A Tale of Two Queries…

I was originally going to talk about books sales this week, but then I was sent these two links and couldn’t help but talk about them. The first is a very funny commentary on why proofreading is important. The second was a blog entitled “Why Your Novel Won’t Get Published”.

As people in the publishing industry, we’ve all reviewed submissions that read a lot like the video, except that the errors weren’t in places where it made them particularly funny. I believe this would be one example of what the blogger refers to as “Them Brownies Ain’t Done Baking”. We’ve also received queries from people who view themselves as the “Special Snowflakes”, whose writing was so incredible that little things like submissions guidelines could be overlooked by them. With that, I would like to share the outcomes from two recent queries we received.

Let’s call the first author ‘Brownie Baker’, or Baker for short. Baker sent a query that more or less followed the submissions guidelines. The query letter was not stellar but did convey the required information. The synopsis outlined an interesting plot in the genre paranormal young adult (with no vampires, which for me was a plus) that had commercial viability. Yes, even as a small press we consider the commercial viability of a manuscript, although we are still more likely to publish a manuscript that will do total sales of only a few thousand copies than a larger publisher. Then I got to reading the sample chapters. I was 10% into the manuscript before I met the main characters, and almost 1/3 of the way in before I got my first hint as to the nature of the conflict in the book. In short, the book had some real pacing issues and needed a lot of work.

Let’s call the second author ‘Special Snowflake’, or ‘Snowie’ for short. Snowie sent an email  that basically said “I’ve been writing and editing for many years, and I’m a star. Please log into my website where you can download the first five pages of my manuscript for your review. This is the only information I am willing to provide until you send me a contract.” We sent back a very nice email pointing out that if he’s been editing for many years then he knows the importance of submission guidelines and that we would be happy to review his work when we receive a complete query. What happened next always surprises me, although by now it probably shouldn’t because it happens far too often – we received a very nasty email pointing out that it was our loss that we would not jump through his hoops and that he would be looking down at us when he’s on the New York Times bestsellers list. In case you’re curious, we’ve received two emails this month from authors who responded to our suggestion that they follow our submission guidelines with nasty emails saying they would be seeing us from the NYT bestsellers list – I’m beginning to think that must be the standard ‘special snowflake’ reply to a rejection letter.

So what happened to the two queries. Baker received a very nice email saying that, in my opinion, her book had potential but needed some work, and I would be happy to discuss the details concerning the pacing issues I saw. In fact, I’m on IM chatting with her about her book right now as I type this. I’m expected a resubmission of her complete manuscript sometime in the next month.

And Snowie? Because I won’t tolerate nasty emails from authors, his email address has been blocked.

Update 5/13/2011: I’m pleased to announce that we have signed a contract to publish “Baker’s” first book. Congratulations to Jenna-Lynne Duncan, the author of Hurricane on the acceptance of her manuscript.

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2 Comments

Filed under For Authors

2 responses to “A Tale of Two Queries…

  1. You’re probably sick of me “liking” half your posts, but this was really hilarious. I can’t even imagine sending nasty replies to publishers. Clueless, dude, really clueless.

  2. I think you would be shocked by the number of nasty emails we get in response to rejections if we send anything other than a form letter – and the number of nasty emails we get for using form letters.

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