Unagented Writer? Editor Drowning in Slush? Pubmission.com Promises to Help

In Europe by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

• Pubmission.com, which launched last Friday, offers writers an efficient means of submitting their unsolicited manuscripts to publishers, and publishers a way to sort through the slush.

• “Publishers are overwhelmed and don’t want more manuscripts than they can handle. That’s where we come in,” says owner Wolf Hoelscher.

FLATROCK, NC: “As somebody who went through the slush pile for 14 years, I know the gems are few and far between, but the ones that are there do stand out,” says Wolf Hoelscher, owner of Pubmission.com. The service, which launched on Friday, aims to streamline submitting blind manuscripts to publishers and make it easier for publishers to discover books that might suit their tastes. It is intended to be used by editors and agents –- “anyone with a slush pile,” says Hoelscher, as well as authors seeking publication.

While several online companies allow writers to post information about their manuscripts and proposals, Hoelscher promises to make the process more efficient. The site tailors the user experience so publishers only ever see what they want and writers are encouraged to submit to publishers who might be interested in what they have to offer.

The service is offered to publishers as a subscription, which allows them to tailor the manuscripts they see based on their preferences, or else perform targeted searches. Participating publishers are given an HTML code they can embed in their site or emails, redirecting authors to submit via Pubmission’s site. They can also opt to be emailed when manuscripts matching their parameters are updated to the site.

Initially, the beta version is being offered for free, and handful of publishers have signed on to the site, including Brighter Books, TSTC, and Wampum Books. Once launched, subscriptions will cost $300 per year.

On the author side, writers are given the opportunity to upload up to three chapters of a manuscript to the site, as well as supporting information, such as a biography and a short pitch or precis. Writers are asked to “tag” their submissions these with keywords that identify what the book is about. They then buy “credits” at $2 each which can be used to submit directly to individual publishers. New users are given 15 free credits during the beta period (this falls to six after the official launch). The site offers discounts for bundle purchases and long-term users will be rewarded with additional free credits.

Hoelscher does not plan to offer editorial services or hone manuscripts or proposals, but is in the process of recruiting editors and agents to critique manuscripts and provide star rating on a scale from one to five at the cost of additional credits to the writers.

Hoelscher began developing the site last year after being laid off from Lark Books where he was an acquiring editor. His previous experience also includes several years working on acquisitions and editorial at Charlesbridge Publishing and Carson-Dellosa publishers.

“In each of my previous jobs I was always dealing with the slush pile, trying to find manuscripts for my company to work with,” he says. “A lot of publishers have simply closed their doors to unsolicited and unagented manuscripts -– and I know why: publishers are overwhelmed and don’t want more manuscripts than they can handle. That’s where we come in.”

At the same time, it is not intended that Pubmission serve as a replacement for or to compete with agents –- it won’t take a fee for any deals struck from submissions made through the site, for example -– but merely to serve as an intermediary. If anything, Hoelscher’s experience in publishing reinforced his believe in the importance of traditional gatekeepers and publishers. “Editors and agents are really necessary in that they are curators in that they filter out the slush in much the same way as when you got to a museum. There are people who decide what goes up on the wall,” he says, adding, “Nor am I someone who thinks the publishing industry will go away. Certainly, there will be major changes in the way books are made, but we’ll have publishers who help us decide what we should spent our time and money on.”

Above all, says Hoelscher, Pubmission is about efficiency. “So many of the publishers just hate dealing with the slush pile and have acknowledged there needs to be a better way and more efficient means of managing these submissions. they need more control over what they’re getting.”

He acknowledges that as much as it frustrates editors, it frustrates writers even more. “I’m a writer too,” he points out, “and I have spent $16 to send in my manuscript to a publisher only to never hear back from them.”

If Pubmission can breathe new life into slush pile remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: it’s going to save a heck of a lot on postage, a lot of trees and a lot of editor’s backs.

“Have you ever seen how big a slush pile gets? How much paper gets wasted? How heavy those piles are?” says Hoelscher. “That’s one problem I know we can fix.”

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About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.