Hello, my fellow writers!
Today I wanted to talk to you about the slushpile! dun… dun… DUNNNN!
Okay… so it’s not AS scary as it seems, or at least it shouldn’t be. Today, we’re going to dive deep into what the slushpile actually is and how we can make sure your manuscript and your query stay far from it!
A slush pile is really just a set of queries and manuscripts that an editor/agent/publisher sets to the side and doesn’t really look at.
For the most part, these are unsolicited queries that either come from the author themselves or from the agent representing the author.
QUICK NOTE: A great agent will research relevant publishers and editors before sending out a polished query. There are editors that are likely to look at queries from agents, especially if that agent has a relationship with them.
Although the querying process itself is incredibly stressful and overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be! And you don’t necessarily have to assume that your manuscript is going to be thrown into the slushpile.
For the most part, many agents (or their interns!) actively look through their query inbox on a periodic basis. At a previous conference, many agents shared that they get DOZENS of queries at a time. That’s a lot of reading! There are those who will read the first line in a manuscript or first line of dialogue and use that as a deciding factor on whether or not they’ll toss it – but don’t let me lose you just yet, here are some insider tips I want to share with you.
A little bit about me before getting started. To get my foot in the door in this industry, I began as an intern at a literary agency. I have since then been working as an agent and although I still have a strong focus on agenting, I have found a passion for author consulting. With a strong marketing, social media, and editorial background, I am able to help authors every step of the way.
HOOK, LINE & SINKER
Yep, just like you hook your readers in with a strong first line, you want to do the same when querying. Your first line could be something as simple as mentioning that you were recommended by another client of theirs or that their list of clients are great comps to your novel. The latter is a great option because it shows you did your research!
Before you hit ‘SEND’ ask yourself: Is there anything that this agent is requiring from me that I have not included in this query?
Depending on the agent/editor you are contacting, you want to make sure you are following their requirements. By doing so, you are showing them that not only did you do your research, but you were also paying attention to what they’re looking for rather than querying blindly.
Something to keep in mind is that your query is the bridge between yourself as an author and the person on the other end. Once signed, the person reading your query will likely be working with you for a minimum of one to two years. With that being said, if your query doesn’t sell them on how amazing your book is OR your book is just not in the realm of what they currently work with, there will be a higher chance that the agent/editor will reject you.
Understanding what they are looking for and most importantly, understand what you’re looking for will make it easier to get your query read and hopefully accepted!
In your query, you want to make sure it is clear to the agent/editor that not only do you have a profitable book but you are also incredibly dedicated, ready to take directions, pay attention, and that you’re the perfect fit for their agency.
GET TO THE POINT & RELEVANT WORKS
I know, harsh! But as writers, sometimes we need to hear it. We know our novel inside out and we love it! We want others to love it, too, and can’t help but want to spill everything – but don’t!
When querying, you want to think of the agent/editor you are sending your query to as a reader, because technically they are. They will be reading your query, your sample pages, and *hopefully* your full manuscript. They will also be helping you edit it from beginning to end. Agents and editors want to work with books that they not only think are profitable, but that they would want to purchase themselves.
Your introduction should be quick, concise, and to the point. Similar advice goes for when you’re writing your synopsis. Give them just enough to want more. Whether that’s leaving them on a cliffhanger or foreshadowing despair, keep them on the edge of their seat just as you would with your readers.
The last few lines before signing off can also include mentions or links to your previous, works like novels you’ve published in the same genre that have gotten awards, or even social media/marketing milestones you have hit.
If you think about it, agents and editors (and their interns, too!) receive tons of queries daily. Make sure yours stands out with a short and sweet, yet capturing introduction, a cliffhanger of a synopsis, and…
YOUR MANUSCRIPT ATTACHED AS A WORD DOC
I cringe when I see manuscripts pasted into the body of the email. Not only does this cause extra work for us reading your query, but it also distorts your format and makes it difficult to read.
If you’re including sample pages, always, always, ALWAYS attach your manuscript as a word doc. Remember, we’re receiving countless queries at a time. Stand out by getting it right!
MAKE SURE YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS POLISHED
I know many won’t agree with me on this, but I’m going to say it anyway. A polished manuscript is the way to go when querying!
Yes, you will have your manuscript edited once you get signed but wouldn’t you prefer the draft attached in your query to be the best it can be? Wouldn’t you want your editors to focus on making your novel even better rather than focusing on confusing run-on sentences and spelling errors?
In a later blog I will discuss the different types of editors and editing services out there, but in the meantime, here is a great self-editing source:
And, if you are unsure of whether your timeline/plotting/structure is on point, The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler and these following books will help:
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
At the end of the email, rather than only including your name, email, and phone number, let’s make sure you’re linking to your social media as well.
This (and the tips above) are the same for authors publishing traditionally or self-publishing along with non-fiction and fiction writers.
Social media and author marketing is something that we will discuss in more detail later down the line, so if you have any questions, let me know!
By including social media links, you are able to put a face to your query and show the agent or editor that your novel has an audience and that you are capable of reaching them through social media. Although this is something a traditional publisher will help you with, it is helpful and will give you an edge during the querying process. Your links can include your author Facebook or Twitter, your author website with a blog – anything and everything that is relevant to you as an author and builds your brand.
Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
CEO & Founder of Book2Publish
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