There was an article recently (in the Guardian/UK I think though I might just be pulling that out of my ear) which I can no longer find. Such is the impermanence and permanence of the internet. It’s there forever but you have to be able to find it first.
Hey, it’s sort of of like the whole internet is like one big giant slushpile!
And that segues very well into my blog post, doesn’t it?
Anyway this article basically said that editors (or rather that is, their interns) weren’t going to roll up their sleeves, yank on their hip-waders and go hunting in the slush any longer. One major house which was curtailing what must surely be soul-dampening work (otherwise why would interns have to do it?) had, in their last forty years or so, only found 1 manuscript worthy of being rescued. Don’t quote me on the exact numbers, just believe that it was staggering.
If you add up the hours it took someone to wrote it, the hours it took someone to read it (or a fraction of it), understanding how important it is to polish your work until it can be polished no more, creating a succinct and captivating cover letter, becomes glaringly obvious. But since the slushpile is going the way of the dinosaur (at least as far as the large publishers are concerned) all that is moot.
However, I am going to tell you something (not that the Jo Treggiari experience should be held up as some glossy example.) but my first book was pulled out of the slushpile. Not by some weary intern at Random House with papercuts all over her fingers, but by an intern nonetheless, and from a real life pile de slush (they were a Montreal based publisher so everything has a french name).
I have even viewed the heap de slushe myself on a visit I took up to meet with my editor last summer. They were housed on the top floors of a gorgeous Victorian right on the main boulevard (with lots of le parking), and the slushal area was on the very top floor (up a rather steep flight of stairs), and within the room was an energetic and oddly buoyant intern and a towering stack of padded envelopes. Really, they tottered. If they’d fallen, she might have been crushed or at least squished. And this was a small publisher
I don’t know how on earth my wee manuscript was chosen. What made it raise its wee head above the pile, but it did and the only reason can have been 1) my query letter and 2) my first few pages.
Everything I learned about publishing I learned from the internet and a few invaluable reference books (Writer’s Digest, Writer’s Market, The Guide to Literary Agents, The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market), so go forth and educate yourselves and submit.