Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hacks and Vanity Presses…

A few weeks ago I received a query that was very poorly formatted where the author had failed to follow our submissions guidelines. While a part of me wanted to just send a standard form rejection, I decided to send the author an email explaining my decision in the hope it would be helpful. People who read my blog regularly can probably guess what happened next: I received an email calling me a “hack” and Divertir Publishing a “vanity press.”

My only comment to being called a “hack” is that, in the past two and a half years, I have been called a lot more creative things by authors whose work we have rejected (like a Tool of the Publishing Elite). I did, however, resent the implication that just because we didn’t ignore the shortcomings of the query that somehow we were suddenly a vanity press. We never charge authors to publish with us, and had the author taken the time to find out anything about us they would have know this. They would have also known that Divertir Publishing was featured in the article “Keys to Cracking 10 Top Markets” by Adria Haley which appeared in the September 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest – we appeared in the company of Harlequin and The Boston Review. Our first memoir, Tears for the Mountain, briefly reached number one in the Social Policy category on Amazon, and a portion of the proceeds for two of our books (Hurricane and Tears for the Mountain) are being donated to charity. Finally, I recently wrote a guest blog on fee-charging literary agents for Writers Beware. These are hardly the signs of a vanity press.

As Sid Hamer recently pointed out to me, I tend to get tunnel vision when I’m working on a project and don’t communicate nearly enough with authors (I promise I’m working on that). So when I take the time to send a personal email to an author who has queried us, it is always an attempt to be helpful; it’s far too easy to send a form rejection letter for me to bother writing a personal response for any other reason. I must admit that the most recent less-than-professional emails from authors (we’ve had more than one) have me reconsidering our policy of giving authors critiques of their work when we feel our comments would be useful.

That said, what authors need to understand is something I’ve said before: when you send a query to any publisher large or small, you are asking them to invest their time, effort, and money in your work. In fact, you’re asking them to make an investment in your work over the work of others. Thus, authors should not be surprised when a publisher requests that the author follow their submissions guidelines. Authors should also understand that a less-than-professional response to a request or critique will tell a publisher they are better off investing elsewhere…

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Bad Ken, No Biscuit…

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a copy editing service. It was obvious from the email that the sender did not speak English as a first language (although they claim to have “college educated Americans” doing their editing). Normally I just delete emails like this one, but something about the complete lack of copy editing in an email selling copy editing services set me off. I decided to respond to the email in the only way I thought appropriate – I edited it and sent it back. Below is the letter (my additions are in red, while my comments are in braces):

Hello there [This is a pretty informal opening for a business letter]. My name is [Name removed], and I am in charge of the american American online proofreading service for online proofreaders known as the [Either “the” is part of the name and needs to be capitalized, or it is not part of the name and should be left out after “as”] [Company name removed]. Every editor we have on staff is college educated and has at least 5 years of experience with copyediting. Try us and you wont won’t regret it. We not only do proofreading, but we can also do complete rewording of articles.

Make your content count with our professional proofreading and editing services [You offer more than one service] and capture the hearts, minds, and money of your readers. We can help you do this by making sure your content is the best. Possibly the first proofreading and content editing service for internet marketers [You’re not sure about being first? Try Google…], [Company name removed] is here to help. Our stuff staff consists of college-educated Americans [I’m assuming your “stuff” is, in fact, neither college educated nor American…] who have a passion for the written word.

[I’m bored – Perhaps your staff of college-educated American proofreaders can help you find the remaining errors.]

You might be wondering why I decided to share this. Is it that I truly am nothing more than a “Tool of the Publishing Elite” who derives pleasure from crushing the dreams of others? Is it that I’m trying to show I have a sense of humor (or completely lack one)? While these would be good guesses, they would not be correct. My reason for sharing the above is that this is often how I’m reading your query letters – I’m editing them in my head as I read (I know, I need to get out more). And just as the above letter tells me a lot about the editing services offered by this company, a poorly written query letter tells me a lot about an author.

In short, the best way to ensure that I actually read your synopsis and sample chapters  is not to send a query letter that makes me want to edit it as my response.

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