Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Slush is dead

Recently I was on a panel at an SCBWI conference in Austin, Texas. The conference was fabulous! At the end of the day, a panel was convened. Among others on the panel were four senior publishers—not elderly, other than me, but people with a lot of miles on their odometers. The inevitable questions about submissions were raised and apocryphal stories about manuscripts pulled from the slush pile were solicited. Like all apocrypha, there is truth in the stories, but it is buffered by time and tailored to the hopes and dreams of the audience. Although I didn't share mine, I, too, have a few examples that would warm the cockles of an aspiring author's heart. ... A few examples, collected over three and a half decades, out of tens of thousands of unsolicited submissions, a Himalaya of manuscripts.

The anecdotal/apocryphal exceptions prove the rule. Submitting unsolicited manuscripts is not a viable way to get published. It's over people. Don't do it any more. It is a waste of your time. You will grow old waiting for a response, which will often not be forthcoming. So, just stop doing it.

The "unsolicited" barrier is not insurmountable. You need to clear that hurdle; you need to get your manuscript solicited. It's not easy, but it's eminently doable. Go to conferences. Editors and agents who attend are there to find books, and are always open to submissions. Agents are more open than editors, but good agents are almost as hard to find as a publisher. Develop and work your networks. Connections who are connected can connect you. Use your energy, your intelligence, and your time to find connections. Don't put a stamp on an envelope and send it off with a hope and a prayer. You might just as well stuff your manuscript in a bottle and toss it into the ocean.

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