The slush-pile is an ever-present sea of despair. Some writers wallow about in it for years, while editors avoid it’s depressing claggy depths. Most of the books it contains have no hope of ever being published by a mainstream publishing house; and yet their writers are so determined to be published that they submit their work repeatedly, racking up the volume of the slush pile and making it even harder for agents and editors to discover the few commercially-publishable works that the slush-pile contains.
If the books which stood no chance of commercial publication were removed from the heap, the submissions system would be transformed: volume would be reduced and response times could be improved; and the big publishing houses might just well reopen their doors to unsolicited manuscripts.
How could this be achieved? First, by writers taking more care with their submissions by editing their work more carefully, and by ensuring that they submit only to appropriate markets; and then by the provision of an ethical alternative route into publishing for the manuscripts which are commercially unpublishable.
I’ll be discussing that last point in greater detail soon.