Friday, November 13, 2009

Overzealous Is Your Middle Name (Which Makes You Just Like Most Authors)

I submitted three chapters and a synopsis to two editors I met at a very small regional SCBWI event. When I sent the 3 chaps, thinking I had a minimum of 4-6 months wait ahead of me, I was aware my MS still needed a last copyedit and a proofread. When Editor A requested the full MS, only three weeks later, complete with scribbled smiley face on her note to me, I was elated.... and horrified to find my story wasn't as ready as I thought. The second half (at least) had some serious issues which suddenly became glaringly obvious to me now that someone actually wanted to see the full. I'm sure I made a complete gaffe of the situation: I sent Editor A the first half of the MS, and explained what had happened, with an assurance I was committed to fixing the issues. Editor A quickly rejected my half MS with a form letter. No real surprises there, I guess, a sharp rap on the knuckles, and a hard lesson learned.

Ah... well, I can't speak for all editors, but if I had the first half of a novel and was really excited about it, I would let the author know that I'd love to see the rest when it was done.
Unless it was about vampires, zombies, or angels. Only manuscripts ready to be sent to the printer can have those in them right now. Damned angels.

At the same time, you're right, you shouldn't be submitting a novel that isn't finished, so I'm glad you're taking this as a lesson.
I'm wondering what's the best way to handle Editor B: just to send her a letter and withdraw my MS from consideration at this point? I don't want to waste her time. But I'm not expecting that she will request the full. And I don't want to come across as Stupidity Exhibit A to someone whom I admire. How is an author, if she's silly enough to be there, expected to handle this kind of situation? Talk about arguing for one's limitations....
Let her know that you feel you've noticed a couple problem areas and want to send the manuscript to her once it's really as good as you can make it. She should appreciate that. And give her an idea of how soon that might be: a month? A couple months? I don't mean to pressure you, but we like people who have a new book every year or two.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good luck and don't beat yourself up over this. I can't believe all the jackassery stuff I've done in this business without meaning to. Like life itself, you learn as you go and it sounds like you have learned.

There are other editors, other agents.

Oh, and for the record, it doesn't matter how many books you've completed -- mistakes are ALWAYS most evident when you are about to send it out on request. :)

Wordy Birdie said...

Thanks very much for answering my question, EA. Love the title of the post: I chuckled to myself. I will do exactly that with Editor B.

I guess I would have thought that Editor A, who clearly did remember me and was so friendly in her request for the full, might have taken a moment to scribble "Sorry, it just didn't grab me. Good luck, Editor A" or words to that effect on the form letter. Just like most authors, I'm quite used to form rejections. What stung, in this case, was the way in which it was done. It seemed rather... mannerless when responding to someone who was not a faceless slush-puppy.

I don't say this in order to whine, but I would be interested in everyone's take on manners in the industry. To me good manners = professionalism. Any thoughts?

Sara J. Henry said...

Ha, this happened to me, too. I got requests for fulls almost immediately - when I thought I'd have a minimum of a few weeks to leisurely reread.

I spent the next two days madly reviewing and having friends read, and sent it out. The manuscript would have been better with a few more weeks' reviewing time, but fortunately it was close enough and I did get signed.

But I definitely revised again before my agent sent it out to publishers.

Anonymous said...

Being an acquisitions editor having to send out rejections on a regular basis, I am always struggling with the best way to do this. There's the standard form response, which I use regularly, and then there's the "I want to be encouraging without telling her really what is wrong with it or it will discourage her after all. But she sent such a nice query, I like this person but still must reject her..." After all this, sometimes the form letter is the kindest way to reject a submission.

And you thought just writers had angst?

cynjay said...

And then there's the extension of this that a lot of us have done as newbies - tell Editor B that you've revised the MS that you sent them and could they please stop reading the original version and start reading the new and improved version.

Makes you look back and (almost) laugh...

PhilH said...

Wordy:

Having only had form rejections so far, I don't know what the etiquette is. But, I would agree with you and have expected most agents/editors, having liked it enough to request the full MS, would at least add a very quick comment to a form rejection.

It seems rather bad manners to me to do something to raise someone's hopes and then not offer any further personal comment.

Please someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Wordy Birdie -- re: manners in this industry. For the most part they don't exist in the way they do in the rest of the business world.

I've got two fulls out with agents right now that they've had since early July. That's five months they've had to read. They've given no response and have not responded to my polite status checks. It would seem that it would be easy to shoot an email and say, "No, hey, I guess I don't want this." Or, "Hey, I'm swamped, even though I've had this for five months, I still haven't read it." But, for a lot of agents, it seems status quo to just never respond.

Don't get me started on how you get treated once you do manage to get signed. Nothing like having your own agent hold your editor responses hostage, never read your new ms, and act as if answering your polite email on the third send is a big chore.

I used to be bitter, now I'm just apathetic. Writers rarely talk about it because they don't want to be pegged as complainers. This isn't to say there aren't fabulous editors and amazing agents out there, but I get the feeling they act "fabulous" and "amazing" mostly if you are a bestseller, not so much if you are midlist, which, let's face it, most kidlit authors are.

kitty said...

I do think full manuscripts warrant personal comments.

HOWEVER, there have been plenty emails in my inbox lately where I've had to make a choice--reply with the terse info only, or delay replying until I can write a nice, friendly paragraph to go with it. Please note that by "delay" I mean "send far too late." So I choose to reply with the answer to the question alone.

I'm not an editor; these are schedule arrangement/carpool type emails I'm talking about. But I bet the same applies. The editor probably got to a point that it was reply with forms, or put off (for who knows how long) replying.

Chris Eldin said...

Wordy Birdie, Don't worry too much about this one instant. You learned a lesson (and hey, at least you didn't do this to BOTH editors!) I can't tell you how many mistakes I've made and continue to make. I should write a book about all of it. Hey! Then query EA. She's ignored all my other queries I can't figure out why... (Just kidding, folks! Though the temptation is great.)

Where were we before I diverted the conversation to me and my life. Oh yeah. You and your writing. And manners.

Thing 2 continues to eat with his hands even though he has (mostly clean) utensils in front of him. But I can't seem to bring myself to correct his manners if he's at least shoving vegetables into his mouth by the handful.

The manners metaphor is for you to think about.
;-)

talshannon said...

EdAnon: Unless it was about vampires, zombies, or angels. Only manuscripts ready to be sent to the printer can have those in them right now. Damned angels.

As far as I can tell, a lot of vampire, zombie, and angel manuscripts hot off the printing press could've used several revisions before they got accepted, much less published. It leaves me wondering if this is just "Sturgeon's Law" in action, or if manuscripts are being rushed into production before they're ready just to catch a trend.

Wordy Birdie said...

Thanks, all. I am published several times, so I know the drill. My current editor and publisher often keep me waiting for months until they respond to my emails, and I understand that editors/agents etc. are busy. Hell, I'm busy too. It’s frustrating, but I understand it’s the way the industry works.

But what got me was that I sat next to Editor A at dinner. She quietly shared details about her home life and her lifelong dream with me as we sipped wine. I just would have thought that kind of personal contact warranted at least her signature on the form letter. Ok, so now I am sounding whiny! LOL…

Anonymous 10:27, your response intrigued me. I suppose it really does depend in the personality of the editor in question. But I didn’t expect a detailed letter listing the faults or giving any explanation, and I know enough about the industry to know a form letter is fairly standard. It just seems that after the degree of personal contact we had not long before, a quick, hand-written scribble at the bottom would have been both good manners and kind. As it was, it felt like a surly slap in the face for being naughty, do you see what I mean?

I know as the unhappy recipient I could be reading it incorrectly, but just as a handwritten note and a smiley face on the request for a full can make an author’s day, a gentle sayonara and a signature can ease an author’s pain.

Mark Herr said...

Maybe the editor meant to put a personal note on it but the assistant sent it out too soon. Or maybe they got distracted by a phone call and lost their train of thought of what they wee doing. You will never know for sure.

Ultimately, I would say don't take it so personally and move forward. Life is too short to focus on stuff like this.

Wordy Birdie said...

Indeed, Mark. I quite agree. :) But it does make for some interesting discussion on both sides of the desk. And seeing both points of view can help narrow what sometimes feels like a yawning canyon between author and editor or agent.

Venus said...

I worked as an editorial intern and rejection letters were by far the hardest thing I have ever written. Short, concise, polite yet firm, point out what the editor liked, point out what they didn't like. How much should you stick to the form letter? How personal do you make it? Take it to the editor for approval after it is written. Don't get me wrong, as an intern I had no power to reject manuscripts...I just got the dirty job of putting those rejections into words. Very very difficult.

Anonymous said...

Amateur hour. They crave feedback and don't wanna do the work.

Anonymous said...

This is called learning the hard way.

They requested a full and you send a 1/2. What?! You would have been better off just sending the full in whatever state you could get it into--you could still wait a week or two before mailing it without raising too many eyebrows, and during that time sacrifice your sleep and personal life to get it done. I either would have done that (probably that),or just sent it imemdiately as is, the whole thing. And who knows, maybe they would have liked it even better than what you changed it into! Now you will never know.

One downfall for awriters these days is that with e-Queries it's so easy to pull the trigger. In the old days you had to buy all these envelopes, address them, print everything out, stamp them, go to the P.O...made you take things a lot more seriously. Nowadays, the whole business is just like watching the creation of the slush pile in real time.

90% of all subs aren't ready. Just itchy wannabe trigger fingers hungry for feedback.