Tag Archives: submissions

Basketball, Bullies and Beta Readers

The playground is such a big place. 

Over the  years, my youngest son has enjoyed the attentions of his fellow classmates.  Granted this is his first year of formal education, but preschool and a few hours a week at daycare have made him a tiny legend.

He’s sweet, smart, funny, self-assured and just enough of a dare devil (read little sh*t) to win him the awe of his peers and caregivers.

Apparently, however, this charm of his does not extend to the school-yard bully.

When I dropped him off this morning, he immediately rushed to the basketball hoops where he likes to spend most of his free time.  As I have to drive around the entire playground to get back home, I had the opportunity to watch him shoot a few buckets and get pushed down by a BIG kid.

It wasn’t one of those accident–oops, you got in my way–things.  This was a malicious shove that landed Youngest on his kiester.

It took everything I had not to slam my truck into park, wade through the wet grass and push Bully Junior down.  Sometimes it hurts to be a mom.

Needless to say, I refrained.  But it did get me thinking….  Emerging from our safe little worlds as aspiring writers into the big world of submissions is not an easy thing.

Our beta readers and critters love us on some level.  They are inspired by our ability to write an entire novel.  They are charmed by our styles.  They gently steal the ball from us and shoot their own baskets, but inevitably, they pass the ball back to us and let us try another shot.

They do not shove us to the ground, tell us we stink and go off to play with a different circle of friends.

Nope.  That pleasure is reserved for us when we venture into the bigger world of publishing.

The second we start submitting, we open ourselves up to a vast playground of rejection.  We are bewildered by the fact that agents and editors don’t fawn over us the way our betas and critters do.  Bruises from from getting our egos battered and our manuscripts returned.

We learn rather quickly that the publishing world is not always a kind and loving place. 

I read a statistic once that 88% of people surveyed said they wanted to be a writer.  That’s a big playground.

I’ve not yet found the statistic that tells how many of these wanna-bes give up before penning 80,000 connected words.  I can guess by the NaNoWriMo stats that roughly fifteen to twenty individuals out of 100 who attempt to write a novel actually complete one. 

Neither have I stumbled across a stat that lets me know how many individuals submit past the first rejection.  I have no clue how many aspiring writers have enough gumption to stand back up, stare Bully Junior down and refuse to walk away.

Instead of crying and pouting up against the wall, Youngest stood his ground.  He got up, hitched his back pack over his tiny, little shoulders and held his arms out for someone to pass him the ball.

Eventually, someone did.

I can’t help but wonder: is it his charmed life before school that allows him to stand up to the bully and keep playing?  Have those kind words from caregivers and the belly-busting support from his peers given him the confidence to know he has as much right on the playground as Bully Jr. does?  Or is he just one of those stubborn kids who refuses to give up when someone shoves him down?

On some level, I think that being a beloved in one group makes it easier to venture into another group.  Yet it also makes the blow of rejection sting more and could potentially make one languish in the comfort of the loving group and refuse to live outside the realm of that comfort.

As a writer, do you think the support of betas and critters helps you withstand the rejection of the submission world, or does it make the transition into the cold, ruthless playground more difficult?  How? 

Could this possibly be the driving factor in procrastination? 

Conversely, is the drive to prove the bully wrong the reason some writers refuse to give up even when their only byline will be through a vanity press?

Where in this process are you?

I’ll take one agent with a side of fries…

Shopping for agents and editors is a bit like going out to eat.

There’s the fast food method where purchases are made at the drive-thru based on a picture menu and a price.  I would equate this to a random search on the internet or a bound writer’s market of some kind. 

These are impulse buys at a time when we are rushed and excited and don’t really consider the fine points of an agency or publishing house.  We see something appealing (instant gratification) and subsequently spend our money on heart, not nutrition. 

Sadly, there are too many unreputable individuals in the publishing industry for us to make informed choices at the window.  Often, we choose poorly and end up paying for it in loss of rights, poor representation, or worse yet, being swindled out of our hard-earned money on services that reputable agents and editors do not charge for.

Next we have the smorgasboard buffet purchase where we can physically see and smell the goods rather than relying on a facsimile at the window.  Is the lettuce as crisp as it looks?  Is the pizza topped with one pepperoni in real life or the twenty-seven it shows on the menu?  Does it smell appetizing or greasy? 

Another advantage of walking through the buffet is the ability to see who else is eating there.  If everyone in the room weighs 700 pounds and is dressed in thread-bare clothes, we may consider that the food isn’t healthy or cheap.

If, on the other hand, the customers range from the beautifully dressed and svelt to the Average Joe in a pair of working blue jeans, it may indicate a balance between health and the price tag.

The problem with buffet submissions is that we often waste oddles of time.  Ours and agents.  Not everyone on the buffet will be into our type of story.  However, the temptation to sample everyone is strong and we end up querying our picture books to hard-core sci-fi agencies.  This benefits no one and frustrates everyone. 

Buffet queries often get returned as form rejections.  Submitting in this fashion is a matter of quantity and the return is iffy.  Some writers mass mail up to fifty agents or editors at a time.  If it’s a number’s game, they figure, eventually it will pay off. 

I don’t roll that way.  Instead, I prefer quality over quantity.  This would be the equivalent of finding the right restaraunt to take your beloved to on your first wedding anniversary.  Classy, good reviews, excellent food, specialized. 

This is the kind of agent I want. 

I want to know who I’m submitting to and why.  I want a track record, stellar word-of-mouth, good connections and experience in my genre.  If an offer for representation comes in, I want to say yes without scrambling to see if there is a “better” agent available. 

 So how do we find the five star agents?  The same way we find the five star food joints.  We research.  We speak with others who have worked with them.  We check out books they have repped or published to determine how our manuscript fits their tastes or needs.  We become selective in our search and submission process.

Resources to aid your seach:

  1. A market guide such as Writer’s Market.  There are choices besides the Writer’s Digest based books and can be found in print and online.  These are great starting points in my search. 
  2. Preditors and Editors: a low down on who’s got the goods and who doesn’t in the publishing arena.  If your initial targets score poorly here, it may be time to cross them off your list.  Another resource is Writer Beware. 
  3. Websites geared toward helping authors and agents connect.  Agent Query is incredible.  Query Tracker is spoken highly of in my writing communities in regards to helping writers pinpoint potential markets for their manuscripts. 
  4. Writing organizations that provide a sense of community.  On or offline organizations can be found.  I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  They provide timely and accurate information as well as many opportunities for writers of juvenile literature.
  5. Other blogs or websites that cater to the emerging writer and provide well-rounded advice and recommendations.  They can be found everywhere.  Howevever, pay attention to the author of such blogs and sites.  What do they have to gain by providing their POV?  Writer Beware has a section on blogs.
  6. Agent or Publishing House websites.  Be specific in your research.  What do they want and how do they want it?  Their home site should always trump printed info.
  7. Conferences: track down your top choices and see if they’re speaking.  Meeting agents or editors personally can go a long way in understanding their visions and whether you’ll click with them or not.  Editors and agents also give far more specific insight into their tastes and wants than you can find elsewhere.

Consider all the time you spent writing and revising your manuscript.  Do you really want to order a side of fries and a milk shake?  Or do you want to wow your beloved with a prime-rib dinner in a quaint atmosphere?   My advice: 

Seek quality agents and editors to handle your baby.  Don’t just pass it off to the assistant at the drive-thru window.

What’s your advice on finding an agent or editor?  Have you shopped in the wrong place before?  If so, what tips can you provide to help others from making your mistakes?