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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

'Getting plucked out of the slush pile doesn't happen': why didn't someone tell me this before!

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

I'm supposed to be writing about 'radical acceptance' this morning but I have now radically changed my mind because I feel strongly that now is the time to get this story noticed so that I can actually start reaching the people who desperately need to hear this stuff, and not spend hours more of my life gratuitously pouring it out!

The battle to get noticed

Anyone who's ever written a book will know this but bagging yourself an agent and/or mainstream publisher (who has the power, influence and sway to push your work and basically make it reach people) is an almost impossible feat.

I am convinced of the importance of this story - it has now been picked up by several professionals too - yet still nothing has really come of any of it...

The frustration in all of this is palpable!

I have been battling, pleading, and virtually begging professionals in publishing to take note of my offerings, but it would seem that unless you are Prince Harry (who I'm imagining won't be writing one word of his book) it doesn't matter how important your message is, or even how well you write because the fact is that:

If you're a 'nobody' without contacts then it's highly unlikely that you'll get noticed.

This was confirmed to me recently when, (after spending literally four years pitching and submitting to agents), I spoke to a friend who used to work in a literary agency who told me that:

"Getting plucked out of the slush pile doesn't happen."

I wish I'd been told this earlier before spending hours of my life writing query letters, synopses, and even a book proposal (which took hours and hours to write after two agents requested one, even though this is a finished book and I'm not 'proposing' to write it at all).

Needless to say - neither of them got back to me!

One agent did bite, and she promised the world to me back in February (she told me she'd get me a column, a book deal, airtime on radio and TV) - sounded too good to be true - and it was because she delivered absolutely nothing - in fact she didn't even respond to my last message so I'm guessing that's it with her !

Another loved it so much that she said it deserved 'wider representation' than her small publishing house could offer, so she then helped me to redraft the query letter & synopsis (which took hours to write by the way) and gave me the names of a couple of agents to send to - neither of which responded - and then encouraged me to send to whoever else I thought suitable.

I submitted: polished query, synopsis, book proposal, sample chapters, obeyed submission guidelines to the nth degree, links to press etc, etc) to about 15 agents.... a tiny proportion of which got back to me with interest, but not one has bitten the bullet.

So the moral of the story is that getting published is bloody hard.....

And apparently, it makes no difference if your book will save lives either!

Recent developments

There has been more interest recently from another writer/publisher who has spent hours of her time helping me ( I am so grateful to these people for their time by the way ) but the long and the short of it is that nothing has really come of that either.

The good thing in all of this is that I have been made to realise (the last very perceptive and informed publisher made me see this, so thank you to her because this is very important) that this book can be so much better than its original first draft because there is now so much more that's been added to it in terms of backstory and 'gravitas'....

I spent hours and hours fleshing it out over the last couple of weeks but now I need advice because there are some 'techy' things to do with chronology and structure which I'm not sure about and I want help with it generally!

One writer said to me recently: "I don't know what you're expecting this publisher to do?"

So, I exasperatedly said:

"I need them to provide me with the name of an experienced confessional memoir expert who understands the importance of this story, who realises that this could actually save lives, who is passionate about reducing stigma around mental illness, who sees that giving back to improve the system is important - who basically GETS THIS and wants to help me craft this story into its most polished form and help to get it to the people who so desperately need it!!!!"....

I'm not sure that my impassioned speech put her off.... Oh dear!

What to do now?

I felt so disappointed yesterday because I really felt that I was making headway in my mission to help others when I seemed to hit another roadblock.

Anyway, rather than let this affect my mental stability (because there is a risk that the stress and anxiety in this could tip the balance) I went up on Brill Hill, said a prayer for everyone living with mental illness, and had a good think about everything.

One thing that's a definite is that I'm not going to give up. I will find a way of getting this story out there for other people somehow; maybe God is teaching me the art of patience one last time?!

Another thought was that perhaps this blog is the way to go first of all? Hire a PR agent and push it that way, or self-publish this blog somehow, or self-publish the book?

Whatever route I take though, is going to cost money and I have none. I don't even have a car or a horse to sell anymore and I make sweet nothing from my writing... I barely (in fact I now don't) have the money to keep paying private medical bills to stay well, and if I am allowed to relapse then this will be game over anyway...

I have not a clue how to proceed... This is literally in God's hands now!

Desperate plea

I am now chucking this out there in the vain hope that one of my current readers has noticed this blog and 'gets' the importance of it all; they can then either forward this post to anyone they think may have some 'sway' in the literary world, or copy, paste and forward the below.

I'm done with 'cold' emailing and rejections - literary agent submissions are clearly a waste of time...

What I am now going to do is to contact the editor who read the manuscript last winter and beg her to help me ( she quoted me £85 an hour and I can't afford £5 ).... I don't hold out much hope here, but in the words of Katie Price (another successful author who has never written a word)..

"If you don't ask you don't get!"

So here goes...

Aims and goals

The following is an abridged query letter - if anyone wants it, I have a synopsis and book proposal too, plus sample chapters, blog posts, full manuscript, more ideas, further reading, potentially written two books already and have ideas for more... blah, blah, blah!

Come on people!

Dear sir/madam,

I am a former international horse rider, writer, blogger, and qualified journalist. I have represented Great Britain in the sport of Three-Day Eventing on numerous occasions.

I was a junior national and European champion and won a bronze medal in senior eventing at the world championships in France. In addition to this I have won several events at national level including a championship at Princess Anne’s Gatcombe Park.

I have managed to achieve all of this in between episodes of crippling depression and severe bipolar disorder which has disrupted my life immeasurably and taken every ounce of perseverance and determination to survive.

I am now in full remission thanks to a novel and exciting treatment which I am trying to publicise so that it can be rolled out onto the NHS.

I have written an incredibly important combined memoir and self-help book detailing how I managed to survive the illness and make a full recovery. “Dying to Stay Alive!” covers EVERYTHING, from the failed treatments, and psychiatric hospital admissions, to the successful combined treatment and my subsequent journey into full remission.

The book is honest, insightful, powerful and offers a huge amount of hope to the reader.

I am looking for representation from an agent and publisher – full details can be found here:

My aims over the next two years are to:

1. Find a dynamic agent/publisher and get ‘Dying to Stay Alive! out into the public domain.

2. Blog until the end of 2021 with a particular focus on Men’s mental health, then select the top posts for a second book.

3. Campaign for the successful thyroid and rTMS treatment to be rolled out on to the NHS.

4. Fundraise by walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End with the friend that

I met in my (traumatic) NHS psychiatric hospital admission.

5. Blog the entire journey which will be the material for a third book.

6. Use the funds to set up a ‘Tom’s Place’ (a place for suicidal people to gain support, hope and treatment), an rTMS machine and to support other ‘Places’.

7. Campaign for massive overhauls and improvements in NHS mental health care and save as many lives as is humanly possible.

Thanks for reading!

Speak to you soon,


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