Advice for Writers: Standing Out from the Slush Pile

Slush pile (n): the term given to the various manuscripts – digital or physical – that a publisher has been sent for consideration.

… ‘slush pile’ isn’t necessarily the nicest phrase in the publishing lexicon, however it is widely used across the industry with the above definition. It may sound dismissive, but we promise it’s not!

At Agora Books, we accept manuscript submissions by email and rely on our slush pile to provide us with our next big book. Slush pile, treasure chest – they’re essentially synonymous in our eyes.

Here, we’re going to give you six of our top tips for submitting your work to us.

1. Research the publisher:
Before you click send on that all-important email (to us, we hope!), make sure that you’ve done some research on the publisher you’ve decide to approach. If you’re looking to submit to Agora, peruse the titles that are on our website, consider the authors that we publish and maybe read a couple of our books to really get a taste for the quality of writing that we’re looking for.

There are countless publishers out there, so check that your submission is right for who you approach and, just as importantly, ensure that the publisher is the right fit for you.

2. Let’s get personal:
Much like writing a cover letter for a job, make sure that your manuscript submission is specific to whoever will receive it. A generic application that starts with ‘Dear publisher’ will stick out like a sore thumb, and the attention to detail that personalising an application takes won’t go unnoticed by the slush pile sifter.

3. Perfecting your email body:
Read (and reread) the submissions guidelines. At Agora, we ask for submissions to consist of three chapter samples (or the first 50 pages) and a plot synopsis, but remember that we will also read the body of the email that contains these attachments. Think carefully about what you want to include in this. Keep it concise and let the quality of the submission do the talking for you. And you can never be too careful with spelling and grammar. It’s a killer.

4. Get the writing right:
At Agora, we’re looking for world class writing that transcends genre, therefore the sample chapters are everything. Make sure you’re happy with them first.

5. First page, first impression:
Leading on from that, make sure that the first page is well thought out, enticing to read and intriguing enough to make the reader’s job a lot harder because your manuscript is impossible to put down.

6. Finally…
Just make sure that your submission captures the passion that you have for writing and the story you wish to share. If that can translate, you’re onto a winner.

Thank you so much for reading: we hope you found this useful and feel free to check out our submissions page if you’re tempted to submit your work to us at Agora Books.

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