Why is it ...
Publishers, a Rant ...
by CJ Heck
As writers, we all know the importance of, and the hunger for, getting our work published by reputable publishers. We pour our hearts into the writing; we polish, edit, and then edit some more and, when we're finally satisfied, we at last turn it into the finished product -- our final copy. That's a daunting task in itself!
After the manuscript is done, we spend more time, gas, and money going to the book store for our annual copy of the appropriate "Writer’s Digest" book for our genre. Once home, we spend days reading through all of the publishers, studying, trying to find EXACTLY what they're looking for: fiction, non-fiction, poetry: (rhyming or non-rhyming), memoirs, essays, short story collections, screenplays, et al.
That done, we narrow that list to publishers who will accept submissions without the need to have an agent first. By the way, I’ve noticed this list shrinking with each new edition of "Writer’s Market", no matter what the genre.
We study this shortened list to see whether they are accepting manuscript submissions in precisely what we write, within the genre they accept, i.e., children, juvenile, young adult, romance, fantasy, science fiction, western, erotica, religion, spiritual, or new age.
Out of that group, we then have to discover those who accept manuscripts NOW. Some only accept manuscripts during a specified reading period (between May 1 and July 1, for instance).
The list is further narrowed down. You have to find those that do not require “exclusive” submissions. Exclusive submission means we cannot submit elsewhere, until we've heard back from them, either yea or nay. It has been my experience that publishers can take anywhere from three months to, well, forever to notify you. So, you can see how an exclusive submission can inhibit your progress. You can't send it to a second, until you hear back from the first ... and fewer and fewer are even notifying you at all, yes or no. Some even put a caveat in their "Writers Digest" listing, stating that if you haven’t heard from them within a specified length of time, to consider your manuscript rejected.
The final list we come up with is:
*Publishers who accept your genre.
*Publishers who accept what you write in that genre.
*Publishers accepting now.
*Publishers that accept multiple submissions.
*Publishers that don’t require an agent’s involvement.
Our job now is to study each publisher in the pared down final list and carefully follow their submission guidelines. We have to follow the instructions exactly. After all of our hard work and time spent, we don’t want our precious manuscript ending up in the wastebasket because we missed some critical command.
We make sure our manuscript is double-spaced, add the extra space between paragraphs, do the Title Page precisely how they want it, paginate, follow the rule of staples vs. paper clips, write a summary, include a short bio, our publishing credits, and the ever-important self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) so they can notify us, and finally, we make sure to sign our brief cover letter and double-check that it's addressed to the editor that was specified in the publisher's listing. At last, our submission is perfect ... oh, and we're sure to only send a copy, not the original manuscript. With hope and pride, we take it to the post office and pray they don't lose it in the mail.
Now comes the hard part. ("How can it be harder than what we’ve already been through?" you ask). It is. With fingers crossed and our breath held, we wait ... and wait ... and wait. Six months later, the day arrives. In the mailbox, there's a letter from a publisher. HUH? What's this? A form letter?
Thank you for your manuscript submission to (publishing company). While we think your manuscript, __(your title handwritten in)__ was well-written; has merit; is interesting (one is checked or underlined), it does not fit our current list at this time.
We wish you luck submitting your work elsewhere.
Is it just me, or do all writers feel a lot more than rejected by a rejection letter? We put a hell of a lot of work, prep time, waiting time, not to mention, a lot of money into our submissions.
I realize publishers are busy, and yes, they get hundreds of submissions every month, but I would think if they gave us a “heads up” as to what they ARE looking for and put it in the last sentence of a rejection letter, it would save them time -- less rejection letters to send out -- and less money in postage. It stands to reason, there would also be less manila envelopes of submissions in the slush pile on the floor pushed up against a wall gathering dust and waiting to be waded through by an already overworked, underpaid staff.
What is it they ARE looking for? What MIGHT fit into their present needs? Maybe we already have something really good that's perfect for their next published book ... why is it that publishers don’t add one more itsy-bitsy sentence to the bottom of a rejection letter? They could so easily save us so much aggravation, by telling us what it is they ARE looking for that WOULD fit their current list.
I'm done ranting now. Thanks for reading ...
***Note: I am both published and self-published. Both were difficult. My four books are available through Amazon.com, my website, and in most bookstores. You may have to ask for them, but they can sure get them for you.
"Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff, Poetry for Children", 2000
"Barking Spiders 2", the sequel, 2011
"Me Too! Preschool Poetry", 2011
A Collection of Short Stories: "Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul", 2011
Website: Barking Spiders Poetry
My website has poetry from each of the three children's books, two short stories from "Bits and Pieces", a bookstore, information for writers and authors, publishing tips, school visit information for schools and how to invite me, articles on children and childhood, life, family, a huge collection of tongue twisters, silly poems to finish for children, a guest children's poet - Rusty Daily, and his poetry, another guest writer - Bob Cosmar, and some of my favorite quotations about children and writing.
Please visit often, because I'm always adding new material.
Hugs to you,