Monday, July 25, 2005

How depressing

Agent 007 (formerly an editor, now an agent) has a depressing post about unsolicited submissions to publishing houses. She says, "The truth is, nothing comes out of a publisher’s slush pile these days." She also quotes someone else as saying, "Before, I thought that the slush pile was great because you could discover some talented genius and that all these authors laboring away in obscurity without agents were so noble. Now, I consider every unagented author to be slightly psychotic and deranged, and every unsolicited manuscript to be bad." Conversely, she admits there are some gems in an agent's slush. Somehow I don't find that entirely comforting...


  1. Ellen, FWIW, I sold my first ms to Ballantine unsolicited, from out of the slush pile. And I didn't have an agent until I had an offer on the table. So, for you and anyone else reading this, don't let 007's post be a discouragement. Selling over the transom (or out of the slush) most definitely CAN and DOES happen!

  2. I sold my first book to Bantam out of the slush pile, too, Tina. But we both sold our first books quite a while ago. Have things changed? I know there are at least two major publishers out there that still take unagented submissions, but after reading Agent 007's post, I'm wondering if they actually READ the submissions any more. Yet surely they wouldn't bother with unagented submissions if they didn't find a gem every now and again?

    Maybe 007's experience applies more to general fiction, and genre fiction is a little different? I don't know.

  3. I didn't know you were a slush puppy, too, Ellen! WTG!

    Yes, it's been 7 years since I sold my first book, and I suppose things haven't gotten any more open in that time. I recall reading somewhere that, in general, slush pile sales make up about 2% of all manuscript acquisitions.

    They may not find much publishable work in the slush, but I do think houses read everything that comes in over the transom . . . eventually. Whether or not they reply to all slush submissions is a whole other thing. I rather doubt they'd have the time, or the inclination for that. It's probably a very ruthless scene of carnage on slush pile reading day: skim, toss, skim, toss . . . . :-/

    One other thing. My acquiring editor at Ballantine at the time (who'd been around for quite a number of years) said she had only personally acquired two authors (unsolicited, unagented) from the slush pile: me, and a year earlier, Gaelen Foley.

    I have to wonder if a lot of writers are frightened away from submitting unsolicited or unagented, particularly when they read articles like the one you cited at Agent 007. If I were doing it all over again as an unpub with no connections, and if I found that getting an agent seemed harder than getting my face in front of an editor at conference or whatever, I'd most definitely submit on my own. Sure, it might take longer to get my stuff read, but what's the rush? Make sure your material is the very best it can be, then research the houses you want to target and multi-submit to your top 3-4, as I did. Then--and here's the key--get busy on that next manuscript.

    (Sorry to natter on for so long in your comments section! Didn't realize I had this much to say on the subject!)