Sunday, December 21, 2008

Petitioning the King:

One of the things I've encountered repeatedly on this journey is what not to do. The Internet has proven to be a treasure trove of advice, resources and markets for the aspiring
Author, and I encourage any writer seeking publication to avail themselves of the wealth of information out there specifically for our guidance.
I plan to incorporate a list of links and helpful articles to share, eventually--I'll get to it.

In the meantime, google up some of the suggestions posted by the people on the flip side of our journey: the editors, agents, and publishers who hold the proverbial key to the city.
I love reading this stuff. At the same time, I have to shake my head and wonder at some of the complaints flying around about submitting writers. Are there really egos out there so large that they feel justified in sending a nasty response to a rejection? It seems amazingly so.

Does it have to be said that flipping attitude at anyone in the business you're trying to break into is a bad idea? I've met a few prima donnas in my time, (I went to ART school, remember?) and I have to say, aiming a tantrum in response to an editor has to be professional suicide. Do your homework; these people know each other. Despite the prevalence of small presses and literary agents now doing business outside of New York, the majority of your targets all live, work and hang out within a very small radius. They have lunch. A lot. They converse; they share. I'm guessing they bitch to one another about the egocentric nobody who had the gall to send them a snotty letter.

I like to think of submission (and submission, and submission) as bringing a petition before the king. Let's face it, you want your work in print, and these people can make it happen, or not happen. Your work is brilliant, it's ground breaking, it's timely, but it is one of thousands and thousands of equally brilliant manuscripts. Yes, equally. Should you cower before the King? No. Should you show a little respect and a lot of professionalism? Duh. Granted, he hasn't beheaded anyone in a few decades, but the man has people, and power.

So despite the fact that I intend to post my favorite "do's and don'ts" links, I'd like to list a few dooseys here. I doubt anyone has been tempted to commit such no-nos, so let's just shake our heads together and thank our lucky stars we were born with more sense. I'll add a few of my favorite "tips" so we can end on a positive note.

Desperation: okay, we all have heard the horror stories, the mountainous slush piles, and the overloaded editors. We lose sleep over it. Worse than any rejection is the thought that our beloved manuscript won't even get read. It's a hard truth to face. The temptation whispers, "Try pink paper, scented ink, stickers on the envelope?" Lord help us. This one is on almost every editor's "please don't" list. Want to get their attention? Write a kick-ass query--period--on plain white paper.

Fraud: Tempted to use a little trickery in your favor? Don't. Don't start your query as if you've met the editor, "remember me?" Don't fake a referral. Don't fake a resume, overstate your accomplishments or pretend you know someone you don't. I know you've heard of that best-selling author who wrote his query as if it had already been requested by the editor, counted on the editor being too drunk or stupid to notice and actually sold the book, went on to sell others and make gobs of money. Don't try it. You’re not that lucky. You're not.

Hostility: What? I still can't believe people do this, but I've found it commented on again and again. You get a form letter back, no thank you, la la la. Okay, chalk it up to paying your dues and get over it. Send a nasty comment back to the source? WHAT? Chastise an editor for not recognizing your brilliance?? You have to have solid brass cajones, man. Sorry, it's true. Please tell me you're shaking your head in horror, please.

Okay, there are a lot more things you can do wrong, but these are the whoppers. If the mere thought of acting so rashly makes you tremble in fear, kudos. Your ego is nicely under control. Give it a cookie and a pat on the head. If you can't understand why the Big Three above are bad ideas, stab your ego with a spork, a lot.

Well, what can you do to stack the odds in your favor? Anything? Back to that homework thing again.

Keep writing: this is my favorite. Finished a brilliant novel? Go ahead and send it out, and while you're waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a rejec--response, write another one. Hell, write two. The more eggs in your basket the better.

Use your Spell-checker, and NEVER trust the bastard: Spell check your work, repeatedly. Then edit it yourself--you know spell checker is next to worthless, right? Have someone else edit it, and then someone else. You love it way too much to see all the
Errors. One typo can kill you if it comes too early. Even if it doesn't. Polish that manuscript until it's perfect, and be certain that, even then, it isn't.

Match your markets: Please don't send your science fiction to a romance-only publisher. It won't make them change their format. The following rejection will be wasted effort and have nothing to tell you about your piece or it's value. Research. Give your work every chance in the world to be accepted by sending it to the right place. Don't send dark fantasy to a humorous market. If possible, read samples of what each target actually prints. If not possible, try to glean as much information as possible about what they do, and don't, want before submitting.

What else? There's so much more. Be humble, but confident. Be professional--a submission is a job interview. Be the person they want to hire, as well as offering work they want to sell. Make use of the resources out there, because, after all, what do I know?
I'll work on those links.

~Frances

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