Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Publishers, A Rant ...

Lovely Books ... We Want Them to be Ours

by CJ Heck

As writers, we know the importance of, (and the hunger for), getting our work published by reputable publishers.

We pour our hearts into the writing, we polish it, edit it, read and have it read, and then we edit some more and when that's done, we turn it into the finished product, our manuscript. That's a daunting task!

After our manuscript is done, we spend more time, gas, and money at the book store to buy our annual copy of the Writer’s Digest book designed for our specific genre.

Once home, we spend days reading about all of the publishers to find EXACTLY what they're looking for: fiction, non-fiction, poetry (rhyming or non-rhyming), memoirs, essays, flash fiction, short-shorts, short story collections, scripts, screenplays, et al.

That done, we narrow that list to those who accept submissions without our need for an agent. (By the way, I’ve noticed this list is shrinking with each new edition of Writer’s Market, no matter what the genre).

We study this shortened list to see whether they are accepting manuscript submissions in precisely what we write and in the genre they accept (children, young adult, romance, fantasy, science fiction, western, erotica, religion, spiritual, and new age).

Out of that group, we look for those who accept manuscripts NOW. Some only accept manuscripts during a specified reading period, May 1 to July 1, for instance.

The list is further narrowed down to find those that do not require “exclusive” submissions.  This means we cannot submit elsewhere, until we've heard back from them, either yea, or nay. It has been my experience that publishers can take anywhere from three months to forever to notify you.

So, you can see how an exclusive submission can inhibit your progress towards finding a publisher. You can't send it to a second, until you hear back from the first ... and fewer and fewer are even notifying you at all. Some even put a caveat in their Writers Digest listing, stating that if you haven’t heard from them within a specified length of time, to consider your manuscript rejected.

The final list we come up with is:

* Publishers who accept your genre.
* Publishers who accept what you write in that genre.
* Publishers accepting submissions now.
* Publishers that accept multiple submissions.
* Publishers that don’t require an agent’s involvement.

Our job now is to study each one on our final list of publishers and carefully follow their submission guidelines. We are warned to follow the instructions exactly! After all the hard work and time spent, we don’t want our manuscript ending up in 'file thirteen' (the waste basket), because we missed some critical condition, or command.

We double space the manuscript, add the extra space between paragraphs, do the Title Page precisely how they want it, paginate, add the page count to the top right, follow the rule of staples vs. paper clips, write a summary, include a short bio, any publishing credits we may have, and the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) so they can notify you - IF they notify you at all.

At last, our submission is perfect. We're sure to only send a copy, not the original, and with hope and pride, we take it to the local post office.

Now comes the hard part ("How can it be harder than what we’ve already been through?" You ask). With fingers crossed, we wait ... and wait ... and wait.

Six months later, the day finally arrives! We receive a letter from a publisher!

HUH?  What's this?  A ... form letter?
Dear Writer: 
Thank you for your manuscript submission to (publishing company).

We have read your manuscript, ___________________ (title handwritten),
and after careful consideration, we have checked the appropriate box below: 
well-written ___
has merit ___
interesting ___
needs work ___
inappropriate ___
does not fit our current list ___ 
We wish you good luck submitting your work elsewhere.
We've learned the importance of looking at a rejection letter as a stepping stone, but ... is it just me, or do all writers feel a lot more than rejected by a form rejection letter?  We put a heck of a lot of work, prep time, waiting time, and a lot of money into our submissions.

I realize publishers are busy and they also get hundreds of submissions, but if they would just give us a “heads up” as to what they ARE looking for in the last sentence of a rejection letter, it would save them time -- less rejection letters to send out, and less money. There would be less in the slush pile on the floor pushed up against a wall gathering dust and waiting to be waded through by an already overworked, underpaid staff.

What ARE they looking for?

What MIGHT fit into their present needs?  We may already have something really good that IS perfect for their current list.

Why is it that publishers don’t add one more tiny, itsy-bitsy sentence to the bottom of their form rejection letter?

Hey publishers ... tell us what it is you ARE looking for that WOULD fit your current list.

That's it for now.  I'm done ranting ...

So, You Want to be Published ...

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck


Unknown said...

Rant on, we all feel the same way. This boat is larger than I thought. :o)

CJ Heck said...

Whew, it's always nice to know we're not alone! Thank you, Patricia!

Anonymous said...

It's sad that the old fashioned figure of the publisher's editor has been disappearing, replaced by salespeople who have no clue about literature but are keen to identify whether something will sell or not. I'm afraid that 95% of the rejections are based not on a reading of the material, but who's this person, what's his or her connections, age, appearance, appeal to a coveted audience (between 6 and 16, probably) and everything but whether what's written has any intrinsic value. Despite all of the above, we soldier on, ye poor souls. If we could only had a choice, we wouldn't bother, for who wants to be crushed on a regular basis for the rest of their lives? Thanks for this CJ.

CJ Heck said...

Yes, Colltales, and add to that long list, whether the person is a celebrity ... that is almost a "gimme", an automatic shoe-in, for getting published.

Sad, what publishing has come to. Thank you for your thoughts and for taking the time to read and comment!

Anonymous said...

It's my belief that we are experiencing something equal to "Shall I continue to rely on my horse? Or, shall I climb onto one of those newfangled horseless carriages?"

The publishing business as we've known it is in shambles, and the new stuff has a lot of rough edges. Yikes! Mary Martin Weyand

Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod said...

I agree. I've been told that by checking out comps from the same publisher, you can get a strong idea of what they DO want to see... but on the other hand, that could be just what they DID want to see, a season or two (or more) ago. It doesn't necessarily reflect the current reality.

Unknown said...

Good rant, CJ. No wonder so many of us are turning to indie publishing.