This piece is one of a group of posts which appeared on my blog some time ago but then decided to remove themselves from public view and hide in my drafts folder instead. It was probably because I did something foolish, but I’m not quite sure what! Here it is again, for your reading pleasure. And apologies for the confusion.
I’ve seen it suggested that a centralised slush-pile might help some of the bigger publishers consider reopening their doors to submissions. The reasoning goes that by centralising submissions, duplicates could be avoided and the whole system could be streamlined. On the face of it this idea is appealing, but it could cause all sorts of trouble.
First, the pile would have to be separated into fiction and non-fiction, and then further, into genres. So you’d need a team of readers to handle this, who would have to be experienced in all different genres, and who could separate the good writing from the bad.
Once the good work was separated from the bad, and sorted by type and genre, it would have to be read by specialist readers to decide which list/imprint would be best. To do this, the readers would need a detailed knowledge of each and every imprint’s requirements, what each one had bought (both published and as-yet unpublished), and what would fit into the gaps that were left. As this is a centralised slush-pile there are no list-specific editors available, this work will have to be done by general readers, who are not likely to have all of that information available to them. And as the editors employed by the scheme would not be involved in directly editing or publishing any of the work involved, good editors are unlikely to even consider taking on the task.
Because of the volume and nature of submissions, lots of time-intensive, soul-destroying work would be involved in filtering a central slush-pile: but who would pay for it? Publishers have a system that works for them already: why would they stump up more money for a system that wouldn’t necessarily give them any further benefits? And just suppose that a book from this centralised slush-pile was sent to one imprint and subsequently became a huge best-seller: what sort of reaction would you expect from the lists which weren’t given a chance to consider it?