Saturday, August 28, 2010

Staying Inside the Lines

Okay, we know I have an painting background, so you will, no doubt, expect me to negate the above title. Normally, I would insist on it. I'm one of the messiest artists you'll ever meet, trust me. A whole history of splattered ceilings will agree. But, we're talking about writing here, right?

Specifically, I'm talking about guidelines. Submission guidelines, query guidelines, pitch guidelines, you name it.
Ahhhhh. Now you see where I'm coming from, right?

One of the things that made me really shake my head when I started I'll this "submission stuff," was right there on the agent/editor/publisher's page. They have pages, you know. Blogs, forums, FAQ's....and on all of them, I read the same thing. Please.....please, please PLEASE follow our guidelines.

???
I thought, who wouldn't? I mean, if you went to a job interview and the potential boss said, "this is our dress code," would you look him in the eye and say, "nice, but I'm wearing whatever the hell I feel like," and STILL expect to be hired?

So I sort of took the complaints about guidelines with a grain of salt. I mean, I FOLLOWED them, all of them, to the letter, but I assumed everyone else aside from the few eccentric oddballs did too.

ahem. We all know about assumption.

Well, guess what? It's true! Ive been several years in the mix of authors and primarily aspiring authors and I am more vexed then ever by the comments about house guidelines. I don't get it. Can the author of an unknown manuscript honestly believe that they are so brilliant, so original and so very very (to borrow a phrase) speshul that they can ignore the SPECIFICALLY LINED OUT IN SIMPLE AND EASILY FOLLOWED DIRECTIONS ON A VERY PROMINENT AND EASY TO FIND PAGE, GUIDELINES?????

Okay, each publisher is different. Yeah. They all want you to format by slightly different rules. Yeah. Some of them want you to do things that make no sense to you. (Like replace all your little * with #) Yeah? So what? This takes about five minutes of your time. If it took five hours of your time, you should still DO IT.
Do it. Holy crap, Do it! Then pop open a beer or a frapaccino or whatever the heck you need to calm down and complain like hell to your friends and family about the unending torture that is submissions. Fine.

Seriously. I get the attitude from other folks all the time that "these houses just want to make us jump through hoops and do all sorts of unreasonable things just to screw with us." Really? Don't you want them to do something pretty unreasonable? Don't you want them to pick your insignificant, irrelevant, (maybe lovely, but still) manuscript out of the thousands upon thousands of others that are just as lovely? Don't you expect them to pick you? To invest in you: time, manpower, money, clout???

Let's go back to the job interview for a minute. Suppose all those "guidelines" are silly. Suppose they are just hoop jumping. (and I'm not agreeing with that for a second. I know about formatting and tags and such) But if they are? So what? If I was going to hire you (or me) for a job that really was more like a business partnership, I would abso-freakin-lutley want to know what sort of "team player" you were. Id want to know what you'd be like to work with, how well you listen to directions, how well you compromise, take direction, play nice..... get it?

And, I don't know, as an author who is joining that team situation with a publisher.. Is "nit-picky" and "obsessed with details" a bad thing? I'm guessing a company that is all of the above will turn that eye for detail loose on my manuscript. That's a good thing folks. You don't want a book laughed off the shelf over editorial errors, right?
You WANT them to polish and perfect your work, right?

Ah, okay. Don't get me started on that one just yet.
We'll cover edits some other day.

Still scratchin my head.
~Frances

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