Condemned to the Slushpile
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.
- 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.