Rethinking the Slush Pile

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Rethinking the Slush Pile

Behold the slush pile—the perpetually rising stack of manuscripts that's grown exponentially over the last 20 years as the number of writers continues to skyrocket. Whether in the form of query letters or manuscripts, editors and agents are receiving more submissions than ever before, and digitization is only increasing the work to be done. As more writers continue to submit more work, it’s time to rethink the way we approach the slush pile.

What is a slush pile?

A slush pile, as defined by Oxford Dictionary, is “a stack of unsolicited manuscripts that have been sent to a publishing company for consideration.” Typically, a hopeful writer will send off a query letter or a manuscript to a very busy literary agent or acquisitions editor. This agent or editor, tending to many contacts and different editorial processes, will do their best to review the submission. As the publisher’s right hand, they sort through the manuscripts and query letters to identify high-quality and relevant writing, serving as the filter for the publishing process.

Now these agents and editors, busy as ever, rely heavily on the help of their editorial interns to help sift through countless submissions. The interns search letter after letter for something that they believe is worth showcasing. More often than not, the vast majority of these unsolicited manuscripts never make it to the publisher’s desk, staying stuck in the black hole known as the “slush pile.”

What if in the slush pile lies the next Things Fall Apart, Ask the Dust, or This Is How You Lose Her? The problem with the slush pile is that there are simply too many submissions coming through the door to possibly read every single piece of literature in totality. To be frank, many submissions are evaluated based on several passages and fewer pages.

Maybe there wasn’t a captivating hook or maybe the author lost focus halfway through the novella? Maybe the memoir written wasn’t relevant to the times? The point is, rethinking the slush pile and how to go about sorting through all the work is something worth reconsidering given the plethora of new writers and new writing. There has to be a better way to process the sheer volume of submissions.

Introducing Fixional

To date, there hasn’t been a one-stop-shop technological solution to slush pile sorting until now. Grammar tools have helped the editing process, but those tools are better suited for the casual homework paper or work email. Manuscripts are a completely different beast, one that query letters reveal are sometimes hundreds of pages long. 

Imagine a tool that collected those query letters and manuscripts in one place and magically showed which were most original, most relevant to you, most interesting to you, and most well-written as defined by your own standards? It would make the screening process that much easier on an editor, literary agent, or publisher. That’s where Fixional comes in.

Fixional is a new kind of editorial tool that helps publishing companies evaluate and improve manuscripts at scale. Designed with publishers, editors, and writers in mind, Fixional relies on advanced technologies to automatically evaluate writing effectiveness, clarity, and originality. In doing so, Fixional also provides improvements to grammar, proficiency, and consistency in manuscripts. Moreover, Fixional, through a process called deep learning, is fully customizable and improves with use.


Reviewing new manuscripts is one of the most important parts of the job for publishers, literary agents, and editors. Hundreds of query letters and manuscripts end up at the desks of editors each week, creating an inaccessible backlog of manuscripts that creates more work than there's time to complete. As a result, many manuscripts don't get the consideration that their authors deserve.

To appreciate all of the writing coming into a publication, and to review each piece fully with greater speed, accuracy, consideration, and consistency, requires a new system. With the right technology, editors can discover new manuscripts and revise the manuscripts in their workflow with unprecedented agility. Slush piles don’t have to be a burden or a lost cause. With Fixional, great writing can be discovered and revised at scale.

Fixional was designed for professional editors and publishers and is used by research journals, book publishers, magazine editors, newspapers, literary agents, writers, and more. Want to see how Fixional can help in your discovery process? Try the Pro Plan now or contact us to see a demo of Fixional in action.

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