Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Properly Submit for Publication

Hello, infidel...Allah is calling...
My best answer to the question? Don’t. It’s just that simple, and I’ve said it before: You don’t need a publisher. Not these days. And not, certainly, for what you’ll get out of making a deal with the Devil, which amounts to about 15% on the high end, and that’s if Beelzebub likes you. Or if you drive a harder bargain than Faust. The purpose of a publisher today, ideally, is to influence submitted works so as to hold the industry to a higher standard. If you’re enough of a self-starter, you’ll hold yourself to a high standard all by your lonesome. You have a greater need for a U.S. Marine Drill Instructor editor than you have for any kind of publisher.

But I suppose I ought to answer the question I posed. What’s the best way to submit your work to a publisher? You don’t want to waste your own time, and if you’re counting on being published by the publisher to whom you’re submitting your work, you sure as hell don’t want to waste his time. So: As the acquisitions guy for a small and innovative publisher, I can tell you I don’t want to have to sit down and attempt to chew my way through a submission (elementary grammar and spelling completely aside) that has been written by someone who hasn’t yet made profound discoveries about himself personally and applied it to his writing. But on with the Obvious Rules.

Obvious Rule #1: Submit according to guidelines. If you can’t be bothered to read half a Web page on how the publisher wants to receive your work for consideration, then why should a publisher be bothered to do anything with your submission but pitch it into the circular file? Usually, publishers ask for Times New Roman 12pt font, double line spacing, and that the work be sent as .doc or .docx files—you know, impossible draconian stuff—but not always. Look at it like a job interview: if you’re incapable of meeting the minimum stated requirements, why even try? Move on to something for which you are qualified.

Obvious Rule #2: Submit edited work, not a rough draft. Okay. Submissions can also be like a first date. You want to show up finely groomed, with a high polish and a pleasant aroma. It boggles the mind that so many authors submit work that lives in a cardboard box and smells like pee. Crude, but the comparison is apt. If you have a good story idea and you know it, but you’re having trouble with spelling and sentence structure because of public school, don’t submit your work until it’s showered and properly dressed.

On a personal note, anything with unicorns or wizards is a non-starter. I’m just sayin’.

Obvious Rule #3: If you find Obvious Rules #’s 1 and 2 too difficult, you’re not a writer and you should make yourself useful in some other industry. If, however, you’re a little hurt but mostly challenged to prove me wrong by fulfilling to the best of your ability Obvious Rules #’s 1 and 2, then congrats. You’re most likely both called and gifted.

Oh, yes. Gifts come from God, just like rights. But just because you might be gifted to be a writer doesn’t also mean it’s your right to be published. And that brings us round to the point: It’s all about perspective. Gifts have a purpose, and that purpose must be fought for in order to come to full bright; in order to fully become what it is. But don’t fight the publisher. This is an internal battle.

Perspective is like a good hard punch in the face. I’ll tell it like this: I recently got a critique of my work that was totally and completely unexpected, like a bolt out of the blue, and it was deliciously blunt. I’ll share more on that in another post, but it’s enough to say that when I received it I realized I’ve been looking for this specific criticism for a couple of years now. I hope you too can experience this…when the time is right for you.

There’s a fine line between faith and presumption, and we cross it at our peril. If we’re gifted for a certain thing in life—and we know it—we must tread carefully away from the sense of entitlement. We’re not owed anything. 

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