Slush-pile reader

Every year, thousands of aspiring writers send off their beloved manuscripts to publishing houses all over the world. Whilst many come from reputable agents with a track-record for providing work by professional (or at least competent) writers, an enormous number of books covering every genre possible (as well as inventing a few – often to a disastrous effect) are also sent from writing enthusiasts.
Your Job, as the King or Queen of the slush-pile reading, is to review these books and make a decision on whether to pass the manuscript on to the desk of an editor or return the book to its rightful owner.
While the idea of traipsing through hundreds, if not thousands of pages per week, searching for that rarest of things – a quality manuscript – may not be to everyone’s taste, a certain number of people revel in this task. Still not sure why you would want to bother? Well how about this, those who prove themselves adept at seeking out new talent may well be head-hunted to work their way further up the chain. In fact, certain people – usually responsible for a smash-hit or best-seller that has made the author rich and the company equally profitable – have gone on to become chief editors, and with authors such as JK Rowling listed among the top earning famous people around, it’s not difficult to see why.
Now we come to how one might break into the publishing industry and become a reader, and like everything related to books, breakthroughs, and rarely-seen authors, explaining this in simple terms can be construed as equally mysterious. Whilst some may have success by writing to publishers and putting themselves forward as suitable candidates, others might find themselves falling into the job after being asked to fill in for a temporary maternity period, and then prove themselves a valuable asset.
As far as necessary skills and education are concerned, a degree in Literature or English – preferably both – as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of both classical and contemporary literature/novelists is a must. As is an almost unlimited degree of patience, as well as a knack to know when to give up and when to battle on and persevere with a writer’s work. In order to be both fast and fair, slush-pile readers must also, naturally, be gifted in the art of reading and comprehension, often under the pressure of a pile of manuscripts on the desk, as well as able to scan vast numbers of pages quickly in order to reasonably ascertain whether or not it is worth taking on. After all, it is up to you to decide who might go forth to become the literary star of tomorrow; the voice which may go on to become the hero or heroin of no less than an entire generation.
Overall, the slush-pile reader – or publisher’s eyes and ears as they would understandably rather be known – will experience good weeks and bad weeks, but with this job no two days are ever the same. You might be reading a historical drama one day, only to be laughing at the exploits of a futuristic hero the next. And above the frustration in the lean times is always the prospect of potential greatness, a chance that the next big thing could arrive on your desk at any minute!


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