Submission Feng Shui

I have a small rejoinder to another post I wrote regarding following submission guidelines. This blunder is even more heinous because of its blatant desire to have a work reviewed. I’m talking about the writer who contacts me asking if they can submit. It’s like a query to query. The answer is always the same; abso-freaking-lutely, provided…PROVIDED…you read those pesky submission guidelines. We discussed whether we take historical fiction (yes, but it has to have big aspects of current socially relevant themes). I couldn’t have been clearer than if I’d rinsed my mouth out with Windex.

“Yes, yes,” sez wanna-be author, “I’ve read your guidelines to the letter and am ready to proceed.” No word count, no bio, and in a genre we don’t publish. In fact, he omitted his bio on purpose. Said he’d send it later if I wanted it, and, oh by the by, he has just the most wonderful writing history. A tease, this one.

No matter how much a writer wants to slam that square peg into that round hole, it isn’t going to fit. Not now. Not ever. So why waste everyone’s time by hoping that “just this once” I’ll change my mind. Truth is, I can’t. We’re known for socially relevant works. If I suddenly pop out a historical fiction suspense/murder, then one of two things happens: 1) The book dies because I don’t have those kinds of marketing contacts or 2) The book dies because my editing team isn’t proficient in developing a bang up murder mystery. And face it, you want the very best for your book, right? Then be certain that you query a publisher who pubs your genre.

Yes, I can hear it now, “Geez, Price, why you so cranky?” Ah, I don’t know. Maybe it was the guy I got earlier today that said, “I read your submission guidelines and decided to largely ignore them.” Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed…

3 Responses to Submission Feng Shui

  1. green_knight says:

    May I ask what you expect from an author biography? Not just ‘what should go into it’ (particularly if you haven’t got a publishing history) but what you want it _for_. I can understand wanting one for non-fiction, to see whether a writer is qualified to write about their subject, or after a book is accepted for marketing purposes – but during the submission process?

  2. Lynn Price says:

    Green knight, the submission process is where it all begins. A bio tells me far more than just marketing possibilities. If you write fantasy, for example, we don’t care that you’re responsible for putting the cream in Twinkies unless that’s an intrinsic part of your story.

    It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a publishing history – many of our authors don’t. I want to know something about the writer – why they wrote the book and why they feel their book beats out others in the same genre. What makes it unique? This goes for fiction and nonfiction.

    There’s a big difference between someone who says, “I’ve always liked XYZ and decided to write about it,” versus “I wrote this book because I’m a huge fan of Genre XYZ and have always been disappointed in the lack of XYZ. Since there is a huge population of XYZ, I’m betting that my book will have wide appeal.”

    The second bio tells me that the writer has researched the genre, understands the marketplace, and realizes they offer something unique to the genre. They treat their submission like a job interview and do a successful job of selling themselves. The more information I have, the better able I am to make an informed decision. Anyone who forces me to continually ask for more details taxes my interest levels. Why run that kind of risk?

    Lastly, it doesn’t really matter why an agent or editor wants a bio…if they ask for one, the smart thing to do is to provide one. I hope this gives you a better idea of how to write your own bio.

  3. green_knight says:

    Lynn,
    thanks for providing me with a good starting point for my biography. It seems to be getting more and more popular with agents to ask for one, which I find an interesting trend.

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