Saturday, January 24, 2009
Sorting Through (Unsolicited) Book Manuscripts (Part 2a of 5)
A small detour in our ongoing discussion. . . As the managing director and acquisitions editor for Savas Beatie, I do my best to evaluate both content and author. Both are important. An evaluation tool I use is how authors respond to my suggestions via a rejection letter.
For example, occasionally we get manuscripts we can't use, but I know agents or other editors/houses who might want to see them. So when I reject the query/manuscript, I pass along a suggestion to the author to consider posting comments on our blogs (and others) pertinent to the post topic of the day, and discuss their own situation and manuscript. I also always offer a tip or suggestion that might help them.
Why? Because you never know who is watching. And as I tell them, agents, other bloggers, other publishers, other editors, et. al., track my blog.
I like to see which authors even take the time to say thank you in a reply (about half do, which means the other half are essentially brain dead when it comes to manners and seeing past square one), and which take the time to post a pertinent comment that might help them. The vast majority of those I turn away do not.
Question: What does this tell me?
Answer: That I made the right decision to turn down their manuscript and reject them as authors.
If they can't follow simply suggestions that will help them and potentially help them get published, why would I want them as a Savas Beatie author? There is a reason for everything we do here, even in rejection-suggestions.
Another quick example: We had a full length manuscript biography of a Civil War general cross our desk (I requested to see it) a few months ago. I sent it out to a reader, paid to have it read, and he evaluated it pretty carefully. Generally he liked it as a first cut, but had some very straight-up criticism for the author on how it had to be improved before we should accept it (more tactical battle detail, more analysis, and so forth). Tough, fair, and honest. No BS.
I took the time to put all this into an email and send it to the author.
Guess what? The author has not taken the time to even reply. It looks like it was not what he wanted to hear, so he handled it by not handling it. And by doing so, he told me much about what it would be like to deal with him after the contract is signed.
Authors take heed: There is a reason for everything we do here (and this is true in every publishing house). How you handle it may determine whether you ever get your work published.
Publishing is a very, very small world, and word travels fast.