Thursday, February 14, 2008

A day in the life of someone else's slushpile.

Agent Fabulous, a friend of mine, was ill for several weeks, resulting in a scary pile-up of mailed queries and slush. We're talking like 500 pieces of mail. S/he called me last night and ever so politely asked if I could come in for the day and help go through the backlogged paper that was breeding on the assistant's desk. [We won't go into why the assistant had not opened any of the mail in all that time. We suspect s/he will not be the assistant much longer.]

So bright and early this morning, armed with caffeine, granola bars and a letter opener, I got to work. And here are some valuable lessons I learned from spending eight hours going through someone else's slushpile, lessons that I will now pass along to you:
  • Naked photos of yourself will not distract the agent into thinking that your writing is better than it actually is. No matter how rock-hard those abs were. [And, yes, they were.]
  • No, really.
  • Naked photos of your cat won't work, either.
  • Do not suggest that a publisher should be offering you a $31 million dollar advance.
  • Do not bribe the agent with a $20 Starbucks card.
  • Do try to have a passing familiarity with the English language. [Barring that, a nodding acquaintance with the Roman alphabet will suffice.]
  • Using the phrase "This is not representative of my best work" in the query letter will probably not help your cause.
  • Spending the entire first paragraph describing the color and texture of vomit? Also not helpful.
  • A Xerox of your photo from your high school yearbook will not help sell your book. It will, however, live on in infamy on the intern's refrigerator door, where a steady collection of lunatic query letters has been growing since December.
  • If you are a psychiatrist writing to recommend the work of one of your patients, do note that the agent is probably thinking that your restraining order isn't working.
  • And, lastly, do not send lingerie with your query letter. Just don't. Not ever. Even pretty lingerie.


David said...

I'm stunned. Genuinely stunned. I've heard of such things in query letters but always assumed they were jokes. But they're not!?

Barbara said...

I'm still working on how to send lingerie with an e-mail query.

S. E. Ward said...

I've got a photo of my cat doing a zombie impression.... ;)

jjdebenedictis said...

Thank goodness I only send $10 Starbucks cards. And Y-fronts.

strangerface said...

That's crazy. I've never come across naked photos or gift cards or underwear in the slush pile at my internship. I don't know if I should feel let down or not.

Jill Myles said...

I'm not sure which one is the best one. ;) The nakeds, the vomits, or "This is not my best work."

Good lord.

Nathan said...

I find this strangely encouraging. Now I know that my query can be a standout just by being sane.


Cyndi Lewis said...

I'm gonna have to ax my opening vomit paragraph and send in my best work! What is the industry coming to.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Lingerie,nudity, poor dialogue (i.e. inept use of the English language)--sounds like a soap opera, not a slush pile.