Sunday, 26 August 2007

The Slush Pile - and how to avoid it

Positive thoughts.

Every author, every single one had to start in some kind of slush pile. An editor, an agent, whatever. Personal recommendations help.
There are 200,000 books published in the UK each year. It only takes one publisher to say 'Yes.'

Less Positive.
Very, very, very few books are picked from publishers' or editors' slush piles.

Things that don't help:
- Not following the submission guidelines
- Including little gimmicky gifts.
- Including a photo, naked or otherwise.
- Sending in a handwritten manuscript, especially in green ink
- Calling the next day to see what the reader thought of it
- Including an endorsement from your mother/father/aunty/child doesn't help )unless he/she is Alan Bennett/Margaret Atwood.)
- Spelling/grammatical errors
- Not addressing a named editor or agent
- Not sending an SAE

Literary Agents Numbers
In 14 years of reading 25-30 manuscripts a month, one agent said they had found 5 good ones.
A Curtis Brown agent received 1,200 manuscripts in a year and took on 2 authors.
Other agents reckon on about 1 in 3,000.
One UK agent said he received 50 manuscripts a month and took on one author a year.
My agent gets 3,000 manuscripts a year.
Another UK agent says he gets 500 submissions a week and takes on and get deals for
maybe 18 a year, mainly non-fiction.
UK agent Carole Blake gets 50 novels a day and takes on 6 new clients a year.

Publishers Numbers
Hutchinsons receive about 1,000 manuscripts a year and only published 1 every 1 or 2 years.
Mills & Boon received 6,000 manuscripts a year and take on about 10 new writers.
Anthony Blond, the publishers writing in The Spectator reckons a number of about 1 in 2,000.
A UK publisher said he gets 20 manuscripts a week from agents alone and reckons he takes on 7 or 8 of them a year. He had never published from the slush pile.

Check out the article from the fabulously wonderful Philip Hensher as well as the Guardian one on the title link.

1 comment:

Aine (Orna Ross) said...

Hi, Nice site. Well done.

Can I add a comment? The exception to the general rule re. slush piles is when a new agency/publisher is starting out & desperately seeking. Irish writers are fortunate in this in recent years. Our agency is still a fledgling and currently seeking good work from Irish and international writers. Our most recent sale - Amanda Brunker's novel Champagne Kisses - was taken from our slush pile and was the first sale to new imprint, Transworld Ireland.

It is our experience that determined writers who keep on improving and submitting their work are eventually published. The no. 1 mistake that writers make is to give up too soon - on getting the work to a high enough standard; on submitting it to enough agents/publishers.

Good luck with your own work ---

Aine McCarthy (Orna Ross)
Font Literary Agency & Writing Centre