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The Death of the Slushpile

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The slush pile: Beginning writers get lost in it. Beginning editors sift through it. The Wall Street Journal points out some of the effects of its disappearance:

As writers try to find an agent—a feat harder than ever to accomplish in the wake of agency consolidations and layoffs—the slush pile has been transferred from the floor of the editor’s office to the attaché cases of representatives who can broker introductions to publishing, TV and film executives. The result is a shift in taste-making power onto such agents, managers and attorneys. Theirs are now often the first eyes to make a call on what material will land on bookshelves, television sets and movie screen.

But lest you mourn the decline of the slush pile too much, keep the statistics in mind:

One slush stalwart—the Paris Review— has college interns and graduate students in the magazine’s Tribeca loft-office read the 1,000 unsolicited works submitted each month. Each short story is read by at least two people. If one likes it and the other doesn’t, it is read by a third. Any submission that receives two “Ps” for “pass” as opposed to “R” for “reject” is read by an editor.

“We take the democratic ideal represented by the slush pile seriously,” says managing editor Caitlin Roper.

The literary journal publishes one piece from the slush pile each year. That leaves each unsolicited submission a .008% chance of rising to the top of the pile.

What do you think? Was your manuscript pulled from the slush pile, or have you waded through one as an editor or publisher? Is there a better way to find new talent than wading through the slush?

Literary Partners