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New interviews are being scheduled. Watch this space for details.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

19 Lisa Mangum: Slush Pile Dos and Donts

Lisa Mangum was our first editor guest. That's okay, though, because she's also the award-winning author of THE HOURGLASS DOOR, THE GOLDEN SPIRAL, and THE FORGOTTEN LOCKET. We talked to her tonight about her decade wading through the slush pile for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain, where she still works as an Assistant Editor (with her own Editor's Assistant!).

She broke her advice down into ten simple tips regarding what we can and can't control about the publishing industry:

Five Things You CAN'T Control:

  1. Publishing is a Business
    • Publishers want a book they can sell to hundreds of thousands of people--not just your mother and your neighbor
    • Authors who aren't willing to be business-like make it easier for the publisher to take a pass on their book
  2. The number of manuscripts submitted in a given year
    • At Deseret Book, out of over 2000 yearly submissions, they will only publish around four
    • 80% of those submissions aren't ready for publication
    • 30-40% of those that aren't ready didn't follow the guidelines
  3. The number of available slots a publisher has for new writers
    • Lisa has seen a debut author published every year she has worked for Deseret Book
    • If a publisher doesn't have room for a book, they can't publish it even if they love it
  4. Other submitted manuscripts that are similar to yours
    • If they get four books on Themes in the Book of Revelation, they can only publish one
    • They will publish the one that they like best
  5. An editor's mood
    • Lisa tries to do her critical work in the morning or after lunch
    • Don't put the editor in a bad mood by making your manuscript hard to get to
Five Things You CAN Control:
  1. Do your homework
  2. Follow the posted guidelines
    • See above
  3. Write a killer cover/query letter
    • Don't say "This is the next...."--Editors want the first book in a new trend.
    • Be authentic, professional, and memorable
    • Include the hook: what is the price of failure?
  4. Showcase your talent
    • Write what you're passionate about
    • Let your strength show in your cover/query letter
  5. Deal with rejection
    • You can let rejection stop you in your tracks or you can get over it and get on with your life
    • Remember that you can't get out of the slush pile unless you are IN the slush pile
Hear all of Lisa's awesome advice by accessing the MP3 here, or listening to the recording below.


  1. No. 3 "Don't say this is the next.." is iffy. Seems to me, Publisher like to play it safe with what they think readers want. They're reluctant to try something outside the box--something edgy.

  2. Marilyn--she explains that better on the call. You're right that they want what readers want (otherwise what's the point?), but she was really talking about not following trends. Right now dystopian is really huge, but saying this is "the next big dystopian" might not help you because, in the two years it will take to get your book out, dystopian is likely to fall out of favor with readers.

    Plus, I think they'll try edgy if it is well-written. The edgier it is, though, the better the writing, plot, characterization, etc, needs to be, to compensate.

  3. Robin,

    As always an excellent interview. Thanks having Lisa on the call. Now Shadow Mountain is on my radar for submissions.

    -- david j.


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