Friday, April 11, 2008

The Slush Pile

Now that spring is here it doesn’t seem appropriate to be talking about slush, but as publishers we mean something quite different, of course. This is a silly way to lead into the question that we might most frequently be asked: how do I get published? For the record, I think the second most asked question is, “How many manuscripts do you receive each year”? We’re often not asked the third question that I would anticipate follows the first two: how many unsolicited manuscripts are published?

The answers, to the chagrin of the asker, is that virtually none of the manuscripts submitted are published; perhaps one, maybe two every couple of years. We receive thousands per annum. The sad truth is that so many of the manuscripts demonstrate real potential - we wish we could bring them into development. They may be based on a terrific idea or demonstrate some lively, engaging writing that shows flourish and promise. But can we take it on and fit it into our publishing program? Most often not and I’ll explain why in a moment. First, I should mention that we also receive a great deal of material that is totally unsuitable for Annick. Anyone wishing to submit a manuscript should spend time thoroughly researching publishers to make sure that what they’ve written is an appropriate fit with the company’s publishing program.

Every publisher has their own philosophy and approach to literature. We discuss ours on our web site. In a nutshell, manuscripts must be written to a high literary standard, be inventive, resonate with the reader, and advocate the priorities that this house stands for: encourage kids to think critically and analytically, entertain, and convey that change and getting by are possible no matter how difficult and elusive the challenge may seem.

The vast majority of ideas or requests to authors to submit stem from editorial story meetings. We’re constantly discussing topics that are of concern to the contemporary child. We search out exciting ways to offer a fresh, new look at a subject. We’ll also discuss which writers might be a good fit. Once we’re rounded out the various components of our list, YA fiction, illustrated non-fiction, etc., there are few, if any, spaces left. So if you’re wading into the slush, you’ll have to bowl over the reader with a work that is innovative and brilliantly constructed. That reader will need to hear a strong, clear voice that has something compelling to say to youth.

Rick Wilks

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