If you want to write the next great book or novel, then there are some expected steps for you to take as the author. Finding an agent, for instance, who can then find a publisher who is interested in your work. The only problem is that your work is awesome, everyone who has read it thinks so, but you keep getting rejection letters.
So you decide to skip a step and go straight to the publisher. These unsolicited mailings, if accepted in the first place, get placed with other manuscripts from other authors into a grouping called the “slush pile.” Maybe your work will get read and maybe it won’t. You don’t know. What you can do is give yourself the best possible chance of getting out of the publisher’s slush pile by following these easy methods.
#1. Format It Correctly
You wouldn’t believe all of the crazy formats that authors utilize when they’re writing something. Instead of creating a document that is based on your personal preferences, you’ll need to find out what the guidelines of the publisher happen to be and then follow them to the letter. If you do get your work pulled out of the slush pile and the reader sees you didn’t follow their policies and procedures, there’s a very high chance your work will be rejected.
#2. You Are Your Best Asset
Far too many authors try to write about what they think will sell and that’s often why their work doesn’t get the time of day. What makes you the unique person you are is what will get you out of the slush pile. Hold nothing back. If you want to get published for the first time, then find your voice as a writer and be consistent with it. Your life really is your best asset.
— Gary Lindberg (@gary_lindberg) April 20, 2016
#3. Kill It in 5 Pages or Less
If your work does get some reading time, then you’ve got to capture the reader’s attention in the first few pages. Start your manuscript off with a great hook because this is going to be the first thing that gets noticed. There are some great literary pieces that slowly develop characters from start to finish, but that’s from a published author with an established fan base. You’ve got to create a value promise at the beginning of your story and then stick to it so your manuscript gets out of the slush pile.
#4. Get Real Criticism
Our family and friends want what is best for us. If they see you striving hard to be a published author, then they are going to encourage you. Tell you how great your work is. Offer to purchase it when a publisher puts it out on the market. Unfortunately that attitude can give you a false perception of how good your work happens to be. One of your best assets in getting out of the slush pile is to have a critique group you trust to give you honest feedback. You’re going to miss a few things in writing your story. This trusted group can help you find them.
— Chicago Writers Conf (@ChiWritersConf) April 11, 2016
#5. Don’t Rush It
A manuscript really is like a fine wine. It gets better with age because you’ve had more time with your characters. You’ve had new life experiences that can be incorporated into the story. You’ve found new facts that are interesting for a non-fiction book. Once you’ve finished your manuscript, take some time away from it – say a couple of weeks. Then go back, give it another read, make more revisions, and then send it off. If you just rush through the process, you’re more likely to have your manuscript get lost in the slush pile.
#6. Raise the Stakes
Your manuscript, assuming it makes an impact and gets pulled out of the slush pile, is going to need to impress numerous people on different levels. You’ll need to have layers of subtlety and engagement woven throughout the document to appeal to different readers, yet still be engaging for the general audience. Once of the best ways to do this is to create drama for characters within your story that may lead to a shocking outcome. Sometimes the best thing to do is to consider the worst-case scenario and then have that happen within the pages of your story.
The best way to get out of the publisher’s slush pile is to be authentic. Don’t try to write for an audience or be something you are not. Let your life become the life of your characters, your images, or whatever other content you’re producing and that will attract attention one day. If you get a rejection letter, that’s good news. Why? Because you know your manuscript got out of the slush pile.