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Hilarious Epic Fails from a “Grumpy” Literary Agent—and the Worst Self-Help Book Titles Ever

October 26, 2012, 8:40 AM

I’ve just discovered a wonderful, Onion-worthy site for much-needed if wicked comic relief. Although I’m sorry to report that it’s not a parody site but one compiled from the real world of a self-declared “grumpy literary agent” who sounds as if he’s setting new records in his drinking life and perpetually on the brink of a nervous breakdown of despair. 

The site’s Slush Pile Hell, and it includes pages of deliciously botched, mangled, and riotously presumptuous query letters from aspiring authors, and the agent’s wry responses.

Here are some of my favorites. Visit the site for many more:


"I recently quit my job to become an author. As a result, I am happy to say that I now have a manuscript for your review.

Congratulations on an incredibly wise move! I always advise my new clients to immediately quit their day jobs and to go ahead and put down payments on Italian sports cars and villas in the South of France. Anything else is a negative, defeatist attitude that, quite frankly, makes me want to vomit."


"….While this is a literary novel, I believe it could appeal to low-class readers.

And all the “low-class readers” will rejoice at your largess, bequeathing such a literary gift to them. I hereby nominate you as Humanitarian of the Year."


"Dear xxxx, let’s not waste words. I’ve attached my manuscript. Get it published.

Dear author: yes, let’s not. Bite me."


"The DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS MANUSCRIPT AND ALL PUBLISHED MATERIAL I’ve read, is this manuscript’s perspective is different and FOCUSES the reader on the one “thing” that should get as much focus as it can.

Thank you for clearly articulating how your manuscript stands apart from all others. I can’t wait to tell editors that I have a manuscript that they should give serious consideration because it’s different than other manuscripts, in that it … uh … has a different perspective. Ka-ching. Let the auction begin."


Slush Pile Hell answers a question that I once put to my own brilliant and savvy literary agent. “Why are you always working so hard to develop good projects,” I asked her. “You must get hundreds of wonderful queries each day.”

Um, yes, well….

Slush Pile Hell also sponsors occasional contests for followers, including one to generate the “worst self-help book…ever.” 

The winning entries are hilarious:

We asked you to come up with THE WORST SELF-HELP BOOK…EVER (yeah, I know, we did the same thing with children’s books last week—are you surprised?). Too many entries to count this time, and a wealth of comedy gold. Here are the goldest of the golden gold.

@TheresaMarieP:  A Hypochondriac’s Guide to the REAL Diseases You Need to Worry about and Their Symptoms

And the rest of the TOP 25, in no particular order:

@alexandradonald:  He’s Just Way Too into You: Learning to Love Your Stalker

@spencerseidel:  50 Ways to Avoid Your Intervention

@Billjonesjr:  Mensa for Dummies

@larazielin:  Who Moved My Cheek? Your Guide to Plastic Surgery Transformation

@cathy_bryan:  How to Text and Drive Faster: The Last Self Help Book You’ll Ever Need

@NovelistCindy:  Crushing Dreams and Cashing In: How to Become a Literary Agent

@Juniperjenny:  Make Yourself Ironic!: From Redneck to Hipster in Five Easy Steps

@WritingAgain:  The Fine Art of Overreacting: How to Make Your Coworkers Fear and Shun You

@KatieAlender:  The Arrr of War: The Pirate’s Guide to Victory in Battle, Business, and Life

@BleedingSweat:  Redneck Acupuncture: A Self-Help Guide to Ya’llternative Medicine

@Figmentfiction:  No, No. YOU’RE Right. You’re ALWAYS Right: How to Be More Passive Aggressive

@RandyTayler:  The OTHER Secret: So Secret Not Even the First Secret Knows about It

@Dogfaceboy:  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: A Dating Guide for the Man Who Fears Commitment

@DeadlyAccurate:  Breaking His Spirit: The Nagging Wife’s Guide To The Perfect Husband

@hkranch:  Narcissism Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

@Querypolitan:  Marriage with a Muggle: What To Do When She Discovers Your Magic Wand, and Other Helpful Tips

@prettyandi:  Why SELF-Help?: How to Get Someone Else to Do it For You

@carpediem1991:  Eat, Pray, Love, Eat, Pray, Love, Eat, Pray, Love: How to Overcome an OCD.

@ZubZub:  Hacking your Pacemaker: A Guide to Overclocking for Better Stamina

@MelissaEcker:  Talking to Jews: Mel Gibson’s Guide to Interfaith Dialogue

@thxithink:  The 12 Steps to Overcoming Your Fear of Stairs

@realsmivey:  Do It You’re Self: A Guide To Self-Publishing

@loysboy:  Rosetta Stone’s Speaking in Tongues

@TPRJones:  Don’t Buy This Book!: How to Kick the Self-Help Habit







Hilarious Epic Fails from a...

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