Lessons from the Slush

Those who follow my blog by now should be super aware that I’m an editor. I’ve edited for 5+ houses, but I’ve also been a literary agency intern and assistant. I wanted to take a break from all my book reviews to discuss some of my experiences on the agency side in regards to the slush. One of my first thoughts after getting a peek at the slush during my internship was that I wish I’d gotten that experience earlier in my editing career. I think it’s useful experience not just for aspiring agents, but also editors and writers. It gave me a whole new respect for acquiring editors and a better understanding of the acquisitions process. I found there was a lot to be learned from the slush.

As an editor I don’t deal with acquisitions, just the edits that come after. That means I often heard tales about the slush, but until I interned with a literary agency I never saw it for myself. The most surprising aspect of seeing it? How many of the subs had decent writing. Sure you get authors who don’t follow guidelines and aren’t in querying shape yet, but I was surprised by how many subs I read that had passable writing. I was expecting a lot more of it to be nowhere near ready. My first dive into the slush to find something to pass to my agent caused me to struggle to decide what to pass on since as an editor I was so used to taking something no matter the quality and polishing it. As I got more experience with the slush, it became much easier as I learned to pick out the best writing and most eye-catching stories. The editor in me could see possible edits for many submissions, but as I learned through experience some of them just needed too much work. I was used to making editing decisions after acquisitions, not deciding what to acquire, and that was the big learning experience for me.  I learned how to spot quality in the slush and pick out the gems. Continue reading