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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3 Comments

Filed under For Authors

3 responses to “Evolution…

  1. I usually have immediate responses to opinionated matters, if not intellectually, then at least emotionally. But I am stuck right in the middle on this one. A few bad apples. That sucks.

    I can say it’s a very hard thing to do as a writer, letting others pelt your newborn with small pebbles, but if you’re going to be a writer, you may as well grab a handful of rocks yourself. I think it’s natural for people to take up for their little ones, but I agree with you in that there’s a time to just end whatever connection there was and move on. If you say changes are needed and the writer disagrees wholeheartedly, then it’s time for the writer to move on. There are other publishers in the sea. It appears those last, little childish prods might have ruined it for the 1/3 of us who would like honest feedback.

    I know you don’t want to spend your days in uncomfortable and awkward conversations with puerile artists, but maybe, when you’re in a good mood and relaxed for the day, a few too many glasses of wine in you, maybe you could look at making the same mistake twice somewhere in the future.

  2. Whenever I receive a rejection letter, I send a reply….”Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.” Rejections hurt, of course, but those little did-bits of truth that can push us in the right direction are golden. I’m sorry that the few that didn’t learn courtesy in Writing 101 ruined it for your other writers.

  3. If you’ve read most of my blogs, you’ll be able to deduce that at least three of the eleven novels we’ve published to date were resubmissions based on our recommended changes. I do feel this is one way small presses can differentiate themselves – by being a place authors can get encouragement and guidance. So in truth I’d like to find a happy medium to not providing feedback at all, as I do know some people appreciate it. But as a small business owner I’m also usually answering those emails at 2 am, and the less-than-polite responses usually have me asking “Why did I bother?” Thoughts on what would constitute a “happy medium” are welcome.

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