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Fire & Brimstone

This might come as a surprise to people who know me, but I don’t particularly enjoy rejecting authors who query me. I mean, sure, I love a healthy dose of schadenfreude as much as the next gal, but I don’t derive any particular pleasure out of telling someone that the project they’ve labored over, in many cases for years, is just not right for me. Plain and simple, that’s not what it’s about.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a deep appreciation for the people who do query me. It takes a certain kind of bravery that I admire, and frankly, am not sure I personally possess.  Writing is one of those special gifts that requires an unmatched level of drive and dedication, and I recognize the vulnerability inherent in the query process.

But I must make the distinction: every so often, queries will pop up in my inbox that can only be described as head-scratchers; queries that are not cut from the same cloth as the 99.9% of you who reach out with the best of intentions.  So considering how much I don’t like turning people down, I can honestly say that it’s a relief knowing that sometimes, I don’t have to feel guilty sending that rejection.  Which is why I wanted to share this blog, SlushPile Hell, with you today.  I felt a sense of comfort, knowing I wasn’t alone.  Each entry highlights snippets of query letters received by one agent, along with humorous retorts. Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean. Alas, there is such a thing as a bad query.

7 Responses to Fire & Brimstone

  1. Draven Ames says:

    After spending some time in submissions last month, it is easy to agree with you. Great post. Sometimes people just don’t read over what they wrote before hitting send.

    There are some horrible writers out there too, we have to be honest. Is it their fault? Certainly not. If they don’t know what they are doing, they can’t be held at fault for what they are doing wrong. That is why my rejections gave critiques on why they were passed and some general suggestions and ideas to make the stories better. Going in, I had an idealistic point of view about submissions. Each author got my attention and a full read.

    It was horribly difficult. A few months of that and I would have been banging my head on the table. You have a very difficult job that I don’t envy.

    But it would be really fun to be a literary agent. Something to dream about.

    Great post.

    Draven Ames

  2. I have a seriously poignant, can’t-put-it-down-but-strangely-unreadable tome that will make Gone With The Wind, all the Harry Potter books, and anything that Jonathan Franzen writes look like infantile prose. I even illustrated it myself. Could you drop everything and come by to take a look?

    I’m home tonight between 7 and 7:30. Can’t wait.

  3. Ciara says:

    I love slushpilehell though I do feel a bit guilty just going on it to laugh.

  4. Dear Kim Batchelor,

    You had me at “[will make anything] Jonathan Franzen writes look like infantile prose.”

  5. One can’t help but feel a little schadenfreude at reading generally clueless or pretentious queries, but at least Slush Pile Hell is a great lesson in what not to do.

  6. Kendra says:

    SlushPile Hell does have that guilty-pleasure feeling about it. I can remember the query I sent out for my first novel. Not SlushPile Hell bad, but *cringe*. Not surprisingly (at least in retrospect), that novel didn’t get any requests. If I were an agent, I think what I would fear most are the crazies who develop stalker tendencies. Do you keep files of and document the really weird/frightening emails just in case?

  7. Teri says:

    That slush pile link was a hoot. I think I should feel guilty for enjoying it as much as I did. But then — they’re so far out there in wacko land. So, so far. I can’t imagine getting letters like that in my email box.

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