Something Nasty in the Slushpile by Sammy Looker

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Something Nasty in the Slushpile by Sammy Looker

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Category: Humour
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Can be read on two levels - either as a sniggeringly funny look at the way some people approach publishers or as a bible of what not to do if you're serious about being the next J K Rowling.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Constable
ISBN: 978-1472111029

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I couldn't resist the title - a neat play on Cold Comfort Farm and I'm sure that you'll understand that I was expecting some examples of the horrors to be found amongst the mountain of unsolicited manuscripts which every publisher accumulates. I'll confess I was expecting to giggle, even to groan - unkind, I know - and I'd mentally shelved the book with the trivia, or (hopefully) the humour. There is that element to the book, but there's also something far more useful. If you're thinking about publishing a book this should be required reading before you even go near a publisher.

The original Sammy Looker was a reader (of the slush pile) for Constable, joining the publisher in 1923 and staying for forty years. Our author (who's also a publisher's reader) has chosen to take the name as a nom de plume and we get the benefit of over a decade of mining the slush pile. There are some pearls:

My grandson is in the middle of his gap year... Would you like to publish his emails? Everyone who's read them says they are riveting.

The laptop witch preparing this work had some qwerks I did not sea due ov my not pacient person and hurry. Any big errors are not conseqwnt bad nowledge inglish but computer and speed - planely.

Well, obviously! I've picked a couple of examples out at random and I'm sure that you've got the picture and you'll probably have sniggered. If that's the type of book which you enjoy then you'll find this to be a fun book. But - if you look at the title page inside the book you'll find a subtitle:

How Not To Get Published.

If you are thinking about approaching a publisher or a literary agent then you should read this book as it's a pretty exhaustive list of all the things which you really shouldn't do if you're hoping to be a traditionally-published author. Don't be disheartened though - quite a few big name authors have made their way to the top from the slush pile and even after dozens of letters of rejection - Malorie Blackman, the current children's laureate had eighty two. Roddy Doyle went on to win the Booker Prize for The Commitments after being discovered by the same reader who spotted Bill Bryson. One of my favourite books, The Help by Kathryn Stockett was turned down some sixty times, but perhaps the best-known person to emerge from the slush pile was J K Rowling.

There are some cautionary words about the precarious living made by many an author, best summarised as 'don't give up the day job', but if you are determined then you'll find gold dust in this book. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you want to know more about the publishing industry, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B Thompson should tell you all that you need to know (and probably a bit more). If you'd just like to have a laugh then try Outraged of Tunbridge Wells: Original Complaints from Middle England by Nigel Cawthorne.

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Buy Something Nasty in the Slushpile by Sammy Looker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Something Nasty in the Slushpile by Sammy Looker at


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