Excavating the Slush Pile at McClelland & Stewart

Trena Rae White
Publishing, Simon Fraser University
January, 2005
 

Abstract


Every book publisher in Canada receives unsolicited submissions from writers hoping to be published but who lack an agent or a connection within the house. These submissions are often referred to as the “slush pile.” About fifteen years ago, before literary agents rose to such importance in Canadian book publishing, the quality of unsolicited submissions was much higher. In an agented
environment, when firms rarely acquire from the slush pile, the quality of slush-pile submissions has diminished.


This report analyzes the McClelland & Stewart slush pile. It outlines the ways in which McClelland & Stewart acquires manuscripts, the kinds of
submissions the company receives in its slush pile, how it responds to them, and why the company continues to evaluate these proposals. It finds that, with very rare exceptions, the submissions writers send unsolicited to the company are
either in genres the company does not publish, are written at a level the company deems unacceptable for publication, or otherwise do not fit the M&S publishing mandate.


However, the report concludes that the company should continue to evaluate unsolicited submissions, as a way to train junior editors, to maintain openness to the writing community, and to give unagented writers a forum in which their work can be assessed.
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