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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