Harold Underdown–Getting Out of the Slush Pile

So how can you get out of the “slush pile,” the publishing term for the hundreds of manuscripts received by publishers each day? Harold Underdown, faculty for our Crash Course in Children’s Publishing and for our Revision Retreat, has some recommendations.
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There is no 100% guaranteed sure-fire way, and even if you do get out of the slush pile you may not get published. But here are some things you can do that can help your manuscript get read:

  1. It may help to address your submission to a particular editor, if you have made a real contact with someone, either through an encouraging letter or through meeting him/her at a conference, so that they are likely to remember your name.
  2. Get their attention with your cover letter, which should be no longer than half a page, or it won’t be read to the end. Give them a reason to read on by making it clear that that you have something unique for them.
  3. Do your market research. Try submitting your manuscript to lesser-known publishers and other forms of publishing, like regional, niche, magazine, and specialty publishers.
  4. Work on the manuscript. Then, work on the manuscript some more. When you think you are finished, go back and work on the manuscript. Be tough on yourself. Many manuscripts that publishers get seem not to have been revised, critiqued, or rethought in any way–taking part in writer’s workshops or local writing classes is thus a very good idea.
  5. The best way to get out of the slush pile is to write what you are passionate about, and then try to find an editor who shares your passion. Strive to get beyond competence to something only you can write about in a particular way. After all, if you aren’t passionate about your writing, there’s simply no reason to be in this field.

In the end, the manuscript has to speak for itself. There is no magic formula beyond that.

Posted on: December 11, 2014

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