By Joe Siple
The first twelve years of my writing career could be described with one word: garbage. Partially because it accurately describes the quality of my writing for the vast majority of that time. It also describes how I felt about my lack of success—no published books, no agent, no anything to show for my time and effort. But most of all, it describes where my query letters spent their days awaiting inevitable rejection.
That place is, of course, the infamous slush pile.
Now, agented at last, I can look back at those days, at all the failure and rejection, and see some things more clearly. Things like how those two simple words—slush pile—can have an enormous impact on the psyche of an aspiring author. I can see just how disrespectful, how insulting, how downright humiliating that phrase is.
What I can’t see is why it’s still in use.
Aspiring authors have enough going against them. Sheer numbers are the first obstacle. My agent receives approximately 8,000 query letters a year, and many receive more than that. Then there’s the difficulty of coming up with ideas for our novels, the painstaking (yet addictive) process of writing, revising, editing, and polishing. And, of course, the soul-crushing despair that accompanies each and every rejection.
The last thing we need on top of all that is the humiliation of being referred to as “slush” by the very people we’re trying to impress. Would anyone expect to find anything of value in a “slush pile?” Why not just use another, less tactful s-word I could mention? No reason to sugar-coat the true meaning.
Personally, I think it’s time to start a movement to change the lexicon of our great industry. To something more respectful of the work that goes into these submissions. Something that doesn’t subconsciously poison the agent’s opinion before ever reading a word. Let’s change it into something more accurate.
Starting now and forevermore, let’s get rid of the phrase “slush pile” and replace it with what it actually is—a “query pile.”
An agent might actually find something of value in a query pile. An author might have hope that he can be discovered from the depths of a query pile. But even if that doesn’t happen, even our chances remain equally as daunting (as they surely will), at least we won’t have to be told, over and over again, that what we’ve poured our hearts and souls into is nothing but a pile of slush.
Maybe then aspiring authors around the world will feel a little less like garbage.