Tag Archives: submission

New Driver On Board

One year ago to the day, Oldest took his driving permit test.  He seemed completely unruffled even though he hadn’t studied.  And with his dyslexia, I worried about him reading the questions wrong.  By the time we got to the courthouse, I was sick to my stomach.

I guess I should have just listened to him.  He passed as easily as if he had written the handbook himself.

Today is his 16th birthday.  For the past two days, I have been trying to get him to practice parallel parking in the car he would be driving for his test.  No dice. 

“I know how to parallel park.”

Not in this car.

“I’m fine, Mom.  I’ll pass.”

Egads, to have so much misplaced confidence.  No practice, no worrying, no obsessing. 

I know I don’t have to say it, but submitting our writing is waaaaaay different than this.  We do practice.  We write, we hone, we edit, we critique, we cringe, we rewrite, we re-edit and we cringe some more. 

Then, we sit anxiously by our e-boxes and gnaw our fingers to the knuckles.  Unless that’s just me…

Needless to say, Eldest passed his test with a stellar score.  He missed only five total points.  Not bad considering that he forgot to start the car on the way up to the courthouse and couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t shift out of park!

What is your state of mind when you submit a query?  Do you have confidence that your manuscript is ready to go, or are you afraid of knocking over a cone?  How do you prepare for submission?  By working extra hard or simply knowing that if you don’t have it figured out now, it’s never going to happen?


Submitting, Marriage and Deli Sandwiches

On the way home from New Orleans, we stopped at a gas station.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich to appease my hunger.  Before taking my first bite, I glanced down and realized the bun was moldy.  It had expired a week previous. 

When I returned it to the cashier, she was more than a little grumpy and acted as if I had offended her by asking for a refund.  Even though I didn’t gripe or accuse, she took it personally.  By the way she was acting, I’m sure it ruined her afternoon.

Today, DH and I celebrate 18 years of marriage.  Over the course of the years, we have learned to let the little things go.  We have learned to understand the situation and ferret out how it relates to us.  In other words, we don’t take our spouse’s bad days personally and no longer get offended over things outside our control.

These two seemingly unrelated things–marriage and moldy deli sandwiches–reminded me of the submission process.  As writers, it is our responsibility to put forth our best manuscript.  However, acceptance or rejection by an agent is outside our control. 

We must learn to gracefully accept our returned manuscripts and not waste valuable time and emotions by getting offended.  Instead, we need to simply acknowledge that not all agents like moldy turkey on wheat.  We need to understand that many variables outside the quality of our manuscripts actually impact the decision to accept or reject.  We need to discontinue taking rejections (and even critiques) personally.

Only then can we gracefully remain in the writing biz for eighteen years and still enjoy the process.  Only then can we wave off a moldy sandwich without causing a scene.  And only then can we enjoy the ebb and flow of all that life–and writing–throws our way.


Hear ye! Hear ye!

In another time and place I would have been a town crier.  Imagine the fun of running through the streets yelling announcements to all who would listen. 

Writing a book is a bit like that.  Writers have something to say, but instead of rushing here and there, we spend hours hunched over the computer screen typing masses of words that may or may not end up as a cohesive book.  If magic happens we are able to send our novels into the world with our own unique messages.

Hear ye, hear ye!

I have something to say.  Or rather, two somethings.  Because, of course, things never arrive alone–good or bad.  The usually show up in threes.

My news is only two-fold, but both tidbits are equally exciting.

Back in April, my DH pushed me.  Not physically, though he might as well have.  The swift kick to the keister was a great wake up call.  With him by my side, I submitted a few query letters.  He also pushed me to decide if I was going to start a business that had been stewing around in the back of my mind.  For a decade.

I did both.

And both have come to fruition.  I have taken my next big step as a writer.  It turns out my pirate chapter book has enough humor to tickle more than my own funny bone.  Thanks for believing in my writing, Agent Awesome.

I also started the process of opening a childcare/preschool hybrid.  Smart Start Prep and Play should be up and running the first week of September. 

Whoever said, “When it rains, it pours,” was right.  But that’s good, because everything in life needs a little rain to grow.

So, what’s your news?  Shout it out for us to cheer you on. 

Now where’s my third lucky event…?

P.S. My dog hates your manuscript.

As a whole, our geriatric black lab is so friendly she would lead a robber to the jewelry box.  You could probably strap a harness on her and she’d pull the tv up the stairs and send you on your way with a parting lick.

Unless, of course, you wore a UPS uniform and arrived when we were home.

Then she would hate you.  As soon as your truck rumbled down the street, she would stand, stiff-legged, at the end of the driveway with her hackles raised.  Geriatric Lab, who never barks, would growl deep in her throat and bare what’s left of her teeth.  You would then pass by the driveway without slowing down and take my much anticipated book with you. 

If, on the other hand, you arrived when our little fam was gone, she’d welcome you with a wag.  Garbage men leave empty-handed, but the recycling guys are adored.  Apparently she hates when the trash dudes steal our rubbish, but knows the value of a green world.   She also despises the friendly neighbor who jogs by daily and offers her doggie treats, but can’t wait for a visit from traveling salesmen.

She’s rather eccentric in what she likes and doesn’t.  For example, if you were a pheasant, she’d snatch you out of the air as you tried to flee.  Troublesome rabbits that eat my flowers, however, are as safe as a baby in the nursery.  Tennis balls she’ll chase.  Sticks, not a chance.  She’ll even pick her pills out of her food and eat those, leaving her kibbles for another time.

There is no rhyme or reason to what floats her boat, and I thank God she’s not an agent.

Her profile would look something like this:

I love food, except when I can eat medicine.  Thieves can take whatever they want, unless it’s the trash.  Don’t suck up with treats if you jog by everyday.  Random strangers are welcome to visit sans biscuits.  I’m a ferocious predator and quite talented at nabbing pheasants on the fly, but turn my nose up at robins, rabbits and red-winged black birds.  Fetch is okay as long you throw the right toy.  Please recycle when possible unless you’re peddling a new set of encyclopedias.

No wonder the UPS man only delivers when Geriatric Lab is not outside.

And yet, there are agents exactly like her.  Their sites invite us to indulge in their submission buffet policy.  “We’ll look at anything.”  Or, “If in doubt, send.”  Or, “The only thing we look for is good story-telling.”  We assume this means they are open to anything.

We happily bundle up our middle grade novel, The Fantastic Felines  Outer Space Adventures.  The one with endorsements from fourteen award-winning authors.  The one we interviewed Neil Armstrong for. 

Two days later, we get a rejection.  

Duh, Newbie.  I don’t rep middle grade, and sci-fi was so yesterday.  Please, don’t waste my time submitting a book outside my area of expertise. 

They might as well send a post script with their rejection.

P.S.  My dog hates you.

Have you run across obscure preference lists on agent’s websites?  How does this open door policy appeal to you?  Have you submitted to agencies like this only to be rebuffed for indulging in their hospitality?  Or, do you submit to agents with clear likes and dislikes to avoid wasting everybody’s time?

What do you look for when checking out an agent’s website or blog?  How far do you research before submitting? 

My dog wants to know.

The Truth About Agents

Before submitting a manuscript, I do a lot of research on an agency in general and an agent in particular.  This method either makes me extremely picky or a master procrastinator.  The end product is that I’m a submission snail.  Slow and plodding.

Along the way, I read articles, interviews and blog posts about my potential victims agents.  Iread information on the industry and try to keep up with publishing news.  I do not submit randomly just because an agent has a pulse.

In the past few weeks, what I’ve uncovered is a truth about agents that reminds me of my days as a childcare provider.  Agents are woefully underappreciated by the majority of writer wanna-bes.  Their careers are not what we picture them to be.  They do  not sit on the couch watching Oprah and eating BonBons while kids run free and beat each other over the head with shovels. 

Oops, I got ahead of myself there.

But the point is the same: agents work hard to find talent they feel passionate about.  As writers, we would do better to understand where they come from.

A Few Truths About Agents

  • They do not get paid to read our slush.  There is no all encompassing salary from the publishing gods that pays them to read through submissions.  None.  Therefore, the precious sentence or two they spend on our writing is done for FREE.  How many of us would punch out and then put in five more hours of work?
  • They do not get paid until we get paid.  An agent’s income is a fraction of our advance and royalties.  When they read our query letter (for free) and request a full (for free) and consider our manuscripts (for free) and pimp us to publishers (for free) and haggle over contracts (uh huh, for free) THEY DO NOT GET PAID.  Again, how many of us would accept a job where the boss says, “Dude, I want you to work for me, but I’m not gonna pay you yet.  If you can keep my kid from getting one bruise in the next six months, I’ll write you a check.”? 
  • “Agents” are not a whole.  Some agents are professional, others are not.  Some like to edit, others do not.  Some rep a career, while others rep a book.  Some like email.  Others dig snail mail.  Some put ketchup on their eggs.  Others are vegan.  My point is, agents are individuals.  They have individual preferences, personalities and business practices.  Respect their individuality.  I hated being lumped in with other daycare providers because I NEVER watch tv and think BonBons are nasty.  Did you know that writers are mentally ill and will likely attempt suicide?  Hurts to be lumped, doesn’t it?
  • There is no law that says agents have to respond to queries with a personal touch.  The agenting gods did not decree this.  It is not our given right as writers to get glowing rejections, a full manuscript critique or a reference list of other agents to query.  This is a matter of personality and time.  If you receive a form rejection, consider yourself lucky to have a response.  If it has any kind of personalization to it, consider yourself blessed. 
  • Agents have feelings.  It’s true.  I have yet to read an agent who doesn’t get hurt by nasty comments thrown their way by writers who don’t have a clue or the manners to go along with their ignorance.  Be respectful.  Listen to Thumper.  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin at all.”
  • Agents are elephants.  They have long memories.  Do not waste their time submitting the same story with a new title.  They will remember.  Do not slander them when you get your rejection.  They will happily burn the bridge.  One of the biggest reasons childcare providers quit providing care is parent problems.  We do not forget.  In reality, who does?

I guess what I’m saying is this: respect the time an agent took to even consider your manuscript.  Respect that they have limitations and personal preferences.  Know that they work long, hard hours and get paid wee, little chunks. 

In addition, don’t blanket email your manuscript to fifty agents.  Know who each agent is and what they’re like.

I love kids.  Love, love, love them.  As a licensed provider, I did my job well.  Yet even then, I knew that my home was not the place for every child who had working parents.  Some kids have different needs.  Some providers have different skills.  I knew that being passionate about kids wasn’t enough.  I had to be passionate about each kid as an individual. 

As a writer, I would like my agent to be passionate about my story.  Anything less and we both get the short end of the contract. 

What do you look for in an agent?  How have you tracked them down prior to submission?  Do you believe having an agent is more important than having the right agent?  What’s the difference?

Theft Control Packaging for Manuscripts

Today is  my Middle Son’s birthday.  Because DH would be gone this evening, we celebrated this morning by opening his presents and singing Happy Birthday. 

Then we spent the next forty minutes untying, untwisting and unbinding the toys from their Anti-Theft Packaging.  As if some small child who wanted the Automic Tommy 20 Air Blaster Dart Gun (yes, the toy is as big as the name) could slide it from the box and hide it under their shirts without being caught.

Have you bought a Barbie lately?  Thank goodness, I haven’t.  Because back when DD was still young enough to play with them they were strapped and stapled into the box in such a way it took a well-educated adult half an hour to free her.  I can’t imagine how bad it is now. 

We live in an untrustworthy society.  Too many Barbies and Automic Blasters have been pilfered for the toy industry to risk any more losses. 

Writers also fear the loss of their words.  Sometimes this fear is crippling and keeps them from sharing their work with beta readers or critique buddies.  It even hinders them from submitting. 

For the most part, this fear is unfounded.  Many writers are too busy trying to write, edit and sell their own works to steal someone else’s work.  After all, we believe our ideas are pretty awesome, so why would we spend time trying to write, edit and submit an idea we didn’t even come up with?

As to agents and editors?  Never fear.  If you do your homework and submit to reputable agencies and publishers, this shouldn’t be a problem.  The unscrupulous don’t last long in any business.

Like most things in writing, the best advice comes from those who have been there.  I’ll provide a few tips to safegaurd your work, while still allowing you to free your writing from the package and get the valuable feedback you need to grow as a writer. 

If anyone has anything to add based on their experiences, please comment and I will add them to the list for other writers to reference.

Theft Control Packaging for Manuscripts

  1. Know your critique buddies.  Personally or via online.  Converse with them, share ideas, talk shop, discuss your mutual interests and make sure you click.  If your gut says, “I don’t know,” get out.  If you feel good about the relationship, move forward and exchange writing samples.  When this works, you can move on to the next level.
  2. Join a writer’s group or community.  There are some outstanding online sites such as Agent Query and the SCBWI. 
  3. Attend workshops or conferences and learn the trade inside and out.  Knowing how the writing/publishing gig really works can go a long way in soothing fears.
  4. Before submitting to a professional, check out Preditors and Editors, a site designed to help aspiring writers navigate the industry waters.  They make recommendations based on company/agency sales and committment.
  5. Always, always, always directly check out your potential agent or editor via their website, blog or other publication appearances.  As writers, we are responsible for keeping ourselves out of trouble.  A good agent or editor will be accessible.  
  6. Be extremely cautious about communicating with “professionals” who solicit you.  Very rarely are aspiring writers worthy of being hunted down.  In all likelihood, the email you got inviting you to send your MS was in response to a mailing list some scam artist purchased.  If an agent can verify references, that is another story.
  7. Know that our words are copywrited the second we pen them.  While some authors do submit to the copywrite office for a nominal fee, this is not necessary.  Now-a-days, a time and date stamp on word docs and emails can do virtually the same thing.  If you are feeling realling cautious, you can email your completed manuscripts to a trusted friend or rellie and have them keep your date stamp safe as proof that you wrote the project.
  8. Or, make a hard copy of the original and file away your edits as you go.  This also shows that you have worked on the project and what you did.
  9. Don’t just throw your writing up on your blog or website or various writer’s forums if you ever desire to publish it.  While I have a few fiction pieces under Short Fiction Sundays, I fully understand that this work has now been published.  IE, people have read it and have access to it.  It is no longer virgin material.  A lot of publishing companies don’t buy reprint rights and some may consider a blog as first rights.  If in doubt, send long pieces as an attachment to your online groups. 
  10. If you take, give in return.  Nothing will turn a crit relationship sour faster than taking advice and never giving any in return.   Bad relationships can cause undue damage if left unchecked.  Just be a good boyscout. 
  11. And lastly, remember that we cannot copywrite an idea.  We can only copywrite the exact words we use to define those ideas.  Even if someone snicks your idea, it is your words that make the story yours.  Someone trying to steal another writer’s work will have a hard time finishing a piece or editing it into anything usable. 

In general, learn the trade, engage in relationships that feel comfortable and that you can check out on some level.  If you ever feel something isn’t right, know that it probably isn’t worth finding out the hard way.

Best luck in keeping your manuscripts safe while allowing them to circulate in certain circles.