Thursday, February 8, 2007

How Not To Get Published (or, Submitting To The Publisher)

So... if you're returning to this blog, it's probably because you read my post on my experiences trying to find an agent for THE GUARDIAN. That seems to be my most popular post, anyway. Well, that's my happy, good story. That's the story in which I do most things right.

Here's the other story. (dum, dum, dum...) Okay, I don't have any idea why I decided to make this sound ominous/funny. I guess it was because I was just reading something humorous over at Nathan Bransford's blog. That guy is very sharp, but he cracks me up--and have you ever noticed how you start writing like the people you read? Yes, you have. Everyone notices that. See? I'm writing banter--and I never write banter, because I'm not good at it and we all know that banter doesn't generally carry over too well into written form. I blame Bransford for this. But never fear, it will wear off shortly.

(Ahem. My posts tend to trend long, but it's not normally because I'm so rambly. I'll get on with it.)

My story of trying to find an agent for THE GUARDIAN is long to read because a lot happened. Also pretty long because it covers about eight months of time thus far (that story hasn't yet ended). However, I also have a much shorter story about a book called CAYENNE--even though it covers about... oh, let's just say two years of my life. This story is so much shorter because, when I finished writing CAYENNE in 2001, I did something very stupid: I tried to submit directly to the publisher.

My thought was: who wants to pay 15% to an agent for the rest of his life? I can do this on my own! So I printed up the ms at kinkos, sent that sucker off to Tor, and waited... for nine months. And then: still nothing happened. So I waited another four months, and then decided that probably meant they weren't interested.

I was a bit more distanced from my book at this point, and starting to see all its many flaws. I was trying to write another book, and though I wasn't yet having much success, I was seeing a marked improvement in my writing since finishing CAYENNE. Oh well, I figured. I never thought the book was going to be hardback, anyway. Surely there's a house that wants to publish this mass market.

So I decided to send it off to Baen. They actually were way ahead of their time at this point--they actually let you submit online via email! Well, that was great--I was sure to get a response quicker! So I sent it off, and I did get a very fast response (under a minute!). I still have it:

Baen Manuscript Submission

Do not reply to this message as it is an automated response.

Thank you for your submission. Please note the following requirements
as given on our submissions page.

[etc, etc, etc]

The email actually came from an address with the name "slush." That was a good hint right there, but I went on and waited the requisite nine months anyway (but no baby. or offer. or response).

If you've been reading anything about publishing and agents, you already know the many reasons why this route didn't work for me. If you don't know why this didn't work out, you really should be going to places like Writer Beware's page on literary agents. And let my tale of CAYENNE serve as a warning--the "middle men" (who are women in the majority, I believe) are your dearest friends.


Chandra Rooney said...

All right, since we're sharing warnings of what not to do, I'll add this one.

Don't show anything to an agent and/or publisher during the Blue Pencil Cafe/Ten Minute Pitches that isn't finished. ;)

Christopher M. Park said...

Ah, great addition. This is another area where I don't have that much experience, because I'm not the sort that generally goes to conferences or workshops. I took a lot of classes in high school, but since then it's all just been studying other writers, reading various books on writing, and solitary practice (with feeback and editing from my wife, of course).

I can see where this would be a big waste of the agents' time, though, because they can't consider something that isn't finished...