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 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.
[For “fun” you just have to read the origin of the phrase “slush pile” in this great article by Jane Hu.]
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…..18 examples:
- Query letter begins with, “Before my first psychotic break….”
- A proposal for a book of poems to read to your dog. The book will “help dogs feel more loved and more understood.”
- Email begins, “I would love the opportunity to send my fictional novel to you.” [An aside for our blog readers: Is there such a thing as a non-fictional novel?] However, the query is embedded in a WeTransfer email where our agency would need to download 17 files in order to look at anything.
- 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.
- Email leads with: “I am a Feng Shui and Four Pillar of Destiny consultant. This book illustrates the Feng Shui setting in 360 degree with a lots of diagrams supported by the ancient Feng Shui principles.”
- Query letter asks, “Are you able to negotiate a $10k advance? Are you able to sell 12 million copies within 3 months? Are you able to ensure it to be available in bookstore from September..?” (the letter was sent in July)
- First sentence of the description of their novel [I’ve edited out the character names]: “One day, sitting in the sun happily, xxxxx and xxxxx met with God. All three were out fishing out on the lake when a duck landed near God who, through instinct, flinched and then fell overboard. Contrary to popular belief, God wasn’t an omnipotent being and promptly drowned.”
- 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.”
- Handwritten note written with a black marker on purple paper. “Please pay attention to this letter. The key to solving all the problems in our nation is a good top-notch EDUCATION!! our nation is failing miserably in this area. Everyone cries and complains but no one has an answer. I have the answers – believe me – trust me.”
- 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.
- 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.” [no proposal or pitch included]
- 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.”
- Email reads: “The [expletive deleted] in this book is heavy and goes deeper than blood and if you’re not ready for that level of spiritual growth then stop reading right now. I lost my [expletive deleted] mind and to be hospitalized and relocated multiple times due to the nature of this book. It ain’t no joke. I have never written a book before and I don’t even know if this classifies as a book or not. I’m just writing. You don’t have to read it. No one is forcing you to do anything.”
- Book “based on true experiences” with a subtitle of “Eye floaters as shining structure of consciousness.”
- Last sentence in the email reads, “If you are not interested, then please ignore this email. I am not interested in rejection letters.”
Astounding creativity. That much is true.
And you wonder what we agents do with our time…
[Some of these were previously posted on our blog in October 2010.]