The Literary Saloon provides a link to yet another experiment on the reliability and validity of slush-pile readings. Mark Sanderson, a man who clearly has his ear to the ground, reports the case of John Howard, author of children's book The Key to Chintak, who began to suspect that those who sent him rejection slips weren't actually reading his ms.
How could he have even dreamed such a thing? He should, to quote Muhammad Ali, have apologised.
Anyway, John tested his hypothesis. He typed out a new ms, entitled The Tin Drum, and for the text used extracts from a washing-machine manual. And, as you would expect:
'Dear John, Thank you for your submission which I read and enjoyed. Unfortunately...'
If you visit John Howard's web site for The Key to Chintak, you will find that he has some formidably impressive quotations from trade professionals who actually did read his book and liked it. All in all, The Key to Chintak seems to be a self-published success story. The Bookseller says that it has sold 5,000 copies. And, as anyone in the UK book trade knows, selling even 10% of that number is not to be sniffed at.
Of course, the classic text on the slush-pile business (and on the writer/publisher relationship in general) is my own On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile, which is available as a free ebook. Essential reading if you wish to remain sane in a mad world.