Monthly Archives: March 2013

Evolution…

As every business evolves and grows, there come times when the need for changes in policies is realized. An email I received from an author today made me realize that this is one such time.

When I started Divertir Publishing, doing things differently was important to me. Something I wanted to do differently was how we handled queries. One common complaint from authors is that they often get rejections letters with no indication why a query was rejected. Thus, we made the decision when we started that we would always try to provide some commentary on why a query was rejected.

Last year, we received well over 1,000 queries, and the first evolution of this policy was necessary. Last January we decided that queries that did not make it past the initial query letter review would receive a form rejection letter. For queries and full manuscripts forwarded to a reviewer or editor, the comments from the reviewer would be forwarded if we thought they would be helpful.

Recently we received three manuscripts that I really liked the concepts for but that, in my opinion, were just not ready for publication. Not only did I send each author the reviewer’s comments, but took the time to speak to each authors individually via phone about my interest in the manuscripts and what I thought would bring the manuscripts to where I needed them to be to consider publication. I hope my comments were useful. In one case, the author has continued to make changes to the manuscript and work with us – I’m guessing at some point this will result in a contract. But in the second and third cases, the authors made superficial changes to the manuscripts and went on to explain why they were right to leave things as they were. After three rounds of reviews by multiple people (including myself) for each of these manuscripts the authors were sent rejection letters.

Today I received an email from one of the authors stating that “There’s something you’re not getting here” and “To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of faith in your desire for this book anyway.” Had the email from the author merely thanked me for my time I would not be writing this blog. However, given the amount of time I personally spent on the manuscript, this author’s comments have just reinforced for me that as much as authors say they want to hear why their manuscripts have been rejected often they are unaccepting of the explanation.

The simple truth is that, when you send a manuscript for possible publication, you are in essence asking us to endorse your work. I will not endorse a work I do not like or think has issues, regardless of how much an author believes in that work. Perhaps in those cases I am just not the right publisher for the work. But the recent number of emails we’ve received questioning our rejections has made me decide it is time for another evolution in our policy regarding queries. We are a publisher with a specific idea of what makes a manuscript publishable – not a critique group or writing program – and as such it would be pretentious for us to continue to provide feedback to authors. Thus, we will no longer include the reviewer’s comments when a manuscript is rejected.

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Technology…

I thought I would start this blog by sharing some information about the technology that was available when Pebbles, Bam-Bam and I went to school:

  • My first computer in high school was a Commodore Pet 2000 with the spaceman screen and Mickey Mouse keyboard (at least that’s what we called them). It had 8 Kbytes of memory, expandable to 16 Kbytes (yes, those are “Kbytes” – it’s not a typo). It used a cassette tape to load programs and came with a word processor – which was pretty useless because it had no printer.
  • My first “word processor” was a Sears electric typewriter that could do bold and italics and stored up to 5 pages of text in memory. Given that most of the papers I had to write in college were 5 pages and under, I was in heaven – so long as I didn’t need to work on two papers at the same time. I still have that typewriter, but if my life ever depended on getting a ribbon for it I would probably be toast.
  • The computations for my PhD thesis were run on a Cray supercomputer, and the software and results are currently stored on reel-to-reel tapes. It would take less time to rewrite all of the software from scratch and rerun all of the computations than it would to find a reel-to-reel tape reader, and my current laptop computer probably has more computing power than the supercomputer did.
  • My first mobile phone was the size of a small purse and could do nothing but make phone calls.

Of all the information I will share today, probably the most interesting fact is that I am under the age of 50. That’s right – in just over 30 years, or about one generation, we went from talking about personal computers with Kbytes of memory that could perform simple tasks to machines with gigabytes of memory that can run very complex computations. We went from mobile devices that could make phone calls to smart phones and tablets with touch screens that can surf the internet, providing instant access to information.

So what does this have to do with publishing?

A recent study suggested that over 70 percent of people under the age of 25 receive a majority of their information on mobile devices. As technology improves this trend is not likely to be reversed. Barnes and Noble recently announced they would be closing two hundred stores over the next ten years, and I suspect this reduction in stores will be accompanied by a significant increase in their web presence and the development of new mobile applications. Publishers who accept the trend by making their books available in electronic formats readable on mobile devices and by providing information about their books in an easy to find manner on the web will likely reap the rewards of these technological advances. Publishers who cling to old paradigms about how publishing works may find themselves looking for ribbons for their typewriters…

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