Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “The Death of the Slush Pile.” How incredibly sad, I thought.
One of my very first jobs in publishing was managing the slush pile at Bantam Books. I didn’t do much; all I was told to do was to log the manuscripts in, put them on a shelf and then two weeks later, reject them after nobody had looked at them. I hated doing it–those writers had worked so hard and yet, even all those years ago, there was nobody to read their work.
From that time on, I have had both respect and curiosity for “slush.” Even today, in a very difficult publishing market, I firmly believe that the slush pile can hold “buried treasure.”
And aside from the very public examples cited in the WSJ piece, we at DGLM have proven that there are wonderful projects to be found if one is patient and persistent enough to look.
Jim McCarthy discovered Carrie Ryan in the slush pile. She wrote The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which Jim sent out on a Friday and sold the following Monday. He also found Victoria Laurie, one of his first clients in slush. Jim has sold 18 of her books in the last six years.
Mike Bourret found three of his biggest clients in slush: Lisa McMann, author of Fade and Wake, among others; Heather Brewer whose first book among many, was Eighth Grade Bites; and Sara Zarr whose Story of a Girl was a National Book Award finalist.
Our very own Mary Doria Russell lay in a colleague’s slush pile for almost a year and when he didn’t respond, her first novel, The Sparrow, was passed along to me–and the rest is history.
So, no matter how busy I am, I have not forsaken the slush pile–and, hopefully, even in difficult times, I never will.