Help for writers
How to make it through the Slush Pile
If you are submitting your work to an agent or directly to a publishing house, check through the following guidelines to give it its best chance:
- Is whatever material you are sending cleanly typed and legible? Never send handwritten material or anything in a typeface or size which would make it difficult for the recipient to read it.
- For most work, submit it in a standard form, which is double-spaced and printed on one side of the paper only.
- Don't send it to an agent or publisher as an email attachment. unless specifically asked to do so. Publishers and agents will not want to have to print out a whole manuscript.
- It may sound obvious, but don’t send anything which looks tired or tatty – print it out or get it photocopied again to present it at its best, so it doesn't look as if it's already done the rounds. For more advice on preparing typescripts and our Manuscript typing service.
- Send an outline and two or three chapters, not the whole manuscript. Any interested publisher or agent will ask you to send the whole manuscript anyway.
- If you're not sure whether you've got your submission package in good shape, our Submission Critique Service has recently been set up to help with this.
- Our new page Your submission package shows you how to put yours together.
- Read through what you are sending carefully and try to make it as literate as possible, or get it copy-edited (see our Copy-editing service). Some successful authors can’t spell, but it’s very off-putting to try to read an illiterate manuscript and you need to be successful before you can get away with turning in something which is sub-standard.
- Always try to send your manuscript to a named editor or agent (check our UK and US agent listings), rather than just to the publishing house or agency.
- Always send return postage, preferably in the form of a stamped, addressed envelope or jiffy bag, or an international money order, if you want your material back.
- Remember that the person on the other end is probably an assistant with a giant pile of manuscripts to get through. They will be short of time, but genuinely pleased to discover something worthwhile in the slush-pile. Try to write an attention-grabbing (but not too long) submission letter and present yourself and your material as well as you can.
Check the Submission Critique Service.
© Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage. 2001-11
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