There is no secret to getting noticed in the slush pile

Dear Miss Snark,

I was at a creative writing course recently – as a published author teaching – and the ex-journalist editor of a creative writing magazine was confidently telling people how self-publishing will work for them beyond actually making sales themselves. Because, according to him, when editorial and agents’ offices have a blitz on the slushpile, telling everyone to grab a handful of submissions to deal with over the weekend, actual books are always grabbed first as being easier to read.

He genuinely seemed to believe this and as far as I’ve been able to establish, he has no links with any self-publishing outfit. Professional courtesy kept my mouth shut and since I wear my hair with a fringe (‘bangs’ in the US, I believe) no one could see how far and how fast my eyebrows shot towards my scalp.

It still sounds like nitwit advice to me. I’d be very interested in your take on this.

It IS nitwit advice, and I'm glad you recognzied it instantly.

First of all, slush that arrives here in book form is thrown away unread. Most publishers aren't interested in doing second editions of novels. Plus, the production values are usually so bad I don't want to read it anyway.

Second of all, I don't blitz the slush pile. I don't have enough room here to leave stacks of paper lying around for the dog to sleep on, the fan to flutter, or for Grandmother Snark to use to dash off a phone message from the Mayor asking her opinion on caberat law reform.

This is exactly the kind of idiot advice that trips up writers. He's never worked a publisher's or agent's slush pile in his life, and "published authors" know what worked for THEM, not what works normally.

Agents and publishers aren't trying to trick you by telling you how to send things to them. If you follow the guidelines, and you aren't having succes: IT'S THE WRITING.


Dave said...

For many years at work when I was the Rebellious engineer, My office had stacks of paper everywhere. My office was a prime example of the scientist as pack rat, paper mole.
DO you want to know the secret?
Yes, you do.

That one filing cabinet over in the corner had over 100 data runs and thousands of analytical results filed in perfect order because three other engineers and I wrote technical publications off that stuff and built national reputations on that data. I mean ANAL RETENTIVE organization on paper and duplicated twice on computer.
And that other special drawer kept every reviewer's and editor's comments and our answers in folders by publication just to be sure that nothing got overlooked, misquoted, or lost.
The other five file cabinets were window dressing.

In fact, I was so ANAL, that I once took back a years worth of nitrogen analyses to the Chemical Analysis Group and proved that they had systematic errors in their analysis to them and had them fix the errors. And they thanked me.

No one has stacks of possibly, maybe, or might be good stuff laying around getting lost. At least not anyone who knows what a good job is and does it faithfully.

Ring of Life said...

But, Miss Snark, what about "Eragon"?
Larry Schliessmann