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From the Cabaña 23 April 2010

Posted by The Inimitable M in Books, Reviews and Writing.
Tags: , , , ,

I am writing this from the cabaña (FBers will relate).  It has been raining and with naught all else to do, naptime is over, tea is cleared, I’ve been thinking all day, and things are beginning to well up.  Some call it festering.  I just call it “overflowing”.  In any event, I plan to watch The Men Who Stare At Goats tonight.  I just have to get this off my chest first.

I am gobsmacked at the number of writers who haven’t got a flippin’ clue what they’re doing.  I’m not talking about their writing, necessarily, but all the bits and bobs that go with it.  If you have written a book you are dying to see published, follow the proper procedure.  On our site, we have a “Submit” tab.  It tells you our interests by imprint, what we expect to have happen in the process of our considering manuscripts, which comes first, how long it will take and so forth.

Yet several of the next bestselling authors (just ask them) seem to think these items don’t apply to them…or they’re illiterate.  The latter would never explain how they wrote their tome, however…

I’ve had enough.  In the past couple of days, we’ve received 27 queries.  Kudos to the 17 who knew how to do this.  Raspberries to the 10 who couldn’t apparently write their name in the sand, let alone write an actual query.

“I wrote a book.  It’s about life.  You should publish it.”  In all ten cases, that is essentially the information received. 

Of the ten:

1.  No one used the correct email address.  They clearly all came from Publishers Marketplace, because “info” is the only email address to which anyone has access from that page.  People would have to actually visit the site to get the correct information.  They’d also have to read instructions.  Imagine that.

2.  In the instructions on the website, information as to whom to address their queries is given.  Six of the 10 didn’t even address their email “Dear Editor”.

3.  No one signed their name.  Two of them sent it from a work address that did not include their name (blah-blah-company dot generaldelivery dot com).

4.  No one put any personal information into their query.

5.  Four put in a few sentences about their book.  No one talked about how their book would really stand out or showed any passion for their story.

Paragraphs?  Zero.  Information?  Zero.  Proper format?  Zero.

To put it bluntly, these people haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell with us. 

I tried once yesterday to help by telling someone there was not any information in their query.  I commented that there was no word count or name (one of the business email people), and here was a link to a site that could help them form an actual query.  I asked that they please resubmit a proper query.  They immediately  sent two attached files – one a bio, one the first three chapters.  They put one sentence in the email about the word count, and signed it with their name.  That’s not what I requested, and I don’t think I’m asking for the world.

Let me tell you what’s going to happen to all of those people who can’t follow this one simple step correctly:  Automatic rejection.  I don’t care if they wrote the sequel to the Bible.  Someone else can publish it.  These writers clearly think their work isn’t worth a tinker’s damn, or they would put more care into how it is presented.  If they don’t love their work enough to talk about it, then I can’t love it enough to consider it.

There are tons of sites out there with information on “How to Write A Query”, but I want to give high marks to Jessica Souders for her four-day tear-it-apart-and-explain-it with a final day overview.  This just ended today.  You can’t get more recent than that.  While hers applied to her email to her agent, it also applies to publishers who take unagented material – like us.  Thanks, Jess.  You don’t know how much I appreciate you.



1. Jessica - 23 April 2010

Thanks for the shout out! I truly appreciate it and you’re welcome! I should have mentioned that the query was the same for editors as agents and I’ll correct that on Monday. Thanks for the reminder

The Inimitable M - 23 April 2010

No problem, but I wanted to make sure that people went over there, because you couldn’t have been more detailed if you tried. You should see some of what I’ve received the last few days! Oy!

Thanks again, Jess!

2. Lael - 24 April 2010

I concur Maggie. I have no trouble supporting the auto-rejection policy. It is sound procedure and common sense. You are getting enough good, solid queries that are properly done and with good book prospects connected that it is time to set the bar where you need it. (Not that you haven’t always, just time to make it official.)

Considering you are booking slots into next year and there is a limit to the number of submissions and projects you can accommodate, this makes practical sense as well. Following guidelines, directions and standards is part of any profession. Writers are no more entitled to dismiss these rules than a child is to skip homework or an employee can just skip safety precautions without penalty. Not if they are seeking publication for their masterpiece of literary excellence that the world should not be without.

The Inimitable M - 24 April 2010

No one in the industry accepts this sort of behaviour. I don’t want it ever inferred that I have in the past or would in the future. You’ve heard me complain about this for months. I finally spoke out about it. There’s nothing “official” or “policy” about it. It’s logic. Most wouldn’t even respond. I’ll at least tell people that they’re pretty much screwed if they can’t get it together.

There will never be a limit to the number of projects. If it’s good, I’ll make room, always. There is, however, a limit to my patience.

As for submissions? They’re Niagara Falls and always will be.

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