Have you ever written a book review?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Manuscript Submission Process, Pt. 2

(For Part 1, click here)

Don't be a Submissionist. (More on that later.)

We receive submissions like the following routinely: A large envelope (priority mail or sometime overnight) offering several graphic novels for publication, or a traditional work of fiction, or a history of the Congo, or how to breed and make money on designer dogs (no, I am not making this up).

I have nothing against graphic novels (but have never read one and likely never will), good fiction (which  I occasionally read), the Congo (one of my favorite places to visit). But I don't like designer dogs.

Getting these in the mail irks me even more than waking up in the morning to discover I am out of cream for my coffee. (And I like my coffee in the morning while I shave and ponder the day.) Even a cursory examination of our list of titles makes it vibrantly evident that Savas Beatie does not publish graphic novels, fiction, books on Africa, or dogs. These "Submissionists" (doesn't that sound deliciously dark?) expended time (say 30 minutes) and money (say $10 for the postage, certified return receipt, interior binding, paper, ink, etc.) to submit a manuscript to a company that does not even publish (or dabble in) their genre. He wasted his own time, and the time of my staff to handle them, and me to look at them right before I drop them into the bin that my son empties each weekend into the shredder.

Which leads me to reiterate a couple common sense rules to follow. Many authors pay too little attention to both of them when submitting manuscripts. A few minutes well spent will save you copious amounts of time and energy, and keep acquisition editors from pulling their hair out.

RULE NUMBER ONE: As obvious as it seems, make sure the books produced by the publishing house and the manuscript you are submitting actually have something in common. A completely unrelated query communicates a lot of information, none of it flattering for the Submissionist. It tells me the author (or agent) did not research our company and list. It also means he/she/agent is using the "shotgun" approach to getting published--i.e., send out as many queries to as many publishers as possible in the hope that one will stick.

Would you interview for a job with a company you know nothing about? Would you tell your interviewer you are knocking on every door in every building and up and down the street, ready to take the first offer someone makes? Of course not. But that is exactly what an unsolicited submission in a genre we don't publish tells us. You are willing to waste our time, which is already sorely constrained, to pitch a book we likely would not publish regardless of how well it is written.

Credible publishing houses receive a slew of manuscripts and queries (we get several each day from around the world). The first ones tossed into the round file are those that do not match what we publish. If it has a return envelope, we bundle and return. If it has a SASE, I write NO in big bold letters and drop the envelope into the post box.

And RULE NUMBER TWO: Click here and read Part 1 of this series.

There is a reason for a submission process. Ignore it at your peril.

Don't be a Submissionist.


Friday, August 3, 2012

How to Write Good, by Frank L. Visco

This is at least a cousin of the "How to submit a manuscript" story line
 currently occupying my attention. And hopefully yours. Happy chuckle.

How to Write Good, by Frank L. Visco

          1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

          2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

          3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

          4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

          5. One should never generalize.

          6. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

          7. Be more or less specific.

          8. Sentence fragments? Eliminate.

          9. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

          10 Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

          11. Who needs rhetorical questions?