Monday, December 17, 2007

How To Get Black Balled

I'm new enough to the industry that I worry about being "black-balled". Not sure if that kind of thing happens in the publishing business, but I know it happens in other industries.

Remember the kitchen full of slush?

Good. Now imagine that on your way through those piles, one of the authors has done something that you feel is kinda unprofessional.
At least half of that sea of manuscripts is from people who haven't even heard of submission guidelines. So unprofessionalism, while often enough to get the manuscript tossed without a second thought, is not nearly enough to get us to remember your name.

If you want publishers to remember you darkly enough to never want to work with you, you'll have to do something on a higher order of Obnoxious, Stupid, or Psychotic. Eg:
  • Sending me lingerie, pornographic manuscripts, or death threats. You're nuts. I've given your name to security.
  • Calling or emailing me repeatedly in the belief that you're just too charming to have to play by the rules. Using the phone or email forces me to respond personally to you, and the thought of all the patient, rule-abiding, very likely more talented authors in the slush pile who would love to hear from me personally—when in fact I'm busy dealing with jackasses like you—boils my blood.
  • Writing a manuscript so totally out of touch with children—or humans—that I have to share it with all of my colleagues.

And it should be said that in these instances, when you've ensured that your name will live on in infamy with me, that does not go for the many other people in the publishing industry. We don't have a bulletin board or secret clan meetings where The People We Must Never Work With are discussed and flogged in effigy. Though that does sound nice.

So rest assured. The next time that publisher gets something from you, they will not be thinking, "It's that person who waited much longer for a response from us that he should have had to and then, when we still didn't respond, submitted his manuscript to a contest! Kill him!"

They're going to think, "Who?"

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, my...
Oh my...
Oh my...

I do believe the spirit of Miss Snark has risen to wish us all some holiday cheer!

VERY lovely post! Right back at you, Editorial Anonymous, and may I raise a gin soaked egg nog in your honor.

Anonymous said...

Cheers, indeed! Great post.

A related question ... If an editor emails you, does that mean you have an "email relationship" now and it's fine to use email for future correspondence?

For instance, I had an editor email revision comments to me; I did the revision and now need to check in to see where it stands (many months have passed). Is it OK to email for this, or should I mail a letter inquiring?

Likewise, another editor I met said that I could email a manuscript to her. She rejected it but said she'd look at other stuff. OK to email again?

Thanks! Off to get that egg nog ...

nw said...

So, um, just speaking theoretically, suppose you liked an author's work, and wrote a nice editorial letter, and asked to see a revision, and maybe even asked again, and then suppose for various reasons the author never got around to revising that book--

Would you remember the author's name five or six years later? Would you never want to see that author's work again?

smcelrath said...

Okay, that made me laugh! And I'm relieved to know that although I may be nuts, I'm not nuts enough to get name recognition--at least among editors.

Another question... If the current Writers Market says a publishing house will take query and sample chapters OR the full manuscript, but the website makes no mention of taking full manuscripts, would you advise against sending the full ms? In my mind, it saves time to send the ms--but only if they will take it.

christine tripp said...

I had not read the "kitchen full of slush" blog before, very, very good visual!

How does one, who is invited by an Editor or Art Director, to submit again (though the current submission did not suit) get it to this Ed/AD and avoid the pile.... or can they?
Perhaps the frilly bloomers and chocolate bribes should be directed at the mail room staff:)

Anonymous said...

"secret clan meetings where The People We Must Never Work With are discussed and flogged in effigy. Though that does sound nice."

OMG... hot coffee does not feel good when expelled suddenly through the nose. But it was worth it! :-)

Anonymous said...

NW, I might not remember your name, but if you provided a recap in the cover letter I'd probably remember your work and be willing to see more of it.

Editors write these kinds of revision letters on spec. Since we're not offering you a contract at this point, you are under no obligation to follow our editorial suggestions or send along a revision.

However, if you then sent me a completely different manuscript, I'd wonder why you never revised the earlier work and what that says about you as a writer. Does the original manuscript contain the very best writing you're capable of, and so it will never improve beyond that level? Is your work ethic somewhat lax? Do you have trouble committing to things?

So I would feel much more comfortable about considering your next work if you included some explanation for why you decided not to revise the earlier manuscript after all.

nw said...

I guess "lost interest in the story" is a pretty bad excuse, huh? "Didn't think it had so much potential after all" sort of insults the editor's judgment. How about "had a baby, lost many brain cells"?

also_an_ed said...

Another way to reach notorious status is to send the same manuscript to the same editor(s)/imprint over and over and over and over again. It's the editorial equivalent of being pelted in the head with a nerf ball. You may think it's harmless enough, but after, say, the third time it becomes really, really annoying. (And if anyone out there is harboring even the slightest "bad press is better than no press" notion that notorious is better than anonymous, make no mistake it absolutely is NOT.)

dorthea said...

The last time my novel was rejected, the editor commented on something in chapter 14. My first thought was "I beat out 97% of my competition! The editor read at least half the book! Cool!"

So, remembering the slush pile turned my rejection into a big victory dance.

Editorial Anonymous said...

smcelrath,
I would trust the publisher's website over Writer's Market. It's more likely to be updated in a timely way.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Christine,
If the editor or art director didn't provide any particular instructions for getting the next manuscript directly to her, you'll just have to take your chances.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Dorthea,
That is the correct response. Congrats.
Understanding the slush pile is a real asset, and I wish more authors had it.

Kidlitjunkie said...

nw said:

Would you remember the author's name five or six years later? Would you never want to see that author's work again?

Honestly, I probably wouldn't even remember. But if you resubbed five years later and said "you asked for revisions five years ago..." I'd think it was kind of unprofessional.

christine_tripp said:

How does one, who is invited by an Editor or Art Director, to submit again (though the current submission did not suit) get it to this Ed/AD and avoid the pile.... or can they?

Mark it "requested material", and address it directly to the editor. That usually makes things land directly on my desk.

But don't lie about it, or I may write a nasty note on your form rejection.

On a totally different note, I want to emphasis again, not that any of you smart people need to hear it: DON'T CALL. If I don't already love your novel, if I haven't personally given you my phone number and told you to call, I don't want to talk to you. And even if your novel is the awesomest thing since sliced bread, now you've made me irate, and I won't take your novel if it's the next Harry Potter. Because you are unprofessional and I hate you.