The Slushpile

When it comes to targeting a publisher, Nancy Sanders has written the book (literally!) on this subject, and on this blog others have added very creative takes on this important topic.  So, I don’t have much of anything else to say, except the following:


Many times people (usually non-writers who are naïve or uninformed) have told me, “Why don’t you just make a list of all the publishers available and send your manuscripts to each and every one?  Somebody’s bound to take it eventually!” This may or may not be true, and with a computer, following such a plan would seem to be a simple and easy thing to do.


However, there’s a fatal flaw with this thinking, one that affects all writers.  Besides the high frustration level from all the rejections that will result, when writers fail to do basic research on what kind of book manuscripts each publishing house is looking for, editors’ offices are flooded with submissions, most of them inappropriate, thus the dreaded slushpile.  Over and over at writers’ conferences, editors mention the overwhelming number of manuscripts they receive that are nothing like the books that are on their particular lists.


For example, textbook publishers often receive picture books.  Publishers who do specialize in picture books receive YA novels describing teen angst.  Even the larger houses who publish many different types of children’s books lean towards certain types of books. Here a computer comes in handy, as it’s easy to check publishers’ catalogs and guidelines online and to understand what each one’s publishing niche is.  This is the first step any writer needs to take before he or she even thinks about writing a book, any kind of book.


Perhaps some writers also think that by using this “scatter-shot” method of submitting, their “excellent” manuscripts will so impress editors that they will want to publish something “different,” i.e., the writer’s book.  But the truth is that as more and more writers do this, and the slushpile grows larger and larger, many publishing houses are closing their doors to ALL unsolicited or un-agented  manuscripts.  This is sad news for everyone.  Besides following the detailed, excellent advice Nancy provides, we owe it to ourselves and to all our fellow writers, aspiring and already published, to pay attention to the obvious first step and be aware of what each house specializes in.  When we do this, everyone in the publishing industry benefits.


Contributed by Marjorie Flathers


5 responses to “The Slushpile

  1. Margorie, this is EXCELLENT! SO informative and well written! If only every writer would do this, the doors for unsolicited manuscripts wouldn’t be slamming!

  2. Shirley Shibley

    Good advice, Marge. I think I’ve had a part in the door-slamming business from my early submission days.


  3. Marge, so many writers have done this technique–myself included! Thanks for explaining how important it is NOT to do this if you want to hit your target. -Nancy

  4. Thanks so much, Sherri, Shirley, Nancy…
    Early on, I’m sure I had my part in the door-slamming, too! It’s the prevailing advice, and as we now know, it seldom works.
    Sorry to be so late in replying, but I was so focused on my talk for Marilyn’s Schmooze yesterday. I think it went well, but I’m glad it’s behind me 🙂 Marge

  5. Thanks Marge for the advice and telling it like it is. It seems that if my manuscript is sitting in a pile waiting to be read, at the very least, I’d want it in the appropriate pile!

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