Showing all posts tagged: manuscripts

From slush pile to bookshop shelf: the secrets of successful unsolicited manuscripts

26 August 2023

We all know the drill. We send — unsolicited — the novel manuscript we’ve spent years toiling over, to a couple of publishing houses who accept them. From there they go into a kind of purgatory called a slush pile. How long manuscripts might spend in this limbo is unknown, but probably just about all of them end up going through the shredder eventually.

Nevertheless, we hold onto hope — hope above all else — of a different fate.

Because not all slush pile works go to pulp. Some Australian authors, including Abby Corson, Shannon Meyerkort, Natasha Sholl, and Mark Smith, have been plucked from the agglomeration and found their way onto a bookshop shelf. Perhaps then what happens in the movies is true. Book publishers have staff who sift through the slush pile, looking for that elusive diamond in the rough.

Take note then. Good writing separates the wheat from the chaff. Manuscripts with eye-catching premises, and engaging opening chapters, might reach the next rung of the ladder.


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Manuscript thief apologises, says he only wanted to cherish the works he stole

15 March 2023

Filippo Bernardini, also known as the Spine Collector, was arrested in early 2022, after stealing the manuscripts of numerous high profile authors. Bernardini managed to convince his victims — who included Sally Rooney and Margaret Atwood — to send the manuscripts of their latest novels to him, instead of their publisher.

Through recently filed court papers however, Bernardini has apologised for his actions, and says he merely wished to “cherish” the works of the authors he swindled, before their novels were published:

Former Simon & Schuster staffer Filippo Bernardini has said stole more than 1,000 unpublished manuscripts because he wanted to read books before they hit stores. In court papers published on Friday (March 10th), Bernardini apologised for his crime but claimed he did it so he could dive into the stories before they were available to the general public. “I never leaked these manuscripts. I wanted to keep them closely to my chest and be one of the fewest to cherish them before anyone else, before they ended up in bookshops,” he wrote.


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Filippo Bernardini pleads guilty to manuscript theft

9 January 2023

Italian manuscript thief Filippo Bernardini, who was alleged to have stolen more than one thousand book drafts, has pleaded guilty, a year after his arrest.

Filippo Bernardini impersonated figures from the publishing industry to trick people into handing over their works. He used his inside industry knowledge, having been employed by the publishing giant Simon & Schuster in London. Bernardini, 30, pleaded guilty in New York to wire fraud, but his motive has never been clear.

Bernardini’s targets included Irish novelist Sally Rooney, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, and British author and screenwriter Ian McEwan.


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How I was conned by a manuscript thief

16 March 2022

American writer Peter C. Baker on being fooled into handing over a draft of his novel to a manuscript thief. The culprit, known as the Spine Collector, who was finally arrested earlier this year, had tricked numerous other authors, including many who were still unpublished, into sending him copies of their work.

It was the first book I’d ever tried writing, and, during the previous near-decade, it had become an overburdened locus of my ambitions, hopes, doubts, and fears. Many times, I’d looked at the manuscript and wondered if I was fooling myself. Getting fooled into handing it over made me feel sick.


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Man accused of stealing unpublished books arrested

10 January 2022

An Italian man who has been using deception for several years to obtain unpublished manuscripts from well-known authors, has been arrested. Targets of Filippo Bernardini, who works at a London publishing house, included Margaret Atwood and Sally Rooney.

In an interview with The Bookseller in 2019, Atwood confirmed there had been “concerted efforts to steal the manuscript” of her book The Testaments, before it was released. “There were lots of phoney emails from people trying to winkle even just three pages, even just anything,” she noted. According to The Guardian and The New York Times, author Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were also targeted in a similar manner.


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Don’t let New Year’s resolutions interfere with your novel

6 January 2022

British cartoonist Tom Gauld’s take on writers and New Year’s resolutions. I might caption the first frame “write a good book”, and then have an editor tell me in the second frame to write a “better” book. Whatever you do, don’t bring the neighbours, or any friends, into the process.


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The subtle art of asking a friend to critique your manuscript

22 September 2021

The subtle (and not so subtle) art of giving feedback to a writer, by London based Scottish cartoonist and illustrator Tom Gauld.

Writers know one of the scenarios Gauld envisages is going to play out. But it started me thinking; what if you’re an aspiring author, in other words, unpublished. How do you go about seeking feedback for the manuscript you’ve possibly spent years toiling over, when you don’t have the luxury of being able to call on an editor?

Should you ask friends? It’s probably what most people would think of. But if what a bunch of people agree to take a look, and you end up hearing nothing back? How do you interpret that? To mean your writing is subpar? That’s what I might think. On the other hand, it could be your friends are time-poor, like everyone else.

Expecting someone to read and digest one hundred thousand words and supply commentary, especially in the space of say a week, is a big ask by any standard. Perhaps a more graduated approach is a better idea, something Chicago based writer and filmmaker Jennifer Peepas suggests:

If someone volunteers to read your novel, send them the first chapter or so. If they write back to you wanting more, you have good feedback from that act alone: You wrote a good first chapter, you hooked them, they do actually want to read it, and they will likely give you notes.

That’s not a bad idea. But let’s get to the nitty-gritty. A friend has sent you their writing for critique, and it… it’s terrible. How do you respond? Without causing offence, and destroying the friendship? Freelance editor and writer Meg Dowell thinks the prospective author should put themselves in their friend’s position before sending anything. Long story short, maybe it’s best you don’t ask in the first place:

As humans often do, I turned this question back on myself and tried to imagine myself as the bad writer friend dreaming big. Would I want someone to tell me my writing kind of sucked? Or would I have a better experience continuing to write to my heart’s content and chase my dreams even if it wasn’t likely they’d come true? I’m not sure I would want to know if my writing was terrible. At least, I’m not sure I’d want to hear it from someone close to me. If I were passionate enough about writing to work hard in an attempt to make it, having my dreams crushed before my eyes … I don’t know how I would handle that.

I’m not sure anyone could tell a friend their would-be novel sucked though. More likely they’d say they really liked it, and they’re looking forward to the book launch. After all, that’s what friends are for. This is a matter requiring of further research, and follow-up. In the meantime, go and look at more of Tom Gauld’s work. It’s stellar, unlike asking friends to critique your writing.


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