A Diamond in the Slush
Because our company’s namesake is derived from the mythical “slush” pile, I figured I owed it to myself to learn what I could about this wasteland of unpublished manuscripts. The term has always conjured images of hapless editorial assistants sifting through unmanageable stacks of unbound paper with cartoon-y thought bubbly to express their dismay. When I began interning at a literary agency I came to find the scenario I had envisioned was more or less accurate, although many submissions came in the form of self-published books. Regardless of the format, much of it was unremarkable, some of it incoherent and most of it unfit to be published.
Even with my own firsthand experience, I still felt a system that has allowed commercial sensations like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Twilight—the Harry Potter series for starry-eyed teenage girls (in SOME people’s estimation) to be routinely rejected–must have a gaping flaw. The short answer is that there is. In an old essay from Salon, a freelance writer shares her experience manning the slush pile at a major legacy publisher. The piece is worth reading in full, but the major thing to take away from it is the simple fact that there are too many manuscripts and too few pairs of fresh eyes— a problem compounded by the fact that the traditional publishing industry is hurting and it is now too expensive to pay employees to read slush that rarely is worthy of publication. Now editors will not even look at a manuscript unless an agent is attached to the project, and the burden of unsolicited manuscripts has fallen upon literary agencies who lack the staffing to handle the onslaught of material as well.
With all this in mind, I cannot help but feel that PUBSLUSH has a serious void to fill. The goal of PUBSLUSH is to establish an audience of willing readers who can account for their own reading appetites in a way that swamped literary agents cannot. In our hands the slush pile will be rebranded into a potential goldmine where readers can excavate and evaluate the worth of each manuscript.
As an example of how many worthy and acclaimed books have seen the slush pile, I present to you…Treasures Excavated From the Rejection Pile:
Gone with the Wind: Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: J.K. Rowling
Goodbye Columbus: Philip Roth
Dubliners: James Joyce
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Robert M. Pirsig
A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole
The Tales of Peter Rabbit: Beatrix Potter
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Jack Canfield
Diary of Anne Frank: Anne Frank