Saturday, January 17, 2009
Sorting Through Book Manuscripts. Part 1
"Can you tell me how you find manuscripts to publish?" That's a common question in this business.
Last week I had an interesting conversation with an non-fiction acquisitions editor who works for a sizable house on the East coast. She voiced concern about a lack of good material. "It's flooding in," she explained, "but by and large it is so poorly written I can't stand to read it, or it has been published a hundred times before." I acknowledged her pain (as my wife has taught me to do over the two-plus decades of our marriage--empathy is/was not my strong suit), conversed a bit longer, and hung up.
Where do we get our manuscripts? The material keeps coming in, but where does it come from? How does it end up on the accepted/contracted list?
In the vast majority of cases, manuscripts that make the accepted/contracted list do so along one of four avenues. Here is how I view this process from inside Savas Beatie:
1) UNSOLICITED: Complete manuscripts, partial manuscripts, or query letters arrive via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach us through the mail;
2) DEVELOPED: We see a need in a particular space, and seek out material through a variety of means.
3) FOLLOW-UP: We work with an author, enjoy the process, publish a book, and develop new material with him/her.
4) NETWORKED: One of our authors recommends a friend's / acquaintance's work, and either we follow up or we ask the author to follow up on our behalf.
If you are a writer and desire to publish a book, ideally you want to find yourself sitting at either number three or number four. The former is the four-lane freeway to publication in Savas Beatie, and it moves at 75 mph; the latter is a two-lane sidestreet that moves a bit faster than normal traffic patterns.
The first option is the congested on-ramp leading to the freeway. There are at least three accidents along that glide path, emergency vehicles blocking the way, a flooded water main, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Regardless of the difficulties facing you along that route, nearly everyone has to find a way to avoid and overcome those obstacles at some point in their writing career/avocation just to get a glimpse of the four-lane freeway ahead--which is moving fast with a lot of traffic.
Number two is a unique animal unto itself. (More on that later.)
As I have expressed before on this blog, authors who do not follow guidelines for submission or come across distastefully to the person most likely to accept their work will find it sleeping with the . . . (I know "Ants" will be able to look at this post and fill in the last word).
My next several posts will discuss each of these options, and how we work them. I think potential authors will find it interesting, and hopefully useful.