We've all heard about it. The slush pile is dead.
Ours isn't. Or maybe ours is a Zombie Slush Pile, eagerly waiting to feast on our brains. Anyway. Here at Blanketyblank Children's Publishing (anonymity folks) the slush pile is alive and well. In fact, I (we*) just attended my (our) very first slush lunch this afternoon.
I wish I had counted how many envelopes I opened. And how many of those just didn't come with an SASE (I mean, really?). And how many of the remainder came with SASEs but were so ridiculously thick I had to beat the darn thing into submission to fit it in their envelope along with our rejection letter, standard, 'cause damned if I'm paying for the postage! Though, come to think of it - I'm sure many of these will be returned to us with insufficient funds. People just don't think things through!
We did answer every single person, though. Sure it was just a standard letter that went into the envelope with the manuscript, but each and every person was sent one. Even if they didn't submit a SASE. AND - even if we only read the first few lines before deciding the manuscript was a waste of our time - we read each and every submission.
Personally, I found 2 manuscripts that were decent. I liked one much better than the other. Neither was great, but they both had potential. (Though, I handed them off to the picture book editor and she immediately recognized their unworthiness. What do I know?)
I was seriously hoping to find a gem. That - OMIGOSH, WE HAVE TO PUBLISH THIS BOOK AND EXPLOIT IT'S UNAGENTED AUTHOR! It has happened. (Not the exploiting part. That's a joke, okay you guys?) I think we have 2 or 3 books in our list that were found in the slush pile during a slush lunch. They are pretty incredibly books. So, I mean. It happens.
But, my conclusion, after all of this, is that everyone should just get an agent. Or just a really good friend who will tell them that, honestly, their manuscript is a joke and they should throw it in the trash.
*This is the closest I'll ever come to telling you where I work. My publishing group used to be part of a retail chain (we make exclusive product for said chain) until we were integrated with a real live (if zombies are real and live) publishing group owned by retail chain. Loves it! Anyway, even though we've been over here for 7 months now, this is our very first slush lunch.