Thursday, October 8, 2009

Slushing to judgment

There's got to be a better way to handle slush. Doesn't there?

I understand that the reason publishers either refuse to accept unsolicited submissions or take months to respond to them is that a lot of people who have no business sending out manuscripts send out manuscripts. I know editors are overwhelmed. Perhaps there's more garbage in children's publishing than anywhere because non-writers tend to think those cute little books with all the pictures are easy to write.

I understand the seriousness of the problem. But I also know that the current system really stinks for writers who spend a lot of time learning the craft, studying publishers and struggling to submit work that's worthy of an editor's time. We get lost in the crowd and have to wait years for a manuscript to make it through even two or three publishers.

Agents aren't a very good choice for many children's writers, especially those who write picture books, as most agents don't want to take us on as clients.

It seems like there should be a solution that lets submissions from serious writers who know what they're doing bypass the mountains of slush or the bans on it. There are an awful lot of smart people in publishing, so come on! Let's figure this out.

Maybe editorial assistants who make the first pass through submissions could rate or sort them, then send the authors and illustrators whose work meets their standards for professionalism a sticker or code to put on the next envelope so their submissions could get fast-tracked. (Yes, that would be subjective. Isn't everything in publishing subjective?)


I don't know. Can't someone come up with a system that still leaves the doors open to everyone yet corrects this "festival seating" approach that creates mayhem and serves no one well?

Fellow writers, do you have any ideas?