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In publishing, a slush pile is a set of unsolicited query letters or manuscripts that have either been directly sent to a publisher by an author, or which have been delivered via a literary agent representing the author who may or may not be familiar to the publisher. The responsibility of sifting through slush piles is usually reserved either to editor assistants or for outside contractors called publisher's readers or "first readers". If the reader finds something of interest and can convince a senior editor to run it, they may earn credit.
Most agents and major publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and slush piles are on average usually regarded as undesirable in many literary circles due to the large number of both aspiring and former writers who often produce content of unsatisfactory quality. However, this is not always the case with many smaller publishers or independent editors who are often open both to inexperienced writers as well as formerly established writers--both of whom may be able to create original content for the publisher and potentially turn a profit.
In 2008 HarperCollins introduced a website, authonomy, to manage and exploit the slush pile from a web-based perspective. Website Youwriteon also acts as a slush pile filter for Random House, Orion Publishing Group and Bloomsbury Publishing.