Speaking of crazy slush piles…

Hi Writers,
Thanks to all who spoke their piece on my previous post. Great discussion, feel free to continue the dialogue.

The issue Charlotte Cook brought up though, about facing an overwhelming slush pile, is something that’s a widespread problem in the publishing industry.

And I found an article on BookSeller.com “The Slush Pile Goes Online” that has a lot of great info about this move to get the public to vet the slush, so to speak. I’ve been thinking about this since around the Writer’s Digest office we’ve been chatting about HarperCollins soon-to-launch Authonomy project, in which writers are invited to post lengthy excerpts from their novel for peer review and ostensibly recommendation for publication by HarperCollins. I’ll post more on this when Authonomy actually launches.

But in the mean time, here’s a brief excerpt from the Bookseller.com piece:

HarperCollins ahead

With its eye closely trained on digital opportunities, HarperCollins
is now developing its own peer-review website for unpublished writers.
Rahim Hirji, HC corporate strategy manager, says: “We realise there are
talented would-be authors out there, and also recognise the onset of
digital. We tried to think about those two things together to look at
how we could utilise the internet in finding new talent.”

Would-be authors will be asked to submit all, or at least 10,000
words, of their work so that it can be reviewed by other writers or
those looking for talent. “We are using the democratic nature of the
internet, where people like to give opinions and review and rate work,”
Hirji says. “There are two sides of the project: the cream of the crop
rising in the sense of the best reviews, but also we will put the
reviewers into their own leagues.”

The site, authonomy.com, is provisionally scheduled to go live in
February 2008. Hirji adds: “It’s difficult for publishers to go through
every manuscript that comes in, so we look to agents. We wanted to
create a site where talent is showcased. It’s not just a marketing
exercise; we are looking to source talent in new ways.”

So what’s your take on the movement to bring the slush pile to the people? Good trend or not? Let’s hear it.

Keep Writing,
Maria

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13 thoughts on “Speaking of crazy slush piles…

  1. Justin Williams

    Hi

    I am a South African white male, I have worked in the Intelligence business for a long time working around the world. I recently worked in the United States and things went wrong.
    I have almost finished putting my book together about everything that happened. Its a love story with betrayal and espionage. I am looking for someone that can write it for me and I would like to get it published. I have other books I would like to write after this but I am not a great writer, I just have the stories to tell. They have to be made fictional as I would not get away with telling my tale if it was made non fictional. Is there anyone that can help me with this. I have no idea about writing but I have done the basics. Need help. Its one hell of a story and I think it would do really well if I had a good writer to work with.
    It is very hot over here and its like living in a paradise in Durban, South Africa.
    My story is real, all of it really happened. Just need help. What do you suggest.

    Justin

  2. Charlotte Cook

    Once again I’m drawn into comment by something Julianne writes. Her last line is a beauty: "So it basically comes down to what sort of feedback you want and are comfortable hearing as a writer." Everyone has an opinion but the ones with the opinion and without the ability to effect a publishing decision is worth what?

    I don’t think slush piles should be presented to an unvetted audience. I’ve changed our process every time we’ve changed staff to make sure that the people who open the manuscripts have our interests in mind. One can assume that people do but after two years experience with (MFA) interns I’ve learned that some are disinterested in anything but their own work or are as hard as they can be on a manuscript without reading for story and/or character. Yes, I’ve had manuscripts passed to me with the red ink of a reader who damned a piece for missing commas when the piece itself was amazing.

  3. Julianne Daggett

    I think both sides have their points: regular Joe and Janes are the ones who will read and buy your books once you get published, so why not let them get ahead of the process and judge manuscripts? However, Joe and Janes are the ones who write all the crazy reviews on Amazon, so are they really that helpful to writers? On the other side, English teachers, professors, and published writers know their stuff and can give you critical feedback on your writing skills. However, they’re not the ones who will buy all those thousands of copies published of your book, if you do indeed get published. So it basically comes down to what sort of feedback you want and are comfortable hearing as a writer.

  4. Jess

    I like Janelle C’s idea. I also think putting the slush pile out there for the masses isn’t a bad idea either; if they’re to be our prospective future readers anyway, then it just makes sense to me. Personally, I use beta readers who are both writers and non-writers, and I know several other writers who do the same kind of thing.

    Jess

  5. Mary Ulrich

    HI Janell, It sounds like your class did a productive exercise in analyzing the story.

    I was not saying volunteer first readers are good or bad. I do not have the experience or expertise to make a judgement. I happened to notice this and thought it sounded interesting and wanted to share. Best.

  6. Janell Coberly

    If other writers are willing to review submissions, would not writing groups or writing classes, such as my writing fiction class, be a better choice to do these reviews? If I were to submit, I would not be thrilled knowing that a ‘supposed’ writer picked at random was going to peruse my submission. I personally would not have confidence in someone who does not have training or who has not been published to critique my work. As my peer, I would be looking to them for advice and suggestions. If they do not have the expertise, then why would I be interested in submitting? Having said that, if the reader was simply going to give you their opinion as to the content, meaning if the piece held the readers attention, was the story line clear, plot interesting, then perhaps a reader/reviewer could be anyone willing to help with the burden of the slush pile. Our fiction writers group took the fifth place winner of The Writer’s Digest Writing Conest, Kite Maker, by Rekha Rao and did a class critique as a lesson. Though we realize the writer is from Italy and English is, we are guessing, a second language, it turned out to be a lesson on what we titled the: Don’ts. Some of the students refused to read and critique further than the first page. We are all puzzled as to why this particular piece was chosen as a winner. This piece is to us an example of a could be winner, provided it had been properly edited first then revised. That particular lesson is why I believe writing classes or groups would be the better choice for reviewing. They are at least under the direction of a published writer or an english teacher. Some of those students will be published, some will not, but because they are practicing and learning their trade, they scruitize everything. Who better to do review than writers like these.
    Janell Coberly

  7. Mr. Shannon Lejaun Clements

    I remember when I was trying to get my first book published. It was a long and tedious process that I thought was going to be a lot shorter. Boy was I wrong. I had finished up my manuscript, edited it several times, and then entered it into a contest. When I didn’t win the contest because aMr.s Madgett said that it wasn’t even in the top ten manuscripts I was crushed. I thought to myself how could this be. I talked to my mother about this and she said that Mr.s Madgett is from a different generation and so she is possibly set in her ways. I even thought back to the recent books that she has published through her annual contest there at Lotus Press. After carefully considering her words to me and then thinking about my mothers advice and then thinking about those books I came to this conclusion… What I had written was a little too explicit for her to read and this is why I didn’t win. She is a good Christain woman and my words are kind of an offense to people like her.

    Anyways, I finally decided to check out a book on how to get published. After going to my Detroit public library "The Knapp Branch" I checked out a book titled "The Complete Idiots Guide To Getting Published". I read it page for page and then followed the simple instructions. Well almost. I went and did my resaearch and then sent out a few query letters to my book titled,"From The Mind of Mentalllll", and also to a science fiction story that I was currently still writing titled, "The Star Explorer:The Discovery". I then sent in a completye manuscript to Publish America and then I waited. It took several months for me to hear back from everyone and all of them came back negative. Rejection after rejection crushed my dreams time and time again. Then one day a thought came to me to check up on my manuscript with Publish America and all of a sudden I had received an e-mail telling me that they were interested. I was so elated that my soul even seemed to be on high! I then thought back to what was talked about in the "Complete Idiots Guide to Getting Published" about the slush pile and then I finally knew what it was like to be in it. That was seven months worth of waiting! So I believe that it is good that somebody is finally trying to do something about this issue since the slush pile can mean certain death to many authors that don’t follow the guidleines or even take the time out to read them. The pressure from their peers and family to finally do something worthwhile is probably spurns this activity in the first place. Can you say crushing dreams? But I say that this is a good way to make things run smoother by so called giving the publishing industry an enema or laxative so to speeak. Some day there will be no slush pile! SOME DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And by the way I am still looking for a publisher for "The Star Explorer:The Discvery"

  8. Mary Ulrich

    I went to "employment" on thewildrosepress website and found this description. They also have a description of "FINAL READERS". I thought this was interesting.
    Especially considering they have a waiting list for volunteers.

    Preliminary Readers
    At this time we are NOT looking for preliminary readers. If you would like to be added to a waiting list, please contact Rhonda Penders at rpenders@thewildrosepress.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    This is an unpaid position in that no cash is exchanged. We thank our readers with gift certificates to our bookstore each quarter or another small token of our appreciation such as travel mugs, t-shirts, etc. This position requires a reader to take a manuscript, read it on the computer, and fill out a brief evaluation form. The manuscripts need to be read within a couple of weeks and the reader has the choice of which line they would like to read for. It is a great way to get some free reading material and be a part of the other side of the garden gate.

  9. Mary Ulrich

    On a recent visit to TheWildRosePress.com I noticed (under employment) their first tier of reviewers are a panel of volunteers. I am assuming these are readers and writers from their e-publishing site. I am guessing as to what they actually do, but I thought this could also be an interesting way to handle the slush pile.

    When teachers grade the essays on the state proficiency tests, there is a specific rubric with specific grading criteria like grammar, creativity…. Multiple graders who are trained on the tool can then give reliable feedback that would allow the ‘cream to rise to the top". I don’t know much about slush piles, but I would think this would solve some of the "feedback" issues I hear from frustrated writers, and solve the "slush pile-ups."

    It is something to consider.

  10. Dorlana Vann

    I wonder how long this process would take. How many good reviews would a book need before someone notices? Meanwhile, do you submit your work to other places? I think this is a great idea for HarperCollins. I’m sure plenty of writers will submit.

  11. Julianne Daggett

    HarperCollins seems to be onto a good idea, but I have some questions and concerns. Who are "the other writers"? Are they only published authors, published and aspiring, or any one who likes to think of themselves as a writer? And how do you know that that person is a writer? What’s the process to vet him or her? And who are "those looking for talent"? Publishers, agents, vanity press? And how do you know that that person or company is honest and not trying to scam writers? And by "the internet where people like to give opinions and review or rate work" are they talking about the careful and thoughtful views and opinions on Bookslut.com or the chaotic hyperbole and nastiness on Amazon.com? And what do they mean by "put the reviewers in their own leagues"? Are bestsellers put with bestsellers and aspiring put with aspiring? I can tell you right now that putting all the aspiring together and not having any bestsellers or Pulitzer Prize winners in there is a bad idea. Aspirings don’t know how publishers work, why some books sell and others don’t, and what truly makes an awe inspiring and marketable story. And how does "the cream of the crop " rise to the top, how does the site function to do that?

    These are just some of several questions they’ll have to answer before I would use their site.

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