Our old buddy Dan Callahan sent me a link to this Wall Street Journal article last week, entitled "The Death of the Slush Pile". It paints a pretty bleak picture.
Getting plucked from the slush pile was always a long shot—in large part, editors and Hollywood development executives say, because most unsolicited material has gone unsolicited for good reason. But it did happen for some: Philip Roth, Anne Frank, Judith Guest. And so to legions of would-be novelists, journalists and screenwriters—not to mention "D-girls" and "manuscripts girls" from Hollywood to New York who held the hope that finding a gem might catapult them from entry level to expense account—the slush pile represented The Dream.
Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won't read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.
I bring this up not to scare you, but to remind you of the importance of networking. Even if the old-style slush piles are on their way out, there's still the "screened" slush pile, which is my term for all the scripts that make their way to me through favors and personal connections that have been cashed in with agents and producers.
The days of sending out a script and waiting for it to get you discovered are gone. You need to be your own advocate, essentially being your aggressive agent before you have an agent.