Q. I subscribe to and pay for Writer’s Digest online [www .writersmarket.com]. I believe the staff of Writer’s Digest insult me and all other serious writers by referring to our submissions to agents as the slush pile. It is my understanding the term is derived from the pile of manuscripts created in the various publishing houses by over-the-transom tossing of non-agented, unsolicited submissions. It is a derogatory term and should not be used for solicited submissions to literary agents. Your response would be greatly appreciated.
A. Not to insult you, Howard, but I don't think your opinion is quite right.
A solicited submission is something that is specifically requested by an agent. If you submitted through a referral, it would be solicited. If you met an agent at a conference and they personally asked you to submit some work, it would be solicited. If they rejected your submission but said, "Send me anything else you to have," it would be solicited. But if you simply query an agent about your romance book because they handle that genre, then your submission will indeed end up in the slush pile. And you know something - that's OK. That just means it has to wait to be read. Truly solicited material and pressing matters will get their attention first, then they will turn to their big pile of submissions (slush) and hunt for gems.
For agents, slush piles are normal and healthy. For big-time NYC editors, they are not. Agents expect slush piles and sort through them for good material. NYC editors are getting so much solicited material (from agents) that they have no time or desire to peek through slush.