Inroads for the Electronic Slush Pile
That's a relatively high percentage, especially when many publishers won't accept unsolicited manuscripts at all. The company credits their electronic slush pile for its ability to efficiently process manuscripts, and deliver faster-than-usual response time to writers.
Poisoned Pen Press's electronic slush pile is processed in three stages. The initial readers review only the first three chapters of a slush pile book. Those initial chapters are sent to two or three people, to minimize the impact of a reader who likes or dislikes a certain kind of story.
To accomplish this, the office staff saves the manuscript, usually submitted in a word processing format, as a PDF file. The PDF file is then e-mailed to the readers who are spread across several U.S. states and even a few countries.
"PDF is the easiest format for our readers to cope with," says Robert Rosenwald, publisher and president of Poisoned Pen Press. "We don't have to worry about formatting differences, and we know the readers can read the file no matter what kind of computer they use."
The initial readers' responses are collected. If the initial chapters meet their approval, the publisher might ask the author to electronically submit the rest of the manuscript. Two different readers then review the entire book, this time on paper.
"If the first set of readers like the story, we print out the paper version and send it off to two other readers," Rosenwald says. "They need to read the whole book, and doing that on-screen would be too much."
Assuming the second group of readers likes the entire manuscript, the last hurdle is approval by Poisoned Pen Press's senior editor, Barbara Peters. A high ratio of rejects in the first phase, says Rosenwald, means the only books to see a printed page are those being seriously considered for publication.