What is the Future of the Slush Pile?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Will authors continue to have the patience to wait for an agent or publisher to discover them?

By Edward Nawotka

No one likes reading slush (unsolicited manuscripts), except for the all-too-eager intern who just doesn’t know better. Still, there are some who continue to search for the proverbial needle. In today’s feature story, Diana Hernández, editor at Barcelona indie publisher Blackie Books notes that her company does still read slush, albeit with certain caveats:

“We’ve asked writers to only send in hard copy, otherwise we would be swamped,” she said, noting while the quantity of manuscripts they receive is huge, the quality is “very low. It’s a question of identifying potential. One doesn’t expect to find a Nobel Prize winner in the slush pile, but there might be something with potential. The risk is not perceiving that potential.”

Agents, who receive the brunt of the slush pile tsunami, do as much as they can to manage the flow, often posting online that “they no longer read slush,” or are “no longer taking additional clients.” Of course, there are exceptions. And still, the slush continues to pile up on agents and publishers transoms.

It only makes sense. After all, for the past 100 years, the only option a writer had was to submit a blind manuscript to dozens of people in the hope that someone (that eager intern) would unearth their gem. Today, people have turned to self-publishing as a relief valve for their desire to see work published.

So what is the long term future of the slush pile? Will authors continue to have the patience — and desire — to wait on an agent to discover them? Or will they seek immediate gratification and hope that having a successful self-publishing career may give them the option to go with a traditional agent/publisher, if they desire it?

Agents and publishers: please share your experience with slush.

Authors: do you continue to send in blind submissions or do you feel the practice is on the wane?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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.