One Bite at a Time

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Much is Too Much?

I recently parted ways with an agent and have begun trying to place a novel with a publisher on my own. The process is as tedious and frustrating as I remember it, and could be used as a tool for AAR to encourage writers to hire agents. If creating a law can be compared to making a sausage, wading through what’s involved to find a publisher is like having to find and kill the required animals, butcher them yourself, and then make the sausage.

I’m not complaining, though it probably sounds a lot like it. (When I complain, you’ll know.) This is my decision, and I’m good with it. I had an agent, but over time she and I came to have different visions of where my books should be marketed. Now it’s on me, and that’s fine. I don’t ever want to wonder if I didn’t get published because an agent only wanted to approach big publishers, even if the book was better suited for a smaller house. Now it doesn’t matter if the fault lies with the book, or with the approach: it’s on me either way. I’m good with that.

Here’s what’s hard. I was researching small publishing houses last night and found one I thought worth submitting to, until I read their guidelines. They want the whole manuscript via e-mail. Fine. They’ll need it for four to six months, unless it requires a second reading, which will take longer. Not so fine, but what can you do? They also will not notify me if they don’t want the book, only if they do, and, by the way, don’t even think of calling for a status update.

Well, then, they can kiss my ass. I don’t think it’s asking too much to send a e-mail rejection. “Dear Sir or Madam: No thank you,” would be sufficient. I’ve seen short story markets that do this, but they have definite end dates on their windows: if you haven’t heard back by March 15, we’re not interested. That I can live with.

I realize I’ve just crossed a potential publisher off of a list that’s tight to begin with. That’s okay. I think their approach is unprofessional and patronizing, no matter what they say about wanting to find and promote new writers. I’m also willing to admit I’m a hard ass from time to time, and it sometimes is not in my best interest.

How much jerking around will you allow a publisher to do before you say enough, particularly when they aren’t paying you (yet)?


pattinase (abbott) said...

This is my problem with the whole thing. I gave up on Novel 1 after less than ten agents/publishers read it for reasons such as this. Why can't they have one set of guidelines for submission. The process is difficult enough.

Dana King said...

I suspect there are no consistent guidelines because keeping them different limits the numbers of submissions. Yes, they want to find new, potentially profitable writers, but they're also inundated with manuscripts. They may be looking for a way to slow the torrent.

I came up with a rule for when to change jobs several years ago, called it the Bullshit to Profit curve. All jobs have bullshit builtinto them. This is why they have to pay people to do them. When the amount of bullshit involved passes the amount of money that's worth it, then it's time to look for something else. Writing isn't there for me, but I can see conditions where it would be.