I am constantly amazed at how archaic the submission process is for the book publishing industry. I do understand that publishers need a way to weed out the
drivel, but honestly, there has GOT to be a better way. It just seems that the slush pile has gotten so ridiculously huge, that there's no chance for a deserving author to ever navigate their way through it (at least without connections).
In this day and age, shouldn't there be a better way? An online process that allows authors to post their work on a publisher's web site, much like posting a resume on Monster.com? That way, we could choose our genre, and even add keywords so editors could do quick searches for stories that might fill gaps in their list. And maybe SCBWI members and published authors could somehow rise to the top. That would at least limit the amount of paper you poor people are dealing with.
Have any of the publishing houses tried something like this yet? Why, why, why does it have to be so laborious and time consuming, the way it is now?
I absolutely agree that it's a rotten system for everybody. But if we could think of a better way of doing things, we'd be doing it.
Some publishing houses decide that the best way out of the hideous piles of slush is to stop taking submissions from anyone but agents. I can see the appeal of this sytem, but it also makes you dependent on agents, with whom, let's be honest, we sometimes have mildly combative relationships.
Others will only look at unsolicited submissions from SCBWI members, or published authors... but in my experience that doesn't guarantee you much. The number of people who consider themselves "published" is growing by vanity presses and gigabytes. Being a member in the SCBWI indicates a willingness to know more about the industry, and the possession of $75, and not much else. More to the point, I have seen some true dreck come from the pens of very talented people, and have pulled utter brilliance by a complete unknown from the slush.
Regarding the idea of making the submission process digital, this is not the first time I've heard this suggested. The thing to remember is that while many, many services on the internet (my hotmail account, my blogger account, the sitemeter on this blog, just to name a couple) are free of charge to the user, they are not free of charge to the company that runs those services. There would be a significant expense involved in having the servers and tech people needed to store and access 15,000 manuscripts in our computers. (Making the manuscripts key-word-searchable wouldn't change the fact that at least half of them are awful. And when it comes down to it, I don't care what your manuscript is about. If it's got good writing and a reasonable hook, that's all that matters.)
When we compare this expense to the extremely negligible expense of having people mail us submissions, having an intern open them, and letting them take up space in a corner until we read them, our decision is made for us.
If anyone has an idea of how to make the slush process better, I'm open to suggestions. But I've thought long and hard about it, and haven't come up with anything else yet.