Since we are mostly comprised of writers here, I thought SLUSH would be the perfect topic to bring us back to reality. So here goes...
Slush: an aspiring author's hopes and dreams squeezed into a one-page query letter and dumped into a cyber-stack (sometimes a physical stack, in the case of snail mail) of other aspiring authors' hopes and dreams.
Who reads slush? Depending on the practice of the literary agency or publishing company, your readers will be either interns, agents, or editors.
What are they looking for? Well, after reading several Publishers Marketplace agency summaries, I feel somewhat qualified to answer this (bullet-style, of course):
- Compelling premise
- Tight plot
- Unique/strong voice
- Interesting, well-rounded characters
- Brilliant hook
- Marketability (this isn't usually listed in their literature, but it's a no-brainer)
- No typos, grammatical, spelling, or punctuation problems
Beyond that, there are specific tastes to consider:
- Do they represent children's books or adult novels? Both?
- Do they hate hard science fiction and love paranormal plots? Or do they accept only memoirs?
- Are there formatting considerations? (graphic novels, illustrations, etc.)
- and, perhaps most importantly, what type of query will they accept? Synopsis? First 3-10 pgs?
So the key to breaking out of the slush pile is simple: knowledge.
I said it was simple, but I didn't say it wasn't unendingly difficult, too. Finding all this knowledge, even with the brilliant resources on the web (querytracker.net and agentquery.com, to name two), is extremely time-consuming.
But it is necessary. Besides, as authors, we will have to learn to manage our time to balance writing, editing, promoting, and otherwise living. Might as well start learning that balance now.
There. I promised you a dose of reality and there it is. If you're feeling kind of down, mosey on over to....
SLUSHPILE HELL: a fun little blog making fun of querying writers who we hope aren't us.
Update: Check out Amparo Oritz's 10 Step Program for the Query Wuss for another fun list.