At a recent convention, I argued with another panelist about how to get published in the current climate. He was a big fan of trying the slush pile; I wasn't. I didn't have this article to quote then, "The Death of the Slush Pile", by Katherine Rosman in the Wall Street Journal. I'm sorry to say Ms. Rosman's conclusions agree with mine; the slush pile just isn't a viable route any more.
"Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won't read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Web was supposed to be a great democratizer of media. Anyone with a Flip and Final Cut Pro could be a filmmaker; anyone with a blog a memoirist. But rather than empowering unknown artists, the Web is often considered by talent-seeking executives to be an unnavigable morass."
But not all the news is bad! The same article gives these solid ideas for how to acquire an agent and stay out of the Slush Pile of Doom:
• Find an agent who's hungry—a nd "monetize." "Anyone who wants to break in should read Variety and Hollywood Reporter and see which assistants have just been promoted to agents…anyone can teach a three-act structure. What I want students to get in the mind set of is 'How do we write something with the purpose of monetizing it?'" —Ryan Saul, literary agent, APA, and screenwriting instructor
• Don't be a barista waiting for someone to stumble upon your genius. "Our editors travel, they get around. They look at writer's conferences, at MFA programs. They look at magazine articles and at blogs. That's what editors do, they sniff things out from so many different sources." —Carol Schneider, Random House Publishing Group
• Find another way in Slush pile finds "are the rare exception that give people hope. If we found one writer a year that sent things in randomly, that would be a lot…agents are necessary gatekeepers but it's nice if there is an alternative entry…there are subversive ways to get your stuff read—you just have to be dedicated. A writer I know wasn't able to get treatments read so he started rendering them as comic books." —David Granger, editor in chief, Esquire
• Contests! "I'm always wary to recommend to writers that they go to competitions too much because there are fees and they can end up spending a lot of money. But the ones that do get industry attention are really fantastic opportunities to network and to make important relationships." —Hannah Minghella, president of production, Sony Animation Studios, formerly in development at Miramax
• And buck up. In 1957, Tom Wolfe interviewed James Michener, a former slush pile reader and the author of "Tales of the South Pacific." Mr. Wolfe asked him if he had worried, upon submitting the Pulitzer Prize-winning tome to publishers, about competition lurking in the slush piles. "If you've ever read a slush pile," said Mr. Michener, "you'd know I had nothing to worry about," Mr. Wolfe says. "He knew how much garbage there was out there."
The whole piece is worth reading: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870341450457500127135144627...