Hope In The Slush by Callie Deitrick

If you have written a book or a proposal, let me start by offering you my congratulations! Writing a book is no small feat and even the most experienced of authors struggle with the process. But, now, as I’m sure you know, comes another daunting challenge: the slush pile. Unless you have an inside connection, it is likely that you will be sending your work through an unforgiving email portal from which you may never hear back. This is, no doubt, quite frightening and often discouraging.

Depending on the agency, the slush pile might get tens or hundreds of new manuscript pitches and proposals a day. Since agents are already pressed for time, the importance of making your submission stand out at a quick glance goes without saying.

While the odds may seem unfavorable, I am here to tell you that they are not impossible. This past April when I was reading through the slush, I found a nonfiction proposal that immediately caught my attention. The letter was crisp, the book had a clever hook, and the author had exceptional credentials. We immediately reached out to the author, who was also being courted by other agents, and we successfully signed her shortly thereafter. After a few weeks of revising with the author, we sent the proposal to a carefully selected group of editors. Enthusiastic responses led to multiple meetings. In the end, the book was sold for six-figures! From start to finish, we sold the book in just 10 weeks.

If you send us a well-crafted letter and show that you’ve done your research, and present yourself and your project in a compelling way, I guarantee that your submission is already better than many of the submissions agencies receive. Emails that come to the slush often exhibit minimal effort in following our guidelines or researching our agency. Know your customer (us!) and what we are looking for. We frequently see wild conspiracy theories, genres we clearly state we don’t represent, and even the occasional scam (one scam tried to blackmail us into paying them in Bitcoin), so I promise that if you put the time and energy in, you will be carefully considered.

Try not to get discouraged. Just because you don’t hear back from one agency doesn’t mean that your book will never get sold. Agents want to find great material in the slush as much as you want to find a great agent. Trust the process and know that when you find the right agent it will all be worth it.

-Callie

Why We Read For Love by Kelli Martin

I’m obsessed with love. I always have been. When I was younger, I would have these big, all-encompassing crushes. I’d crush on Sodapop, Dallas and Johnny in The Outsiders. Authors R. L. Stine and Lois Duncan novels made me feel like suspense could happen right next door – and I loved that roller coaster feeling of closeness, of anticipation! Donna Tartt’s The Secret History awakened my fascination with how obsessive and consuming the dark side of love and friendship can be. Sidney Sheldon novels made me go gaga over lone female protagonists who glued the cracks in their souls back together. Sweet Valley High novels made me addicted to first love and new love, with all its butterflies and tingles.

Now, as an adult, I still crush a lot. The objects of my affection: yes, still books and their characters…but also their authors.

As literary agents at WSA, we have our own distinct journey of love. We see tremendous potential in the authors we work with. We have a vision for their current work, and in the stories they haven’t even created yet. As we get to know the authors we work with, we experience a mutual fondness, we see a bond coming to life. Agents and authors choose one another. We are devoted to one another. We see our dreams coming true with one another.  

As readers, it’s often a dance, a flirtation, the way a book comes into our lives. We may be instantly drawn to a book or we may stumble into a book. The end result is that we fall for books – fall in love with books – in mysterious, layered and surprising ways. We turn to books for so many reasons: sometimes out of a need for comfort and reassurance, a longing for connection and understanding, a desire to discover and learn, for companionship or direction, a chance to escape, or hope for a better future. And sometimes we read because we want to be absorbed – surrounded by this rich world that the author has so lovingly created. Whatever the reason that gets us reading, books offer a unique type of love that is as individual as it is universal.

It’s a vicarious thrill this reading is. The love of a good book sees something in us, something special, and so we cherish it right back. The love of a good book makes us want to shout about it from the rooftops; we want to share it, talk about it, dig deeper into it, get to know it, hold on to it, even relive it. And if there are some sentences that we may never understand, we accept that. And we will never, ever let that book go. That’s how we show our love.

Why do we read? Because it’s how we show our love for the world, for the book, for the author, for each other, and for ourselves. And that kind of love is tender and sturdy and beautiful.

-Kelli