Friday, October 5, 2012

The Manuscript Process (Part 3)

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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. Sometimes 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 do I do this? 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" or acknowledge this with a reply (about one-third do, which means the other two-thirds are essentially brain dead when it comes to manners and seeing past square one), and which authors take the time to post a pertinent comment that might help them.

Question: What does this tell me?

Answer: That I likely made the right decision to turn down their manuscript and reject them as authors.

If an author can't follow simply suggestions that will help him or her potentially 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). I sent it out to a reader, paid a few bucks 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. And we know the market.

I took the time to put all this into an email and send it to the author. It was a long, careful, email.

Guess what? The author did not take the time to even reply. Obviously 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.I saw the book a few months later being announced by another publisher who takes almost everything, edits almost nothing, prices their books sky high, and markets into a very narrow niche. What a mistake.

Authors take heed: There is a reason for everything we do here (and this is true in most credible publishing houses). How you handle your end may determine whether you get your work published. Publishing is a very, very small world.

Word travels fast.

--tps

2 comments:

Kaitlyn S. C Hatch said...

This bodes well as I would say everything you mentioned falls into what I would classify as 'common sense'.

Paul Taylor said...

Note to beginning authors: Once a publisher has requested to look over your ms., view anything other than an outright rejection as a positive. All critiques and suggestions from readers / publishers are geared toward making your book better. In other words, a win-win for all concerned.