The 2023 Women in Publishing Summit featured what's known as a slush fest. The word slush refers to the slush pile of submitted manuscripts on an editor or agent's desk, usually sorted through by an assistant, with the most promising ones forwarded for further consideration.
What is a slush fest, anyway? It’s an opportunity to have a first page read and critiqued by agents! Slush Fest at the 2023 Women in Publishing Summit was a rare gift for writers in attendance.
When an editor looks at a manuscript to critique, the focus is on the positive aspects of it with suggestions for improvement. It’s a work in progress.
When a literary agent looks at a manuscript to decide if a traditional publishing house will take up the book, the criteria is different. This is important for a writer to know. The standard process is to submit to a literary agent and either receive interest or a standard rejection, similar to “This book is not something I can represent.” Most times there’s no feedback beyond that, leaving the writer to try again pitching to someone else.
In a perfect world with unlimited time, feedback on the writing from the literary agent would be golden. The writer would learn what improvement their writing needs for it to be a better fit with what publishers want. This is what the Slush Fest gave to those whose pages were read, but all of us learned from the feedback given to others, and by witnessing each agent’s process while listening to their advice.
Prior to the session those who wanted to take part sent the first page of a manuscript they intend to pitch to an agent or publisher without identification on it to allow for a blind read.
At the Slush Fest, Women in Publishing Summit founder Alexa Bigwarfe read aloud as many first page submissions as time permitted to the four agents.
Kelly Thomas, Serendipity Literary Agency; Amy Collins, Talcott Notch Literary Services; Michelle Lazurek, WordWise Media Services; and Quantrilla Ard, Embolden Media Group would raise their hand to stop reading if not interested. Once all four hands were raised, Alexa would stop reading, regardless of whether she was finished with the page.
What a valuable insight into the reality of the writing profession!
If a writer loses an agent’s interest after a few lines, the agent won’t represent that manuscript. It’s not nasty. It’s the nature of the business with so little time, and so many manuscripts.
What was so spectacular about this slush fest was the honesty each agent shared about each page! Sometimes they all agreed. Sometimes they didn’t. That’s what happens when sending to agents, and why one rejection doesn’t stop us from writing. We submit to different agents until the author, manuscript, and agent connect to find that perfect fit.
Yes, it’s subjective, however, the feedback at the slush fest was exceptional and served to help us better understand the publishing industry. One agent asking to connect later with one author gave confirmation that literary agents do not reject everyone, providing a testament to the need for persistence.
An important point I learned early in my writing career is that a rejection of my writing is not a rejection of me as a writer. We need to keep our ego out of it, learn what needs improvement, and work on our craft to incorporate any feedback we’re fortunate to get. We keep on writing.
Too much gatekeeping? Probably, but that’s the reality of traditional publishing.
The option to do it on your own, hiring the professionals you need to self-publish a quality book, is always there to choose to reach your audience. It took years of my taking part at conferences in their “speed dating” version of meeting with literary agents to help me decide. One-on-one with enough of them giving me the same feedback confirmed to me that my book idea wasn’t big enough from its regional perspective to generate the amount of sales traditional publishing expected.
No one even looked at the writing, dismissing it on concept alone. With a local audience asking for the book, a passion project of mine, I determined it would never happen if I continued on the traditional route, so I self-published. I believed it could go beyond a local history audience with its conversational approach to the history tied to what was going on in the world that interacted with Tottenville.
Two reviews on Amazon from sales in the United Kingdom that showed interest in looking at the 17th Century from an American point of view confirmed that for me.
So much for only people living in Tottenville being able to find value in my book!
Thank you, Alexa Bigwarfe, for giving us this valuable peek inside the making of these gatekeeping decisions not easily accessible to writers, and to the participating agents for giving of their time to share such valuable feedback.
Angie Mangino is the author of 17th Century Tottenville History Comes Alive, the first in a series on the history of Tottenville. Having lived in Tottenville since 1978, the Council on the Arts & Humanities Staten Island awarded a grant to her in 1999 to research the history of Tottenville to conduct an interactive workshop in the community. Her book series on Tottenville History stems from this research and information garnered from the community to offer a conversational look at the history and its wider reaching significance. https://angiemangino.com/
Woohoo, the book is finally done! What a fantastic accomplishment!. You’re feeling good. But then, you start to wonder what comes next. What do you do after you’ve finished your first draft?
Our friends at ProWritingAid have the perfect solution for you… before you go to an editor, you’re going to want to spend time revising your book. And you might (okay, unless you are a professional, you WILL) need some help and guidance along the way.
As you go through this process, the book will change and evolve. You’ll work hard to get the book to a final product that can be seen by the public.
Editing Your Book Alone
This is never our suggested route. Even professional editors need an editor. If Stephen King still has a professional editor, then we all need to make sure we’ve had our book at least line edited. But… before you try to send it off to an editor (or even beta readers), you’re going to want to do some self-editing. And you know what tool is phenomenal for self-editing? You betcha. ProWritingAid.
Using Software to Edit Your Book
Editing software like ProWritingAid can help you improve your manuscript significantly before sending it off, saving you both time and money. An editing software can help you identify where you need to make improvements in your manuscript. The software can also give you suggestions for the changes you need to make.
And we have a great opportunity for you to get some tips directly from their lead content writer on revising and self-editing your manuscript.
After you’ve finished the self-editing process, then it’s time to bring in the professional editor. If you’ve done a thorough job in your revising, this will be far less painful, both on your heart and your wallet.
Be sure check out our ProWritingAid webinar on revising! Even if you’re not quite ready for that stage, it’s always good to be prepared for when the time arrives.
As writers, we can easily spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on tools, programs and more that we hope will help us in our craft. Heaven knows, I have spent countless dollars myself. I really wish I had a list like the one I'm about to share below, which is not only carefully curated but all are discounted for Black Friday, including my own course, Grow Your Author Platform.
I do want to note that I'm an affiliate for some of these products and programs, but I don't promote anything that I don't think is a good fit for my readers, and some of these tools I use myself!
If you missed out on getting a discounted ProWritingAid license during the 2020 Women in Publishing Summit, you're in luck because ProWritingAid is first on our list! ProWritingAid created their software based on the same ideas you would learn in a university writing course. The software addresses readability issues such as passive and hidden verbs, over-reliance on adverbs, repeated sentence starts, emotional tells and much more. These suggestions are the same as a professional copyeditor would give you (in fact many of them use ProWritingAid). By tightening your text upfront, your editor will be able to focus on the more important aspects of your work, such as tone of voice, narrative and character development. You’ll get a more polished piece of writing as a reward. Valid from 11/23 – 11/30.
(25% off a 1-year license or 50% off a lifetime license)
Instagram for Authors is a power packed course providing authors with all the tools they need to successfully use Instagram to Market and sell their books. Since implementing these strategies, our authors have been selling FOUR TIMES as many books at launch. We've been thrilled to see the results that our efforts have taken. Led by our IG strategist, this course is power-packed with all the tools you need to start and grow your Instagram account, as well as how to sell a ton of books at launch. DO NOT MISS IT!.
Write|Publish|Sell is dedicated to helping authors write, publish, and sell their books in the most professional way. We offer a variety of courses, coaching/consulting, done for you services and boutique publishing. Our company provides a unique experience, in that we have worked with authors through all stages of book creation and marketing, as well as through all routes to publishing. Alexa Bigwarfe brings with her the knowledge of running 3 of her own publishing houses, in addition to the Write|Publish|Sell business.
The Women in Publishing Summit is a week-long conference that provides resources and training to authors across all facets of writing, publishing, marketing, and author development. Made by women, for women, the conference not only delivers incredible content, we celebrate the achievements of women in the industry. Our sponsors provide incredible discounts and opportunities as well to our participants, to help them in the process. Sale ends 11/30.
Editing a manuscript is a big undertaking, both intellectually and emotionally. Being thorough can be difficult and time-consuming, but the creative story editing process always pays off. Fictionary StoryTeller makes editing easier by applying universal storytelling structures to each and every scene. Evaluate and revise your manuscript against 38 Fictionary Story Elements to tell a powerful story readers will naturally connect with. StoryTeller automatically creates powerful visuals by analyzing your manuscript from start to finish. Insights such as the Story Arc provide a 30,000-foot view of your manuscript and quickly highlight structural areas that need improvement.
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Are you concerned or confused about ALL the STEPS, timelines, and things you need to know about publishing your book? Well, don’t worry anymore! We’ve got you! This incredibly valuable product will provide all of the things you need to know to professionally publish your book, as well as the checklists and timelines to make sure you’re doing it in the right order and timeline. Plus, there are a ton of great bonuses! Publish Like A Pro is the answer to your publishing woes!
Ads Extravaganza from our friend, Kirsten Oliphant of Create If Writing podcast. For FICTION AUTHORS. This is a comprehensive look at ads that advertising tools for authors. Not just Facebook Ads or Amazon ads, not just about sales copywriting, etc, it's about all of it. We've gotten a behind the scenes sneak peak, and let me tell you, I'm impressed…
This self-led course is for you if:
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The Freelance Writers Den is the online community where freelance writers learn how to grow their income — fast. Freelance Writers Den is the premier online resource for writers looking to launch and build lucrative freelance writing careers. Members have full access to the Den’s archive of over 300 hours of trainings. Other member benefits include: Find an accountability buddy Contract templates for freelancing Pitch examples and writing reviews to get gigs Monthly new live events to build your skills 24/7 online forums with peers and experts Access to our exclusive Junk-Free Job Board Discounts and priority access to coaching Discounts on full participation in our 3-4 bootcamps with pro writer presenters each year Be part of our active community of 1,300+ writers – avoid scams and know what to bid on writing jobs To sum up, the Den is the best value in online learning for freelance writers! Whether you need to learn better-paying types of writing or to hone your marketing chops, the Den has the training you need. Offer valid 11/24-11/30
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Novlr is built by writers for writers, and is constantly in development – adding the features and changes that our writers tell us they need. It is the choice of writing tool for over 50,000 authors, chosen for its sharp, intuitive writing interface, its ease of use and because they can access it from any device, wherever they are in the world. Novlr has a distraction-free writing interface with a focus mode to remove all but the words; and day, evening and night modes to make sure it's easy on the eyes, no matter when you write. Novlr has a free in-app writing course included for those looking to learn something new, freshen up, or get ideas. And has powerful editing tools – powered by Pro-Writing Aid – for those already at the editing stage. Whatever stage you are in planning, writing or editing your novel – Novlr will help you do it better. Offer valid 11/23-11/30
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There’s a reason why so many successful writers use MasterWriter. It is simply the most powerful suite of writing tools ever assembled in one program. Why struggle to find the right word or phrase, when you can have all the possibilities in an instant? MasterWriter gives you Word Families, Phrases, Synonyms, Pop Culture, Rhymes, Definitions, a searchable Bible and Figures of Speech (Metaphors, Similes, Onomatopoeia, Idioms, Oxymorons, Allusions, Alliterations and Intensifiers, a one-of-a-kind source of intense descriptive words).
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SelfPubCon, the Self-Publishing Advice Conference, is run in association with the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and runs twice a year in March and October, featuring the cream of self-publishing authors and advisors. The access passes give six-month or lifetime access to an extensive conference archive featuring self-publishing advisors like Michael Anderlé, Mark Dawson, Ricardo Fayet, Joanna Penn, Orna Ross and 100+ more.
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Teaching students how to write well involved sharing incremental and manageable micro-steps or risk seeing them sink into a vast bin of hopelessness while staring at a blank sheet of paper clutching a sweaty pencil. I had to trick them into thinking writing was fun and easy. The writing process began with a fun and engaging activity – gathering words. Now retired, and a published author, this pre-write method is still a useful tool.
Every piece of writing inhabits a linguistic atmosphere. Knowing the word environment or content-area words associated with a subject keeps me focused on the big idea. Subject-matter triggers help me decide what to include or exclude in the final product. The quality and quantity of my word bank dictates its usefulness. An excellent word environment naturally produces parameters in which to write, edit, and revise a poem, story, or news article. For me, the word bank supports a formidable liaison between content and delivery.
To prepare for writing Mini Solja Stands on the Shoulders of Giants, I read, skimmed, and scanned black history books to gather words and terms from each decade dating back to 1619. Documentaries, speakers, primary source documents, and museums added to what I already knew about the subject. It was essential to include famous and noteworthy black Americans of distinction. My list of people, places, things, dates, times, and colloquial expressions influenced the outline. Taking stock of the manuscript’s goal through creating a word bank supplied a self-assessment: What did I know, want to know, and learned? What did this subject look like, feel like, sound like, smell like, and taste like? I compared this activity to setting the stage for a play, fertilizing a garden, eating an appetizer before dinner, or warming up before a yoga class. See it this way:
You are creating a reservoir of ideas from an ocean of suggestions related to your subject, theme, title, content-area, or focus.
THE IMPACT OF WORD GATHERING
Because Mini Solja Stands on the Shoulders of Giants was a poetry book with informational and literary elements, the word environment that I created during this pre-write process came in handy when collaborating with my editor. Every printed word dictated a promise to deliver a message of hope, remembrance, and homage to book lovers reading on multiple grade levels. Achieving suitable readability was an ambitious task. Bottom line, were the words generated from my word bank during the pre-write process dynamic, specific, timely, useful, effective, and historically relevant enough to convey the message I would later generate during the writing process? In this sense, the list was not static. It ebbed and flowed as new information became critical to the final product. I organized my words, knowing that the economy of words and ideas was crucial to the quality of the final product. I often swapped, threw out, re-purposed, recycled, or retired certain words depending on how my project progressed.
In short, spending time creating a word bank saved me time, supplied a world of ideas and possibilities from which to draw on, and served in helping to refine my focus.
Remember Yesterday's Giants Cherish Today's Giants Honor the Giant Within You. A teenage boy named Mini T. Solja learns an important lesson about his rich heritage from his grandfather. MINI SOLJA STANDS ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS is a lyrical coming-of-age conversation. This poetic snapshot highlights the stellar history of Black Americans and pays homage to our ancestral struggle and triumphs. Enjoy this timely, engaging, and enlightening book. Additional resources include a list of famous Black Americans and a directory of Black museums.
Renay Intisar Jihad was born in New Haven, Connecticut, where exposure to the arts was as natural as breathing. Serving as a literacy coach for eight, of the thirty years in teaching allowed her to support new teachers, write curriculum, and share resources. Scarves and Bandanas and The Day Josef Found His Pride were short-run publications tailored to the needs and interests of her students. Renay is the recipient of the Global Educator of the Year and a Teaching Tolerance Award. After she earned her National Board Certification, the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) recognized her as one of twenty NBCTs at that time. A Fulbright-Hays scholarship enabled her to travel to Kenya and Tanzania. Other education-related travel opportunities to China, Egypt, Morocco, the Caribbean, and Thailand helped enhance her teaching and writing curriculum. A Michael Jordan Fundamentals grant enabled Mrs. Jihad to produce a book of children’s poems entitled The Many Faces of Poetry. Her sixth-grade students authored original poems, art, and short stories inspired by personal experiences. In the Many Faces of Love, Jihad penned a poem for each of her one-hundred and ten students to honor their unique gifts. Now she contributes to the AF-Am POV (African American Point of View) and the Muslim Journal. Learn more at https://www.renayspace.com/
We had another great webinar this week, this time with AJ Ogilvie, of ProWritingAid. AJ and Alexa talked about creating clarity in writing and making your writing reader-centric. You can watch the replay at https://youtu.be/Y0AIq123oRU. Be sure to read to the bottom of this post to grab the time-sensitive discount from ProWritingAid, especially for WIP readers!
AJ Ogilvie is a professor of business communication at the University of Southern California. He has taught business communication, consulting, writing, and literature courses for over ten years, and has published research on the theories of teaching, learning and communication.
In this webinar you will learn:
How to craft sentences that produce clarity for readers
How to effectively organize information for readers
How to create writing that provides a fluid and low-effort reading experience for your audience
How to use ProWritingAid towards the goal of clarity in your writing
Consider Your WHY
What are you writing? Your genre will determine your goals and answer the WHY of your writing. If you are writing fiction and creative non-fiction, your motivation is to get your readers to FEEL something. If you are writing for business, your motivation is to persuade and inspire action of some sort.
AJ described two kinds of clarity:
Global clarity is the overall organization of your writing that keeps the reader on a clear path from the beginning to the end.
Local clarity is your word choice, composition, and the ability for the reader to keep pace with you as the author.
These two types of clarity work with each other to make up a coherent and easy experience for the reader.
The Five Principles of Clarity
Your subjects and verbs are the big actors and actions of the text.
On a sentence level, the subject and verb go at the beginning of the sentence.
Keep your subject and verb close together.
Keep your text reader-centric by keeping your subjects to a minimum.
Sentences should be linked logically.
In the video, AJ dives deeper into these five principles of clarity in writing. This is a true masterclass in refining your writing at the sentence and word level, a skill that many writers struggle with during the editing process. He also does a live demo of how this process looks in ProWritingAid, so be sure to head over to our webinars page to view the replay.
ProWritingAid is offering a 50% discount off a ProWritingAid license. Just go to https://womeninpublishingsummit.com/pwa, navigate to the pricing tab and use code WPS2050. Be sure to enter the code into the coupon code box beneath the pricing tables to update the pricing shown. This coupon code is valid for 48 hours, so jump on it now.