From slush pile to bookshop shelf: the secrets of successful unsolicited manuscripts

26 August 2023

We all know the drill. We send — unsolicited — the novel manuscript we’ve spent years toiling over, to a couple of publishing houses who accept them. From there they go into a kind of purgatory called a slush pile. How long manuscripts might spend in this limbo is unknown, but probably just about all of them end up going through the shredder eventually.

Nevertheless, we hold onto hope — hope above all else — of a different fate.

Because not all slush pile works go to pulp. Some Australian authors, including Abby Corson, Shannon Meyerkort, Natasha Sholl, and Mark Smith, have been plucked from the agglomeration and found their way onto a bookshop shelf. Perhaps then what happens in the movies is true. Book publishers have staff who sift through the slush pile, looking for that elusive diamond in the rough.

Take note then. Good writing separates the wheat from the chaff. Manuscripts with eye-catching premises, and engaging opening chapters, might reach the next rung of the ladder.


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