in over the transom. The stacks that editors and agents do their best to read, skim, glance at, or at the very least, avoid tripping over when they walk into their offices.
It’s been speculated that the slush pile could get so high in an editor’s office that it resembled the piles of dirty snow those editors had to wade through (in February in New York) just to get to their offices in the first place. What a bummer—they finally get in out of the weather only to be compelled to wade through knee-deep piles of unsolicited manuscripts. Hence, one “slush pile” seems just about as welcome as the other, and both sometimes require a good snowplow.
Of course, these days, the stacks are largely “virtual” or electronic, existing as files in a computer. And thank heavens! My email slush pile currently has 303 submissions. I’d hate to have paper versions of those stacked around my desk right now. Even though I take mostly email submissions, I still get mail. The photo above was taken after one visit to my mailbox a few months back.
Since agents are the “gatekeepers” for publishers, our slush piles are typically much larger than those of editors. Publishers rarely accept unsolicited submissions, but of course, agents do.
If you are a new writer, you’re destined to have manuscripts languishing in slush piles. The good news is, we’ve all heard success stories of authors “found in the slush pile” by agents and editors. So don’t fear the slush pile!
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