The publishing world is divided between those who have read the slush pile and those who have not. If you have, then you can understand some of the cynicism and jaded eyes you see behind the glasses of an editor or an agent.
If you have not, then it is difficult to comprehend the unbelievable variety of ideas that can cross our desks. Let me provide you with some recent examples but with a huge caveat. I am not mocking these writers. I’m using them, as a teacher would, as an example of what not to send to an agent. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the writers who create these ideas. In fact I’m impressed with anyone willing to put their ideas out on display. I’m not sure I could ever have that much self-confidence in my own work. I only wish some would spend a little more time to determine if their project is a good fit for a particular agency and learn how to best write a quality pitch (and not overstate their case).
So, with that disclaimer in place…..
- A proposal for a book of poems to read to your dog. The book will “help dogs feel more loved and more understood.”
- A phone call from a fellow who wants an agent for his novel, his screenplay, and his non-fiction books. He said I had to go to his site to see what he had to offer, I replied that I prefer he go to mine first and follow the guidelines. We agreed to disagree… Afterwards, out of curiosity, I visited the site and discovered conspiracy theory material and advocacy for the legalization of marijuana.
- Cover letter proclaims that the book’s, “… real author is the Holy Spirit… The book could come next to the Holy Scripture in terms of divine authorship.”
- A novel that is “made up of multiple lessons and experiences…layer upon layer of actions, emotions and moments…woven together to create an indelible legacy…” (in a long run-on sentence.)
- A non-fiction study revealing that Moses was Satan in disguise. According to the author, Moses was “the worst serial killer in recorded history.”
- A letter addressed to The Steve Laub Agency (misspelled my last name)…and then the salutation of the letter began: Dear Mr. Fugate
- A book titled Cosmic [expletive deleted] described that it “has the audacity to speak the truth. It says, ignore all the [expletive deleted] , believe in your dreams and do what you love– it WILL work out! It is as fearless and fun as it is comforting and inspirational.”
- A book with a subtitle: Actual Raw Photography of Fairies, Gnomes and More
- Opening line from a query letter: “Imagine a combination of a romance by Danielle Steele, an epic novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, and an action novel by Nelson DeMille.”
- An email that reads in its entirety: “I got your email from your website. I have finished a book and am looking for publishing. I can be reached on email as well. Thank you so much.”
- In the body of a query letter: “Not since the LEFT BEHIND series has the subject of Christ’s Second Coming been so engagingly addressed. Not since THE SHACK have spiritual themes been so articulately conveyed.”
- Letter begins with, “Before my first psychotic break….”
- Book “based on true experiences” with a subtitle of “Eye floaters as shining structure of consciousness.”
There you have it. A sample of some of the more exotic pieces that have recently crossed my desk.
[UPDATE: Three hours after posting this blog I received a phone call that would have made it on the list if it had come earlier. Person on the phone wonders if we represent memoirs. Why? Because this one is special, caller claims, because caller believes that he/she is the actual person/woman found in Revelation chapter 12. This new development has brought understanding to the caller's experiences with UFOs...and the caller's UFO support group concurs.]
Read these excellent articles about “The Slush Pile”
Laura Miller “When Anyone Can be a Published Author” – Salon Magazine
Rachelle Gardner “Why Oh Why Did I Get Rejected?”
Rachel Funari “Escaping the Slush Pile”
Katherine Rosman “The Death of the Slush Pile”
The Rejectionist “A Good Author is Hard to Find”