Here’s the worst-kept secret of publishing. No editor wants to read your manuscript. They want to read manuscripts, but they probably don’t want to read yours specifically. At a panel discussion between publishers and book reviewers at the Hay Festival, Dhaka, almost everyone admitted candidly that the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts was their single-biggest source of despair. Even though there is no escaping the slush pile.

What can a writer looking for a break do, then? How to get on the radar screens of the people who decide what books to publish? Here are a few suggestions. All based on real-life testimonies and incidents.

11. Try to be handsome or pretty (but not both). One publisher says she met a beautiful young woman over cornflakes at a literary festival and signed her up for her novel. A book critic is convinced that Karl Ove Knausgård’s six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle is all the rage in the US because he’s hot and irresistible. "I’d have liked to see whether he’d have been published if he’d been homely," she muttered.

10. Get an agent. Most publishers don’t like reading purely unsolicited manuscripts, although they have to sometimes because agents in India cannot offer enough books. But going through an agent will improve the chances of your manuscript being read. At least, skim-read. At least, glanced at. At least, not deleted.

9. Get an agent with a sense of humour and the ability to write personalised e-mail. Publishers and editors like agents who know their tastes and can send them the right books, with the right degree of humour to break down their defences against YET ANOTHER NOVEL THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.

8. Most editors read manuscripts on their kindles or iPads. Take the trouble to format your manuscript in a way that makes it easier to read on an e-reader or tablet. All other things being equal, this could actually make the difference between attracting some attention and remaining in the slush pile for ever.

7. Sending your manuscript as an e-mail attachment will not improve your chances of being read. Everyone does that. Publishers complain ceaselessly of their electronic slush piles. Moreover, email is sometimes easier to ignore than an actual physical manuscript lying in a corner of the room.

6. Send the first 50 pages of your manuscript in physical form, neatly bound, so that an editor might actually find it easy to read it. Add your email ID. If she loves it, she will mail you for the rest, guaranteed. And she’ll like your thoughtfulness for not weighing her down even more.

5. Don’t get an agent. But find a clever way to get your manuscript to a publisher or editor. A publisher from London says she has had manuscripts slipped in beneath her hotel door, one page at a time. (She hasn’t said whether she read it, though.) Catching an editor’s attention is often half the game won.

4. Never go up to an editor at a book launch or publishing party ‒ heck, any party ‒ to tell her you have a novel you’re looking to publish. Her eyes will glaze over at once. Be the interesting person that you are (you’re not? too bad!) and make a friend of an editor instead. Some day, you might be able to embarrass her into reading your manuscript.

3. Do. Not. Write. Email. Asking. Whether. A. Publisher. Has. Read. The. Manuscript. You. Sent. This. Morning. Here’s the thing: publishers have to publish books. They’re looking for new books. They’re not looking for ways to run away from new books. But they are the ones who will decide, on the basis of whether they like your book or not, and not on the strength of your nagging. In fact, e-nagging has been known to ruin the chances of perfectly good manuscripts.

2. Do not stalk publishers and editors on Twitter or Facebook, asking whether they’ve read your manuscript. Don’t even like their posts or retweet them smarmily. Maintain a dignified distance.

1. And here’s the Number One tip. Write a fantastic novel. Nothing can ‒ or should ‒ happen without this.