Because Nice Matters…

A publishing company needs to have a working calendar where we schedule due dates, press dates, release dates, etc. When I start a calendar year, I usually have a pretty good idea of which projects I’m going to be publishing during that year. I calendar their release dates according to a specific list of criteria. Due to budget restraints and other limited resources, I have to stay as close to my calendar schedule as is humanly possible.

Point One: The nature of the publishing business is that things are always getting delayed. It always takes longer to do something then you think it will. A key employee gets a two-week flu. The graphic designer goes on vacation. The printer has a brain cramp and forgets he agreed to do a project by a certain date. Shipments get held up in customs. Whatever. The bigger the publishing company, the more flexibility they have and the less likely the printer is to forget them, but still. It’s always something. We try to pad our schedule for emergencies like these but sometimes things happen outside of our control. Yelling at US doesn’t heal our employees or influence the customs master. We expect you, the author, to understand and be patient. We will be nice to you by explaining these things as soon as we know about them and we expect you to be nice back.

Point Two: When an author and I agree to a release schedule, and I tell them I need their finished manuscript by February so that we can release it at Bookseller’s in August–and they agree–then I pretty much need their manuscript when I say I do. If the author doesn’t get me their manuscript until April, then their project is now competing with another author’s project and release date.

What am I supposed to do? Tell Author B, who did get their manuscript to me on time, that their book will now miss Bookseller’s because Author A was two months late with their’s?

I understand that things happen. Authors have real lives too. If life smacks you in the face and you’re going to miss your deadline, let me know as soon as possible. Talk to me. I will be understanding. I will be nice. I might be able to swap your schedule with someone else’s and get you both out in time for Booksellers. I’ll certainly work with you as much as I reasonably can because I like your book; I want your book.

BUT I’m not going to bump someone else’s book–which I also like and want–to accommodate yours. I’m not going to work 18 hour days and rush both projects through. I’m also not paying my employees overtime to get your book done so it can be released on its original schedule. I’ve already paid them for twiddling their thumbs for two months because your book wasn’t there to work on when it was originally scheduled.

When this happens (and it does more often than not), please don’t climb up my back or yell at my employees because your book wasn’t at Booksellers as I’d originally “promised” and don’t accuse me of breaking agreements and acting without integrity when YOU were the one who dropped the ball.

I will be nice to you, but I expect you to be nice back.

How Not to Query

I received a query letter this week that I want to share with you because it’s an example of everything not to do. Most of you will know this already, but occasionally I get an e-mail from a blog reader that lets me know that some still need basic instruction. And that’s okay. That’s what I’m here for.

I am not going to poke fun at this letter because it’s clear they are trying their best. It’s not full of ego and attitude (my cue to poke as much fun as I want). Even though I’m fairly certain they will never stumble across this blog (they’re not LDS), I have changed the details so that even they won’t recognize themselves.

John Doe
123 My Street
My Town, XX


XYZ Publisher
My PO Box
My Town, UT

To Whom It May Concern:

I Am Currently Looking For A Publishing Company, For My Book, “Car Maintenance for Women”

This is my First Book, I will Appreshute Any INFORMATION You Can Give Me, Such as Proof-Reading, Typesetting and Such.

I Am Looking Forward to Hearing From You.

John & Martha

1. It’s handwritten. That is not appropriate. If you’ve written a book, surely you have a computer and could use that to write the letter. If you’ve handwritten your entire book, you will need to hire someone to type it before you submit. They can type your queries as well.

2. No phone number. No e-mail address. No SASE. You have not made it easy for me to respond to you. It will now cost me approx $1.50-4.00* to reject you (postage, materials, payroll; $1.50 if my assistant does it, $4 if I do it myself). It upsets me when I have to pay to reject a query I should never have gotten in the first place. Sometimes, I don’t reply.

3. My name is not “To Whom It May Concern.” If you don’t know my name and can’t figure out how to discover what my name is, “Dear Acquisitions Editor” is a better choice. However, if you’re writing non-fiction or historical fiction, I will assume that either you do have research skills but are too lazy to use them, or that you don’t have adequate research skills, which calls your manuscript content into question. Not a good place to start.

4. I am an LDS publisher. It states that clearly on our website and all official materials from us. I don’t know of any resource list that we are on that doesn’t also state that. The title of the book makes clear that it is not an LDS book. Again, if you didn’t do enough research to determine if we even publish your type of book, see #3. (Now, Car Maintenance for Mormons…uh, never mind.)

5. If we publish your book, why do you need information on proof reading and typesetting? We take care of that in-house. If you’re talking about cleaning up your manuscript before submitting, it would be unethical for us to refer you to someone. Also, you never need to typeset your own book.

6. Spelling and punctuation mistakes in your query are not a good sign. Either you were not careful or you don’t know any better. Both options mean that your manuscript will require too much editing for us to consider it. Also, if you had typed your query using any of the standard word processing programs, the spell and grammar checks would have cleaned that up.

7. Who the heck is Martha? Co-author? Include her name at the top and mention that you are co-authors in the letter. Spouse? Leave her off.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. If you’ve never done something before, there’s no reason why you would know how to do it correctly. However, there is every reason to do a little research. Go to the library, pick a book–any book–on how to query and/or submit a manuscript to a publisher. One book, one afternoon of research, would mean the difference between being considered and an automatic rejection.

*41¢ postage, 6¢ letter, 1¢ envelope, 1.50 payroll (counting taxes, etc.) or $3.33 (what my company considers my time to be worth, even though they don’t pay me that amount)

How to Make Me Hate You in One Easy Step

I’ve heard it was a good idea to turn a page upside down in the middle of the manuscript to make sure it was really read. I was thinking, if I turned every other page upside down, not only could I tell if it was read, but I’d be remembered, too. What do you think?

I would much rather you hide a $20 bill around page 115.

Just kidding. Please do not send money.


Might as well finish the week on the same theme:

Don’t you think a fancy font would get noticed more than that boring Times New Roman or Courier? And, what about a few drawings, too? I’m a pretty good artist.


Because all editors are stuffy, stodgy, opinionated bores.

We want to make our own pictures.

And we don’t really like Courier either.

Publishers Directories

Is there a directory available that lists publishers and editors with their home phone numbers? I’d really like to call a few and ask them why they rejected my manuscript.

Thank you so much.

Yes. It’s 1-800-I’ll never publish your book in a million years!

Although the person who sent this question intended it to be humorous, it’s really not that funny when I get the call. (Yes, I get those calls. Usually when I’ve just dozed off for my Saturday afternoon nap.)

With all the resources available these days, it’s not too hard to track down a publisher’s personal info. Don’t do it! I guarantee, they will not admire your tenacity and gumption. Anything else you send them in the future will be an automatic pass. And they’ll probably gossip about you to their publisher friends.

[And it’s not just writers who do this. A million years ago, in a city far, far away, I was a drama critic for the local paper. I gave a show a moderate review, but pointed out several things that were sub-par in the performance. The director called me up and chewed me out–several times. From then on, I always wrote with a pen name. It’s also one of the reasons why this blog is anonymous. I can’t handle conflict. I buckle under criticism. I…well, fine. I just don’t want the aggravation.]