Saturday, December 17, 2005

Just When You Think...

Writers never fail to surprise you. Just when you think you’ve almost seen every combination of submission, you spot something different. This past week it happened to me as I processed another stack of fiction submissions for Howard Publishing. Every writer needs to provide the editor with a means to respond—either a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (SASE) or an email address.  I had a couple of people so excited about sending their submission to an editor that they neglected to include a response mechanism. Some people wonder why this necessity—since it’s only a stamp or small expense. Those small expenses add up to thousands of dollars of completely unbudgeted and unplanned expenses for a publishing house.  It’s the writer’s responsibility to give the editor a means to respond through their SASE or email address.

OK, here’s my situation. I have a large stack of paper on my desk of queries, manuscripts and proposals. I maintain a simple submission log of each of these submissions (whether electronic or on paper).  When I type someone’s name into my submission log, if they’ve submitted something earlier, their name will fill into my excel spreadsheet. It instantly clues me in that I’ve heard from this writer—and maybe even seen this same query or pitch. It happened again last week. A writer sent me the exact same query and exact same idea which I rejected months ago. It’s not how to make a good impression on your editor. 

Through this process, you see all sorts of different combinations and pitches from writers about their work.  Then I spotted something new. As I prepared to use the writer’s SASE and tuck in my form rejection letter, I had a problem. The return envelope was sealed.  I imagine the writer created some assembly process to mail her queries—and unknowingly sealed her SASE. I pulled out my pocketknife from my desk and carefully cut open the envelope, tucked the rejection note inside and resealed it with some tape. It was another new experience for me. Writers are a creative bunch.

My Howard Publishing email address is on the website. My phone number used to be on the site. It was removed when I got several unsolicited calls from writers who enthusiastically told me that Howard Publishing would be the perfect place for their children’s book. If you look at the house guidelines, it’s clear that Howard doesn’t publishing children’s books. I’m certainly not the person to receive these pitches since I only handle fiction. After those calls, my phone number was removed from that location.

Some times a writer’s pitch or query letter will come to my editor email address. With my email address, it seems clear to me that it’s my personal Howard Publishing email address. You would be surprised at the queries which begin “Dear Editor” or “To Whom It May Concern.” One of these pitches last week showed their pure confusion by beginning the letter, “Dear Ms. Whalin” and later using, “Mr. Whalin.” These writers are making an impression with their pitch and it’s definitely not the type they want to make with it. Typing my name into any search engine and in a matter of seconds you can learn how to address my salutation. These queries come from writers who are unskilled or hurried.   No matter what salutation or what format, I continue to give these writers a “hearing” to pitch their idea. Within publishing, it’s called a “slush” pile for a reason.

4 Comment:

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Ron Estrada Left a note...

That's funny. One of my letter writing fears is to use the wrong title of the person I'm addressing. I'll type in "Ms." and think "will she be insulted if she's married?" My writing partners are sticklers for details like that and are great at holding me accountable. I hope my name never sticks in an editor's mind for the wrong reasons!

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


From my perspective, it's key to either do your research --at the publisher's website, through a friend who knows this person, through using Google or some other means--or take the safe approach and simply use the full name. I receive many letters which include my full name as a salutation: Dear Terry Whalin.

Then your material is professional without getting it wrong--and making the wrong impression. You want the editor to be concentrating on your writing and idea--not some "extra" issue which catches attention.

The Writing Life

At 2:46 AM, Blogger relevantgirl Left a note...


Thanks again for all your wisdom on this site. I often refer writers here. (And recently, I started a writers group here in France. I sent them all here!)

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Gina Holmes Left a note...

That's funny. I cringe when I think back to my early submissions. I won't humiliate myself by sharing my pitiful expereinces. Good thing they weren't submitted to anyone that actually had anything to do with my intended market. They might have remembered me. :)


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