Tools of the Publishing Elite…

Last summer I agreed to read a manuscript for a friend of a friend. The book told the story of a cross country road trip by four frat boys which goes horribly wrong. While I won’t disclose the plot, the manuscript included a 127 year old witch that sucked the life out of the frat boys to stay young (you’ll need to use your imagination here). Upon checking, I determined that the author had already published the manuscript with a vanity press and in fact didn’t own the rights. Trying to be helpful, I sent the author a very nice email explaining why I couldn’t publish the manuscript. Big mistake…

Within the next hour I had received four emails from the author, each one worse than the last. In one, the author said I had “limited vision for failing to see the genius of his writing” (seriously) and called me a “tool of the publishing elite”. It was at that moment that Divertir Publishing implemented the policy of blocking the email addresses of authors who send unprofessional communications to us. Life is just too short.

For the past three blogs I’ve been talking about a manuscript I really liked but that went way above our word count. It may surprise everyone that last night I sent a contract to the author of this manuscript. Assuming all goes well with the contract, we will be publishing Elizabeth Young’s second book “Fugo”. So what changed? Simple. I worked to come up with a typesetting format that would be easy to read while getting more words to a page, while Elizabeth agreed to try and get the word count down to what the new format would support.

You’re probably wondering why I bothered to do this extra work – we’ve had close to 200 queries since we started accepting submissions in January and have no shortage of manuscripts to choose from. Again, the answer is simple:

  • The manuscript was well written and told a great story.
  • When we originally rejected the story (and took the time to tell the author why), the author behaved in a professional manner and offered to work with us to address the issues and resubmit.

This is not the first time a rejection has become an acceptance when resubmitted. Recently one of our editors rejected a manuscript assigned to her for review. The author sent a very nice email asking for advice on how to improve the manuscript. Our Acquisitions Editor, Elizabeth Harvey, agreed to talk with the author after reviewing the manuscript and determining that, while it needed work, overall it was a good story. As a result of these conversations, the author reworked and resubmitted the manuscript. I sent out a contract to the author of this manuscript last night as well. I won’t spoil it for the author by mentioning his name here in case he has not read his email yet.

Not every rejection will be accepted on resubmission – there are just some stories that don’t catch our interest, and to be honest in that instance an author is better off if we’re not their publisher. But even if your query was rejected, a publisher will probably remember if you were professional when reviewing future manuscripts you submit. They will also remember if you were not. What authors need to remember is that when a publisher offers you a contract the publisher is agreeing to make a financial investment in your work. They are also agreeing to a long term relationship to work with you. A publisher is going to be less likely to do this if you call them a “tool of the publishing elite”.



Filed under For Authors, Publishing

7 responses to “Tools of the Publishing Elite…

  1. Joe Mazzola

    Being a recently-former college student who took a lot of writing courses, I tend to wonder if this sort of thing is just one of the pitfalls of working in the artistic world. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes, for whatever reason, artistic types get an inflated sense of their worth and that of their work and politeness and professionalism flies out the window when rejection and criticism loom.

    I’ve recently been going on here and there about how our culture views writers and the writing profession. One of the roots of the problem may be that, aside from the assumption that artistic work is not “real work,” some people also seem to have the assumption that writing is entirely a solitary profession and that writers neither have nor need social skills. Therefore, it is possible that people who decide to go into that job may not bother to build up their professionalism because they do not learn that they will still have to work with other people until they have already left it to rot. But this is, of course, entirely speculation.

    In general, “be polite and professional” is good advice no matter what a person decides to do with his or her life.

  2. Pingback: Yes, I’m a prude… | Divertir Publishing

  3. Sometimes polite in the publishing word just isn’t the same as the rest of the world – I was in the habit of always sending a thank you email to everyone, including the form rejections. It seemed like the polite thing to do, and I’m truly grateful when people reply, even if it’s a rejection. But then writing colleagues told me NOOOOO! Don’t ever send a thank you letter for the rejections, especially form rejection – agents and publishers hate that, you’re cluttering up their in-boxes! So I stopped, but now I feel really terrible and unprofessional! But, not as unprofessional as someone who calls a publisher a “tool” – elite or otherwise. 🙂

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