Oh my gawd, I hate my working life!
I met with the Intern today to look at what she was doing with the slush pile. She’s moving through it quite quickly, and she had a couple she wanted to put forward.
They were horrible manuscripts. Slush Pile of Shame bad.
When I asked her if she really thought these should be published, she said, ‘No, but I thought I had to give you something, and these weren’t as bad as the others.’
You know what, fair enough. When you first start reading the slush pile, you just want to impress your boss, and it’s easy to go a bit overboard. So, I explained that it’s better to just say there’s nothing in there worth looking at rather than pull out dross.
She agreed, but Giles was still in the office and he did not. He wanted to see those that she pulled out, and he thought they were ‘okay’.
The Intern and I explained why they weren’t publishable (clearly Giles is illiterate because they were obviously bad) and so he asked what we were going to tell the authors.
We showed him the ‘no thanks’ letter, which we do send out to everyone. Some agents and publishers don’t even send a ‘no thanks’ letter, but I think it’s polite.
Giles wants us to go one farther, and send everyone a critique of their manuscript.
I explained that no one, and I mean NO ONE, in the industry gives everyone a critique for free.
He then said, ‘When someone tells you that’s not how things are done, you know you’re talking to the wrong person.’
I think he may have been quoting a famous person, but I don’t know.
Giles walked away and I told the Intern that since she was best friends with Giles, she can explain to him why that’s a stupid idea. And if she can’t explain it to him, she’ll be writing the critiques.
Giles was heading out the door then stopped and turned back. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. I just had a feeling.
He comes to my desk and says, ‘I almost forgot. I have a manuscript I want us to represent. See if you can get it a publisher. A big hitter. Random House maybe. Say £200k advance?’
Oh, he ‘almost forgot’. As this were a tiny little request.
He then pulls a stack of spiral notebooks from his bag and throws them on my desk.
‘What’s this?’ I ask.
‘The manuscript. Couldn’t fit all in one notebook. You’ll need to type it up.’
I’m beginning to say this regularly, WHAT THE FUCK!
‘And who is this author?’ I asked.
‘A talented young girl. Comes from a good family. Just finished school. She wants to start a party planning business. Thought she could fund it with her writing.’
I just stared at him.
‘Her father’s not too keen to give her the capital, she’ll just end up getting married and dropping the business anyway.’
I just started at him.
‘So, if you can just get that rolling,’ he said. ‘She’s looking to have some funds in the next month.’
I had to have been getting punked. There was no way this was real. I looked around to see if there were hidden cameras. Maybe I was hallucinating. Or, maybe, I was having a nightmare.
No such luck.
Then in what I thought to be a stroke of genius, I said, ‘Since Patch is the Senior Agent, perhaps he should take on this client.’
‘Story’s not really up his alley,’ said Giles. ‘It’s a romance. You know. Stuff women like.’
Then he walked away.
Do I need to even summarise all that was wrong with that conversation?
I actually did thumb through one of the notebooks, and it was not good. Clearly it was a teenager’s romantic fiction, the sort of fantasy writing you do to replace daydreaming about that boy you wish would pay attention to you. She may not have even thought anyone would ever read it. Hell, does she know anyone has read it? Did her Dad just find it under her bed and think, ‘My little Princess is an author. I’ll get my old school chum Giles to publish it.’ He’ll. the poor girl may be mortified when she finds her Dad nicked her notebooks and passed the around.
And, if I was going to be shoved to the bottom of the totem pole, I wasn’t going to deal with this mess. I had enough already existing clients to deal with. So, I passed it to MacDraggyFeet and told her what Giles wanted.
She then said, ‘Oh. Yes. I talked to Giles about this. I don’t touch type. Just one finger at a time. I wouldn’t be good for this project.’ Then she used her middle finger and pushed the stack of notebooks back towards me.
I don’t know why I thought this was the most appropriate time, but I finally asked her how she came to take this job.
Well, Giles’ darling youngest daughter failed her A Levels, or maybe it was a Baccalaureate. I don’t know, she was at boarding school. So, Giles’ little Princess signed up to take Highers at the local FE as part of a gap year before reapplying to Unis.
Giles’ daughter met MacDraggyFeet. MacDraggyFeet once mentioned her love of reading and that she herself was looking for a change of pace. So little Princess told daddy to hire MacDraggyFeet.
I really do want to cry.
PS-If you’re wondering why it’s stupid to send everyone feedback on unsolicited manuscripts, we get about 100 pieces for the slush pile A WEEK. We might pick three people to represent from that slush pile a year. So, we’d be writing an average of 51,97 critiques a year. We are barely able to read what we have, let alone critique them. Plus, we only read the entire manuscript if we’re interested in it. We maybe read 50 full manuscripts a year…maybe.
Here’s an old post on how the Slush Pile had been managed when I first started.
Here’s an interesting article on how much gets rejected from the slush pile. It’s quite a negative piece, but totally true. Too much is coming to us I solicited to properly manage it all. In fact, if people we’re sending us material until they have spent several years perfecting it (as opposed to the minute they type the last word) we’d all be better off.