Monday, 25 June 2012

Do Not Presume to Presume

It has been eight days since my last blog, about five days too long I think, sorry about that, but I know a little more now than I did then.  Out of the four publishers that I have submitted to, one has passed the time-frame set in its guidelines and I have had no response.  Another…well I have to say that this is a bit embarrassing, but it seems that I sent my submission to the wrong department, and I will talk more about that today. The other two are still well within the set time frames; one ending July 9th the other October 13th and I have had no news from either of these.  Being a glass half full kinda gal, I am going with the no news is good news line of thought.
Now back to my embarrassment.  I know I stated earlier that I am by no means an expert and you should not take what I say as any form of advice, well…I wish to recant that for this one piece of advice. READ THE SUBMITTION GUIDELINES, FOLLOW THEM TO THE LETTER, DOUBLE AND TRIPPLE CHECK EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU SUBMIT.
Upper case is very dramatic isn’t it?  I didn’t mean to shout at you but as simple as these instructions are, they are often not followed…even by me.  Non-compliance to these guidelines, even in one area, will see your hard work off to the recycled basket without a second thought.
I was excited when I discovered that one of my preferred publishers was taking unsolicited manuscripts, and I set to work, following their guidelines carefully, as I readied my submission. My query letter was ready, complete with all relevant information; I had a synopsis of no more than 300 words and my sample chapter was double lined, with 3cm margins all around, and so on. Satisfied that all was in order, I confidently hit the send button.
Late the next day I received a very polite email stating that my work was not suitable for the children’s publishing program. I was horrified, how could I have sent it to the wrong department? Will I be able to send it to the correct area? Have I just shot myself in the foot?  After my mini meltdown I went back on to their website and went through the submissions guidelines again.
My error was this…I presumed.
I am writing for Young Adults, and I have found that with many publishers, the YA genre is merged with the children’s department.  I presumed that this was the case and I was wrong.  I let my excitement of discovering that a preferred publisher was taking unsolicited manuscripts blind me to the details, and as a result I showed myself as being ignorant of, or thinking I was above following the set guidelines, or at the very least of being unprofessional. A mistake that I will not make again!
I have gotten over my embarrassment and hope not to relive it, I’d hate for you to have to go through the same thing, it was a horrible sinking feeling and I was very disappointed in myself. Still am in fact.   Saying that, I have picked myself up, brushed myself off, and I am back on track. 
You will find that the submission requirements will vary from publisher to publisher, do not presume that they are all the same.  Read them carefully and follow them. If there is a Q & A section, answer honestly, and if they have supplied sample answers, follow that format. For example, if they have supplied a short sentence answer, do not supply a paragraph. 

I can’t stress enough the importance of following their guidelines, no matter how pedantic they seem, just do it.  If it helps, put yourself in the publisher’s shoes, and imagine the quantity of work they have to sift through, and how happy they will be to be able to discard some of that workload simply on the basis of non-compliance, and remember that they are looking for potential authors to work with.   
Never Give Up...
I am presuming, and I could be miles off track with this, you now know of my bad experienced with presuming, anyway, I am presuming that these submissions are, as well as a means for assessing your work, a means of assessing your compliance and attitude.  If you were looking for someone to work with, would you hire the person who came late, didn’t provide all of the relevant information, and openly ignored your company guidelines?  No? Well neither would I, and neither will the publishers.

even when things aren't going your way..

Monday, 18 June 2012

From Conception to Print - Part One

My last post was five days ago, and I am sure you are eager to catch up with my progress to date.  I thought it best to do this pictorially.  
Well it’s not quite that bad but you get the idea, this is going to be a long, long…long process. Seriously though this is what I have done since we last spoke.
My manuscript has been submitted to four major Publishing Houses.  Four doesn’t sound a lot and it isn’t, but so far four is the number of Houses that are interested in my genre, YA paranormal fiction, and, and this is a big ‘and’,  who are accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time.
Unsolicited.  That word strikes fear into the hearts of all first timers, and if it doesn’t, it should.  There are many Publishing Houses out there, and many who will be open to your particular genre, whatever that may be.  However, when you start looking further into the publishing process, you will quickly learn that the number of Houses who accept, and here is that word again, unsolicited manuscripts is miniscule. This, in my humble opinion, is our greatest obstacle and I have no idea how to get over it.
The only thing I will suggest is to keep a close eye on any of the Houses you are interested in, they may not be accepting unsolicited manuscripts now, but they could in a week, a month or next year.  Just keep checking, and when the door opens jump in quick before it closes again.  For example; one of the Houses I submitted to will be closing their doors to unsolicited manuscripts at the end of June.  Had I procrastinated much longer, I would have missed this opportunity. You have to remember that no matter how talented you are, you are still going to need a bucket load of luck and determination to get published.
Another of the Houses Isubmitted to, requires a form to be completed, amongst other things.  One of the questions was; Which children’s authors do you admire and why?  I answered; Top of the list has to be J.R.R. Tolkien.  He inspired me at a very young age and his work is timeless, also, J.K. Rowling…for not giving up.  And that is the key point; believe in your work and DO NOT GIVE UP.
 On a slightly different topic, I know that some Publishing Houses state that they do not like it if you send your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time. The thing is…there is often a long delay from the date you submit, to when the publisher gets back to you, if they get back to you at all, and if you followed this suggestion, getting published could take many, many years.  One House that I have submitted to states that if I have not heard from them in three to four months, then I can presume they are not interested in my work.  For all I know they may reject my manuscript in the first week.  Is it fair to me to have to wait the full four months before I re-submit?  I don’t think so. I hope that the Publishing Houses understand our conundrum, and will not hold multiple submissions against us. Let’s face it, we know our work is good, and If they miss out to their competition, that’s their problem.
Saying that, I fully understand where the Publishing Houses are coming from.  They receive thousands of manuscripts each month and it would be a never ending task to sift through all of the work.  They then have to try to decide, from a single page synopsis, query letter and a few paragraphs, whether or not your work is marketable, after all they are in the business of making money.  Again, no matter how talented you are, if they do not deem that your work will sell, they will not take you on.

Let us pray to the big publisher in the city, that we may one day find ourselves in print.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

In the Beginning

Up until now my blog has been a bit of waffle, I was just dipping my toe in to test the water, being a new blogger and all.  Now it’s time to get serious…well sort of.  I want to share with you my journey from an unpublished, passionate and fervent writer, to a successfully published writer.  At least, that is how I hope this blog will end.  Only time will tell.
I thought that the hardest part about writing was the actual act of writing. You know, coming up with an idea, a plot, and an amazing story.  A story that is full of excitement, emotion, unpredictability and an ending that will urge my readers to want to read more. Of course that includes creating   the characters that will live their lives, completely at my mercy, within my story. Characters who will be likeable, hateable, possibly a bit of both, and believable.  Characters who will make my story gasp with its first intake of breath before bursting into life. But guess what?  I was wrong.
Writing a novel is hard work, emotionally draining, and all consuming, yet the dedication, determination and desire to complete this work, has been greatly rewarded by the overwhelming satisfaction I felt when I typed my last, two little words...The End. 
Those two words however, are somewhat misleading, as the end is still far from sight.
You see after I had typed those final two words I then had to begin the necessary but tedious process of editing, and then I had to edit some more.  Then I edited again, and again, and again. In fact I became so obsessed with editing, that I found myself correcting a stranger’s shopping lists over her shoulder, while standing in the check out at my local store; and I have to say…she was not amused. 
And then it was done, I could edit no more, yes I know…you can always edit more, but there has to come a time when you say enough is enough, and I had reached that time.  It was now time to move on to the fun-part…let’s get published. Ha! Fun-part my furry little butt.
This is when the really hard work begins, at least if you are like me, unpublished.  The odds are against us from the word go, and even though the stats vary from one website to another and from the piles of literature, the numbers are something like this; for every 10,000 manuscripts submitted each month, (Australia wide, all genres) only 600 are published. Now if that doesn’t scare you nothing will. 
I have to admit that I am completely overwhelmed by the daunting task ahead of me, the task of finding a publisher who is willing to take a chance with me, an unknown, unpublished writer who has put her heart and soul into her work.  This is a journey that I am looking at with great trepidation but I am determined to give it my best shot, and I would like you all to come along for the ride. 
I can’t guarantee it will be useful or informative, or even entertaining, let’s face it, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing and I don’t for one moment pretend to be offering advice…but it might be fun.  At the very least you will be someone to whom I can vent when it all gets too much for me, and for that alone…I thank you.

However precarious our grasp on life is, there is always hope.