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Condemned to the Slushpile

21 April, 2015
nasty slushpilejpg


It was hard to believe some of the entries were legit in the book, Something Nasty in the Slushpile: How not to get published. The Web provides so much information about writing and submitting a book proposal.  So I thought employees working in the publisher’s slushpile would no longer find anything odd.

I was wrong, as shown by this book’s many examples of writers’ failed attempts to interest a publisher. E.g.:

  • Asking which of three book ideas the publisher would like to publish first ‘so I can allocate my time most efficiently.’
  • Asserting that having no previous writing experience is not a drawback because the manuscript is ‘written basically from my own experiences [so] it will be uniquely a one-off.’
  • Explaining that with 15 books written and  22 more planned, ‘over time I will be as celebrated as J.K. Rowling, so it’s going to be in your best interests to sign me up right now.’
  • Assuring that this first book will be a success because ‘the collective unconscious is currently ready to receive it warmly.’
  • Admitting to having never  tried writing a book before, but now ‘I really am going to give this a go . . . . ‘
  • Enclosing 30 pages of a novel, plus this comment: ’Before you start, I should warn you that it is no great literary masterpiece or creative magnus opus.’
  • Suggesting another person’s book idea, e.g., a grandparent describing a grandson’s ‘riveting’ emails, written during his gap year (a year of travel, between high school and university or job).

Make a positive first impression

  • Would you like to join me on my journey to hell and back?
  • I proudly hereby submit a PowerPoint presentation of my first book.
  • You’ll be pleased to hear that . . . in . . . paperback format, this book [will have] 57,691 words, 34 tables, 95 figures, front and back jacket, total 354 pages.
  • . . . I will need use a text editor [because] my English is not very ideal. There is work to do. But brilliant stories will always shine.

Even worse

  • The submission arrives in a parcel wrapped in plastic, sealed with duct tape and covered with information about security checks. It contains a book proposal, spiral-bound and wrapped in both cardboard and sheets of tracing paper. Title: On the Brink: Five steps to madness.
  • Inside a large envelope are five supermarket plastic bags, each tied in a triple knot, plus the bags are bound together by an elastic band. After untying all the bags, staff find a cover letter, put together as a collage.

Be credible and professional

  • If it would expedite matters, I’ll supply a CV—although it’s not going to be utterly truthful for reasons that will be obvious from my submission synopsis, which I admit isn’t very informative.
  • . . . I have a great deal of experience as a reader and . . . have paid good money for books that turned out to be considerably worse than the one I would like you to consider . . . .
  • I have a rickety past. I lived life; indeed, I still do.
  • . . . I already have other ideas for other future books. All I will tell you at this stage is that the name of the next book begins with the Letter S.

Explain the unique selling point

  • This is . . . the greatest story ever told, and if you don’t . . . want to publish it you’ll eternally rue the day you turned it down.
  • If . . . forced to compare it to some other book . . . I would say it could be similar to Eat, Pray, Love . . . but it’s much, much better.

Identify the readership 

  • My cookery book is designed for anyone interested in food or eating.
  • This topic . . . is now crucial reading for the general public . . . indeed to virtually, almost, everyone on two legs.
  • This would appeal to the crossover between . . . that group of readers . . . interested in cryptography and the lovers of baroque architecture.
  • [N]early every single living, breathing person in the world will want to read this book!
Source:  Sammy Looker [pseudonym]. Something Nasty in the Slushpile. 2014. Constable, UK.


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