by Steve Laube
The unsolicited pile of proposals in my office (aka “the slushpile) taunts me every day.
“Come over here!” it says, tantalizing me with immanent possibilities. I say to myself, “Maybe it will be the next one I look at. That will be ‘The One.’”
I’ve been told that many of you enjoy hearing some of the offbeat letters or intriguing proposals I see. Here is a sampling from the past few months [typos included but some info is deleted to protect the writer's identity]:
“I am seeking representation for my First book: … I have 17 more. This book could very well Save the World.”
“… is a polyphonic composition in which anti-hero…inner conflicts are given voice, subjected to contrapuntal treatment, and developed into an intricate narrative marked by a stunning climax.”
“Maggot … my inspirational Christian Literature fiction book”
“I have deciphered the number 666….The beast has 7 heads, each head represents a country or countries that have ruled over Israel. Egypt being the first, and its empire started in the year 2630 B.C. This was the beginning of the pyramid era. Take the number 666, and multiply it with the number 7 headed beast. (7X666=4,662) The last country or countries to dominate over Israel is the United Nations. The U.N. qualified for this distinction when it reestablished the existence of the country of Israel in 1948. Project the number 4,662 forward from the year 2630 B.C. and you arrive at the year 2032, or the end of our era.”
We received a two page letter received written in ALL CAPS. It said “I HOPE I FOLLOWED YOUR GUIDELINES TO YOUR SATISFACTION.” And then proceeded to pitch a 2,200 word Children’s picture book…which our guidelines specifically says we do not represent.
A proposal for a novel whose audience is described as “American and Middle Eastern readers, particularly Christians and nominal Muslims open to hearing Christian evangelism.”
Subject line of the e-mail reads “If you cut a tree , you cut your own mother / 210 pages – my Poetry book attached.”
“This is a tale specifically written to ‘replace’ J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. No joke and no exaggeration.”
“I am not going to waste your time by telling you how awesome my book is. You can simply see the awesomeness by looking at the preview of the book by following the link below. I just self-published my book because I am impatient, and publishers don’t typically give me the time of day. It’s okay though, because I’m …, and I don’t have feelings. This is a business opportunity, and I hope you treat it as such. Take care, and let me know if you are interested in representing me. I will compile a list of agents and select the one that is most diligent, relentless, and ethical (like me).”
Therefore while the siren song of the slushpile is played, its tune it is rarely that enticing. However, I must admit like the old prospector, “Sometimes there’s gold in them thar’ hills.”