Lately I’ve noticed an interesting trend – no sooner do we send a rejection letter to an author than another manuscript shows up in the query email box from the same author. It could be days or even months later, but it’s happening with far greater regularity. In one way I’m a bit flattered by this; it says that people want to publish their books with us (or that we were the only publisher to actually respond to the hundreds of queries they sent out). But I want to give some advice to authors who do this. I’ll break that advice down by the type of query:
- A Completely Different Manuscript. Before you send a second manuscript, you might want to ask “Why did they reject my first manuscript?” Have they ever published a manuscript about hunky-cursed-immortal-servants-of-the-Underworld or novels written entirely in Haiku? If not, are they likely to accept a second manuscript about these topics after rejecting the first? Did my query make it past a cursory review of the cover letter and synopsis to an actual human being reading the sample chapters that doesn’t sound like a telecom helpdesk worker? It may not be your manuscript at all that got rejected, but rather your query letter, and that would be good information to know. Is it that there are still areas of your style and voice that you need to work on that will make you really stand out?
Truth be told, although I get over 100 emails a day, if you send a polite email asking for further explanation I will try to reply (but can’t make promises). But you need to be prepared for an answer as short as “the reviewer didn’t like the manuscript,” because sometimes that’s all the feedback I get from a reviewer (I’m working on that). Also, it might be good not to start your request for information with “Dear Tool-of-the-Publishing-Elite” or “Dear Visionless Hack” and ending with “I will be laughing at you from the top of the New York Times Best Sellers List.” Yes, we have really gotten those letters, and you can probably guess what happens to them.
- The Same Manuscript. We have a policy that we will re-review a manuscript that has been significantly changed, especially if it has been changed based on our critique or review. The key here is that you need to let me know it’s an updated manuscript, complete with ours (or another publishers) suggested changes. Otherwise, I must admit my assumption is that there is a glitch in your query tracking software, especially if the query letter is exactly the same both times. I keep an extensive database of all the queries we receive, so that is pretty easy for me to figure out.
- The Name Game. This happened more often than I probably wish it would. An author submits “The Light and the Scepter of the Covenant,” which gets rejected. A few months later I get a query from the same author with the title “The Dark and the Scepter of Doom.” Back to the database. Same query letter (usually exactly), same plot, same word count on the sample chapters (if you take the name change into account). Now while I’m not the most observant person at times (especially when it comes to women), it doesn’t take my Ph.D. to figure out this is the same query. People who do this are added to the blocked email filter on our firewall.
The real secret to getting noticed by a publisher is not gimmicks or clichés. It’s demonstrating that you are willing to work with a publisher to make your manuscript the best it can be, even on those days you feel your editor is in fact a Hell-spawn in human form. I’m much more likely to respond favorably to a query that shows a genuine love of writing over one filled with one-liners meant to produce “shock and awe”, and I’m much more likely to give an author a second chance who demonstrates a willingness to work with us – even if their editor ascended from the 9th plane of hell (yes, we’ve been accused of trolling Hell for editors)…