Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Fatal Flaw That Affects Us All

Marjorie Flathers is my friend and a fellow Wordsmith (our critique group). It is a delight to know her, and a privilege to learn from her expertise as a writer! She has been a successful free-lance writer for over 26 years. Marjorie's work has appeared in print well over 300 times in a variety of magazines, newspapers, and anthologies for writers and knitters. This writing pro has a degree in English and is a source of inspiration as well as knowledge about the world of publishing. She has graciously permitted me to present her post, A Fatal Flaw That Affects Us All. Pay close attention!

Here's Marjorie:

Many times people (usually non-writers who are naive or uninformed) have asked me, “Why don’t you just make a list of all the publishers available and send your manuscripts to every one? A publisher is bound to take it eventually!” This may or may not be true, and with a computer, following such a plan would seem to be a simple and easy thing to do. However, there’s a fatal flaw with this thinking, one that affects all writers.

Besides the high frustration level from all the rejections that will result when writers fail to do basic research on the kind of manuscripts each publishing house is looking for, editors’ are then flooded with submissions. Most of these submissions are inappropriate for their house, thus the dreaded slush pile. Over and over at writers’ conferences, editors speak of the overwhelming number of manuscripts they receive that are nothing like the books on their particular lists.

For example, textbook publishers often receive picture books. Publishers who do specialize in picture books receive YA novels describing teen angst. Even the larger houses who publish many different types of children’s books lean towards certain types of books. This is when an authors computer comes in handy. It’s easy to check publishers’ catalogs and guidelines online and to understand each one’s publishing niche. This is the first step any writer needs to take before he or she even thinks about writing a book or magazine piece.

Perhaps some writers still think that by using the “scatter-shot” method of submitting, their “excellent” manuscripts will so impress editors that they will want to publish something “different,” i.e., that writer’s book. But the truth is that as more and more writers do this, the slush pile grows larger and larger... thus the reason many publishing houses are closing their doors to ALL unsolicited or un-agented manuscripts. This is sad news for everyone.

We owe it to ourselves and to our fellow writers, aspiring and already published writers, to pay attention to the obvious first step and be aware of each publishers specialties.

When we do this, everyone in the publishing industry benefits.

c 2008 Marjorie Flathers

1 comment:

Janet said...

Finding the right publisher is one of the hardest parts of writing. I search my children's writer's & Illus. market and then go on the internet to their sights. You find a publisher that looks like your book will fit perfectly with their guidelines only to find out they don't accept unsolicited manuscripts.