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Reading Slush

September 10, 2010

For some odd reason (650 submissions in two days) I’ve been thinking a lot about slush piles.

It’s been 15 years since I had one.

The good news is that an electronic slush pile is a lot more convenient than a paper one.

The bad news is that it’s still a slush pile—a place to put all the manuscripts that have arrived from writers of unknown provenance.   As any person involved with publishing can testify, all kinds of things land in the slush pile–everything from the insane meanderings of people who have been off their medications for far too long to truly wonderful books that it’s a privilege to read.  I’ve been lucky—most of what I’ve got is actually competent.

That’s also a problem.  One of the hardest things in the publishing business is separating the competent from the superlative.  It’s going to take me some time to get through all these and make those important decisions.

Slush piles can look very different, depending on where you’re sitting.  To a writer hoping to break into the industry, the pile looks like a place of breathless importance, where the newest stars of publishing have entrusted their precious works prior to certain bestsellerdom.  To an editorial assistant, the pile looks like opportunity untapped—it’s a place where, thanks to youthful energy and enthusiasm, that editor has an edge.  Agents may favor her more experienced counterparts because of long relationships, but she’s got the time and the drive to dig in and find the gems buried in the slush pile.  To an overworked senior editor, a slush pile looks like a time sink she can’t afford.

To me, this slush pile looks like my future, and I’m very excited.   Some of my slush is  (Great happiness!) really, really good.  Some is great!  I’m working my way through as fast as I can.

So keep it coming.  I love a good treasure hunt.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane Farr permalink
    September 10, 2010 3:35 am

    Denise, I’m so pleased for you! May you find so many treasures that you never again need to sift through slush. 🙂

    Diane Farr

  2. Marc Hart permalink
    September 10, 2010 1:48 pm

    I would be willing to read slush for a small fee.

    If it would help you at all.

    I have a degree in Creative Writing and English and need as much extra money as I can get.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Denise Little permalink*
      September 10, 2010 7:29 pm

      I read 10 pages a minute, so it’s not alarming just yet.

      Besides, I want to actually see what’s out there at this stage of the game. The only way to figure it out is to do the reading.

      So, thanks for the offer, but I’m not looking for a reader just yet.

      But I’ll tuck the offer away for later.


  3. Denise Little permalink*
    September 10, 2010 5:13 pm

    Thanks. But I’ll always keep a slush pile. I love treasure hunts.

  4. September 10, 2010 7:48 pm

    Oh, now I’m jealous. I love treasure hunts! Have fun.

  5. trishstewart permalink
    September 10, 2010 7:55 pm

    That is an astounding number of queries in two days! Staggering even.

    I’m glad you like the treasure hunt, particularly because I’m pleased to be one of the manuscripts you’re reading.

    Love your enthusiasm with your new venture! Best of luck finding the right books.

  6. September 10, 2010 9:05 pm

    I don’t envy you. I think it’s a terribly difficult job. But you have my respect.

  7. September 11, 2010 9:47 am

    Ha, 650 in two days? Nice!

    Glad I decided to hold off querying you until I have an offer in hand I guess 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing you again in Feb, though! Hope you are well 🙂

    (This is Annie B from the DWS workshop btw)

    • Denise Little permalink*
      September 13, 2010 3:58 am

      For heaven’s sake, send it in. Join the line. I promise I’ll get there.


      • Keith Yatsuhashi permalink
        September 13, 2010 7:08 pm


        I too love your enthusiasm. You remind me of the fantastic editor I’m working with. I sent my query
        on Saturday! Hope you like it.


      • September 14, 2010 11:33 am

        I’m currently shopping three novels, so which should I send? Or should I just send a general query with a blurb for each?

        *grin* see why I was planning to wait? (Of course, as time passes the number of books I’m shopping around will only go up, which is another reason I figured maybe I should just wait for an offer before I start thinking about an agent).

      • Denise Little permalink*
        September 14, 2010 10:31 pm

        Send a query listing them all, with what you think their selling points are. Plus give me a paragraph about what you think you want to do as a writer long-term.


      • September 14, 2010 11:35 pm

        Sent! *grin*

  8. September 11, 2010 3:11 pm

    I’m glad to see you so exuberent about the possibilities. It is refreshing, and exciting because you’ve got my manuscript somewhere in that pile!

    Happy reading 🙂

  9. SUZANNE permalink
    September 11, 2010 4:04 pm

    I thought editors hated their slush pile.

  10. September 11, 2010 6:52 pm

    Wow! Ten pages a minute? Speeding reading is definitely a good skill to have in your arsenal with 650 queries. I’d be willing to bet you have substantially more than that by now. I love this line from your blog post: “To me, this slush pile looks like my future, and I’m very excited.”

    Wow. 🙂

  11. September 11, 2010 10:24 pm

    Very glad that you’re having a good time!

  12. Victor permalink
    September 11, 2010 11:27 pm

    I hope you come to a point in your career when you never refer to the dreams of inspired writers as “slush.”

    Thank god for self-publishing.

    • Denise Little permalink*
      September 13, 2010 3:54 am

      I happen to like slush, which is the point of the post. I don’t think of it in a negative way. I think of it as a pile of opportunity. But it’s a common term, one everybody understands, so I use the generic name for it.

      Sorry it offended you.

  13. September 13, 2010 7:25 pm

    I can’t say enough how much I love seeing agents so excited and revved up about their work. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you to get through all this! My query is in there somewhere. 😉

    Best of luck in finding something utterly amazing!

  14. Jen Armentrout permalink
    September 16, 2010 7:06 pm

    I’m curious if you are sending rejects for queries that didn’t catch your eye. I see that Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency has a no response policy. Is that they same for you on queries?


    BTW- love your blog and fresh attitude!

    • Denise Little permalink*
      September 16, 2010 7:14 pm

      I’m trying to send replies. Closure’s a gift. It all depends on how much energy I have and how intense the demands are. Right now I figure I’m getting snowed under because I”m new. I can handle the influx over time. If I’m wrong and I’m still getting a thousand emails a day in four months, I may need to reconsider my position.

  15. erika garduno permalink
    September 21, 2010 5:28 pm

    im lucky enough to be one you requested a manuscript from. just checking it over before i send it. one question…it seems you ask for a lot of fulls. just wondering what your representation stats are? im nervous as hell and second guessing my work lol.

    • Denise Little permalink*
      September 21, 2010 5:44 pm

      If the query is in English, well written, and in a field I understand I ask for a full.

      I set a pretty low bar for that, because most people write crummy query letters. No sense missing out on a masterpiece just because a person can’t condense a big book into two paragraphs.

      On full submissions, I have a lot to go through right now. I read them until I can’t go on–whether from boredom, dislike, or lack of understanding. If I stopped early on, I read a chunk from the middle and a chunk from the end. If I really, really like it, I call the author and talk. Right now, becasue of the large amount of material, I’m sorting stuff as I read, but not calling just yet. I want to get through the whole pile before I make my culls.

      Eventually, I’ll reply as I read stuff.

      Which should be very fast.


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