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Death of the Slush Pile, but Writing Lives On

January 15, 2010

Today’s blog was inspired by an article in today’s Wall St. Journal, “Death of the Slush Pile.”  I’m particularly glad this article wasn’t written when I was engaged in the seemingly endless task of writing the first several chapters (even before the first several drafts) of what became, Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage.  I knew even back then, that the odds for a first-time author of a self-help book acquiring a commercial publisher were daunting.  I purposefully protected myself from knowing the odds (but to slake your curiosity–publishers reject 98% of self-help books , and that doesn’t account for all the books that fail to find an agent).  While recognizing my conviction that I could get published by a “big house” might be delusional, I kept writing.

So how to avoid the slush pile, especially since most publishing houses no longer have one? It’s not practice, practice, practice (that’s the way to get to Carnegie Hall).  It’s get an agent. The popular source is  The Writer’s Market, which lists thousands of agents by categorical interest. And I did meet a savvy agent that way, though the agent I was fortunate enough to obtain (a thousand thanks to Priscilla at Janklow/Nesbit) came through the method of seven degrees of separation in the world, and, then through the smaller odds of being picked from that  summer’s pile of  250 personally reviewed manuscripts. Priscilla took a huge chance on an unknown author, and was a remarkable advocate, editor, and amazing person in her own right.

While I won the lottery with Priscilla as my agent, I had more to learn about the remaining hurdles of the publishing industry. Next submit, submit, submit, followed by, “Do you have a platform?”  My only prior acquaintance with that phrase was related to shoes. But in publishing, it means “What can you do for us? Do you have a radio show, a TV show, a multimedia way to promote this book?” Gulp-no. My wonderful editor, Lucia at Avery/Viking/Penguin became my next advocate.  Why?  Because she liked the ideas in the book…the very thing that had garnered Priscilla’s enthusiasm.  Then to give the ideas (fairness in love and marriage) a platform,  I developed a book website, sought media consultations, started to twitter, and shamelessly engaged in whatever self-promotion I could think of–even started writing this blog (yes it’s true, and it’s fun to get comments). So what would I say to those first-time authors facing the death of the slush pile? Ideas still sell. Trust me.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2010 2:08 am

    I’d say practical advice for life. Follow & promote your dreams. Judy

  2. January 17, 2010 2:09 am

    Thanks Judy…for your thoughtful comment..and you’re so right, it is about following your dreams
    bh

  3. January 17, 2010 2:10 am

    Very inspirational (glad to know that you still love shoes :).

  4. January 17, 2010 2:11 am

    Hey Laura, thanks for your comment…I had no idea what I was getting into…but love to write, almost as much as I love shoes.
    bh

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