Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Craziness of Querying

It's not an editor's job to be fair to writers. It's an editor's job to make money for his publisher by acquiring and packaging books people want to read. Writing professionally is not a contest or a competition or a sweepstakes; it's a business, and you're on the selling end in a buyer's market. Expect editors to treat you not like a beloved student, but like a salesman who's interrupting them -- you'd better have a product that'll make the interruption worthwhile, and the manners to convince them to look at it.


What better reason could an aspiring writer taking the plunge to put his or her work out there, with the intent of publication, want as motivation to present his or her work in the best light possible?

I can tell you from my own days as an editor for my epublisher that the quickest way to lose my attention involved grammatical errors, spelling errors, implausible plots, clearly not having read our publishing guidelines...If you're going to take that step to send your work, asking for consideration for publication, WHY wouldn't you send your best work? It's not easy getting the attention of an editor so why not make the most of your query?

1. Make sure your manuscript is clean---no grammatical errors, typos--in short, proofread!

2. In addition to doing a run through the manuscript to address plot, continuity, flow, characterization issues, make certain you don't revise your voice right out of your work.

3. Follow the submission guidelines set forth by the publisher you're querying. Having been on the other side of that desk as an editor, I can assure you, the guidelines aren't mere suggestions, they weren't put together because someone like the combination of the words.

For more advice on querying, please check out these links:

How to Deal With Contradictory Query Advice

How to Write a Query

See Heather Write: Query Advice...

Think about it from the point of view of the editor. He's not a teacher, showing you the best way to do something. He's not a bureaucrat, mindlessly following rules. He's a merchant trying to put together the best product he can for his customers. His major concern is pleasing his readers, so they will continue to pay for it. He's looking at what you offer him to see whether it's something he wants to offer his customers.

Therefore, he looks at each submission as if he were a customer -- that is, as if he were a reader looking for entertainment. He picks up the story, starts reading -- and if at any time he finds himself thinking, "This is boring; I don't want to read any more," then he puts the story down and rejects it and goes on to the next. Because if it bores him, he can assume it will bore his readers.

Yep, I'm getting to that Query Stage with one of my manuscripts. It's been so long, I thought a refresher course for myself was in order, and why not pass along what I learn?

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