You know what the slush pile is. That mystical portal between Published and Unpublished: the breath of hope to aspiring authors everywhere and the scourge of publishers and agents* throughout the world. We send our manuscripts out, hoping against hope that they will be the gleam of gold that catches an editor’s eye among all the dross. We pace. We fret. We wonder: ‘Why on earth did I ever think I could write?’ Months pass. We wait. We wait a little longer. We think: ‘I don’t mind if it’s a rejection, I just want to KNOW!’ And then the rejection comes and we discover that there actually is something worse than the wait. We swear we’ll never be impatient again, but when the cycle starts over, we can’t help ourselves.
I was lucky with my first query. I queried Allen and Unwin in Australia** with a YA Fantasy, and within a week had recieved a request for the full manuscript. I dealt with Jennifer Castles, who was extremely kind and helpful to a raw beginner; and who, when she did send a rejection on my full,*** wrote a detailed and immensely helpful letter to explain why. She told me what she and others liked about the book, and what needed work. It was still a punch in the guts, but when I pulled myself out of the miasma of rejection I found her comments to be invaluable. I still regret that I didn’t email her back to thank her, but being the raw beginner that I was, and having been warned severely against ANY COMMUNICATION WHATSOEVER with a publisher once they have rejected your MS, I didn’t. And now it’s too late. I won’t ever forget that first rejection, though.
I’ve been spoiled. I know it. When those form rejections roll in now**** it’s worse than before. Yet I know that someone, somewhere, saw a tiny gleam of gold when they looked at my manuscript; and I send out that next query.
Sigh. It’s lonely among the slush . . .
*Well, actually, I think a rare few of them might like it. But this is my blog and my point of view; and besides, I needed a contrast for the author’s ‘breath of hope’ . . .
**The Friday Pitch. Check it out!
***3-4 months, for those who count these things.
****Maybe a slight exaggeration: I’ve subbed the MS about 10 times.