Dear Angela,

Thanks for the laugh. Your response, “Um, what???” to being informed about your body content was priceless.

I usually dislike taking encouragement from the weaknesses of others, but it’s some kind of perverse comfort to know that (at least some of) the competition in this race is legless. Still, you have my sympathy for being presented with the need to deal with this sort of thing.

It’s also good to know that you have standards… but then, that is no surprise, having read your newsletter for some time.

All the best,
Jeff Perren


Angela, I just read this week’s installment of the “World’s Worst Book Proposals”.

Holy. Moly.

I am hoping that the things you’ve highlighted for us make up the vast minority of the proposals that reach you. I just never fail to be amazed by the audacity (there is no better, more descriptive word for it, I think) of some people. I recently had a man contact me (I edit non-fiction manuscripts) and the first thing he said to me was, “I just want this book in print. I’m tired of writing.” When I asked him what he thought I could do for him, he asked, “Don’t you know anyone who publishes books?”

I read the first three pages of what he’d sent to me. What he needed was not an editor, but classes in remedial English for grammar, structure, and spelling. I was as polite as I could be as I declined the job–he told me I was going to “miss the opportunity of a lifetime” by not taking him on as a client.

Two weeks later, he had his attorney contact me–he was worried I was going to “steal” his book and publish it under my own name, and wanted the attorney to impound my computers as part of his effort to ensure I hadn’t retained a copy of what he’d sent to me. As if. I had my attorney write back to his, and that was the end of that.

You must have nerves of steel, dealing with so many loose screws… but I admit, I enjoy knowing I’m not the only “nut magnet” in New England.

Marsha Browne


Hi Angela,

I know my remarks will not contain a single insight that is new to you but—I can’t help myself—I have to comment.

Every aspect of “bad book proposals” astounds me. Why do these writer-hopefuls not have a clue that the product they’re attempting to promote is made up of words and, therefore, it might just be a little bit important to make sure the words are spelled correctly and strung together in a way that makes sense? Notoriously poor spellers are usually aware of their problem, so why wouldn’t they consider it important to have someone with good skills in those areas (whether or not a professional editor) give the proposal/manuscript a careful look? So many reasons come to mind:

Sloppy in most aspects of their lives (living by the ‘close enough is good enough’ motto).

Never paid attention in school or in life—unable to recognize incorrect spelling and usage.

Doesn’t believe in making a good first impression (accept me the way I am or “go _ _ _ _ yourself,” per your

example, Angela).

Was never taught good manners (or mom really tried, but the lessons didn’t take).

Overwhelming need to be right (I’ve never made a mistake in my life and how dare you point out that I might have).

Giant egos (my book is the greatest ever written, don’t even think about criticizing it).

Unable to deal with rejection (you don’t like my work? Hell, no, I won’t try to improve it but I will show you how much I hate you by pouting and spewing invectives).

I recently watched online an interview (link below) by Katie Couric of Kathryn Stockett, the author of the runaway bestseller The Help (which, BTW, I highly recommend). Stockett began writing the book (her first novel) in the days immediately after the 9/11 acts of terrorism in 2001. I don’t know how much time elapsed before the book was at the point that Stockett began seeking a literary agent but, once she began that process, I’m guessing it wasn’t until 2008 (usually it’s a two-year process from acceptance to publication and the book was released early this year) that she was successful in finding an agent to represent her. She has in her possession 45 documented rejection letters but because she went on a frenzy of contacting agents during one summer and didn’t keep records, she thinks the actual number is closer to 60.

Katie asked her (and I’m paraphrasing) if she was tempted to call those agents to say, “Remember me? You declined to represent me and my book, The Help. You may have heard of it.” Stockett answered, “No.” Katie responded, “Really? I guess I’m a little bit vindictive that way.” Stockett replied, “No. I really should thank them because with each rejection I fine-tuned the manuscript in some way until it was at the point that an agent recognized it as good and said, ‘yes.”

I really hope, Angela, that those you’ve showcased (that may be too highfalutin a term in these cases) are sent the newsletter on the off-chance they might recognize themselves and their idiocy.

You are the best!

Warm regards,
Glenna Murdock


Bless your heart. I just read “World’s Worst Book Proposals”. You clearly have the patience of Job.

I frequently hear positive comments from writers and editors about your professionalism, your honesty, and how gutsy you were to go after Rest assured that these rude and/or crazy submitters are not diluting your terrific reputation.

Have a good day,
Mary Tynes