Diamonds in the Slush

I’m going to tell you the story of a story. Not of how the story began, because that is the domain of the author. I want to talk about how the story becomes a book; an object and so much more than that. It all starts with the slush pile, or the submissions list.

The small press submissions list is a place of new beginnings, where first time authors might find themselves picked up and finally offered publication. It’s a wondrous place, filled with both incredible stories and also a lot of passionate writers. They don’t always hit their mark or their words aren’t always for us, but when we find those stories that are “it”, there’s nothing better. It’s an affirmation of what we do, as people bound to the publishing trade. After all, we are passionate readers and writers, and passionate publishers (even if only budding) too. The distinction between a manuscript and a book is an important one, but there are those manuscripts that break the line; that appear as if already bound and printed.

On my first day in the intern job, I was deep in the submissions list. I want to tell you about a manuscript I found that day. I was expecting to find some flaws or a reason why I shouldn’t suggest it for publication. Honestly, I was new at this and I thought that I might come across as naïve if I recommended anything. Half an hour later, I was raving mad. I sent off for the rest of the manuscript. I needed more. There had to be some way in which the first four chapters had overpromised, I thought. The new intern could not have found such a gem on the first day.

But I had.

The whole manuscript arrived. Sure, it had a few things that needed tightening. I scribbled a few notes in places where changes were needed. But it was good. I wanted to write up an acquisitions proposal immediately. But I waited. I again feared that I was being naïve. That there was no way this book was as good as I thought. I re-read bits here and there over a week and my conviction grew: I’d found a brilliant book, not in a book store, but earlier than that. It was like when Harry received a Weasley jumper for his first Christmas at Hogwarts.

I went on to lay out a tentative publishing strategy, mock up a few ideas for the cover and then, finally, I got to edit the book. Yep, me. Editing. A real book. As an intern, this was a big thing for me. This was the first full manuscript edit I ever got to do and this will always be an important book to me, because it was the first that I believed in before I saw it in a bookstore.

We’re publishing it this September, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. For those curious, it’s Hero by Belinda Crawford and thoughts of publication day are giving me butterflies.

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