Submissions guidelines, the editor, and the priest


Overworked Underpaid Editor: “I’m sorry, Father, it’s been exactly one hour since my last confession.”

Patient Catholic Priest: “My child, why do you insist on plaguing me so much? Don’t you realize there are other people in line who have real problems?”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Hey, I resent that. These are problems that make me think ugly, vile thoughts. Thoughts of spilling blood and turning people into hood ornaments.”

Patient Catholic Priest:“Have you thought about getting a new job?”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “No, Father, not once. You see, I adore my job…”

Patient Catholic Priest: “Yes, but you complain so much.”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Bear with me, Father? Just this one last time?”

Patient Catholic Priest: “One last time, my child.”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I wrote a pissy – ah, sorry, Father – terse email to an author today. I shouldn’t have, but it all got the better of me.”

Patient Catholic Priest: “What got the better of you?”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “See, I get about 200 queries a month, and that’s a lot of reading and processing. Because I have such a load that comes into my inbox every day, I created this thing called ‘Submissions Guidelines.’ I did it to streamline the query process – to make my job easier. It tells authors exactly what we’re looking for, what we won’t accept, and the information that must be included in the query letter. Yet day in and day out, I get queries that make it obvious they never read my guidelines.”

Patient Catholic Priest: “Like what?”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Fantasy, young adult, mysteries, romance. Today, I just lost it and finally snapped. I told this author that had she grown a pair of eyeballs and looked at our guidelines, she would have spared us from wasting each others’ time. But since her brain was rectally inverted, she hadn’t bothered to check anything more than to determine if we have a heartbeat. Oh, it didn’t stop there, Father. I yammered on about how I was now forced to take time out of my day to send her a rejection letter because WE DON’T PUBLISH WHAT SHE WRITES. It, um, sort of took a downward spiral from there.”

Patient Catholic Priest: “Dearie me. What happened?” (whispering from the confessional booth) “Sister Mary Margaret, fire up some popcorn. This is getting good.”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Well, the author wrote back and told me to, um, uh, go forth and multiply with a rabid mongoose. I wrote her back and told her to make merry with the rotting corpse of a yak. Look, Father, I realize I was beyond naughty, but I don’t understand why authors don’t read the submissions guidelines. They aren’t there to amuse the tourists, but to help us from wasting each others’ time. Instead, I eat up time and resources answering people who don’t even write what we produce. Or they don’t give us what we ask for.

“For instance, I took out a hit contract on an author who didn’t give me the genre and word count in her query letter, even though I specifically state that in the guidelines. And the week before that, I sent a letter bomb to an author who queried me to ask me if it was ok to query me. What the fuc…heck is that about? Last month it was a query about a cookbook. COOKBOOKS!

“What makes my blood turn to liquid magma is that smart authors investigate publishers. They read the submissions guidelines and take a close look at the books we’ve published. They may even order one or two to get an idea of the quality of our editing and marketability of our books. I have piles and piles of query letters that I use as bird cage lining for my cockatoo, Screeching Mantis. It’s sort of taken its toll on me. I’m bad. I know this.”

Patient Catholic Priest: “Yes, I can see where one could be driven to commit heinous acts. I suffer from the same problems – with errant editors who complain a lot, for instance. Here’s your penance; do fifteen stations of the cross at the Mission Viejo Library, call your mother more often, eat all your vegetables, and refuse to answer anyone who hasn’t read your guidelines. The cookbook writers? Forget them. Same goes for the YA, mystery, and romance writers. Toss ‘em all. Writers are professionals, and if they can’t be bothered to follow common courtesy, then they don’t deserve your attention. Oh, and cancel the hit contract on that author.”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Yes, Father, I will, immediately. And thank you. You have no idea how much better I feel; like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Patient Catholic Priest: “And no more naughty letters or letter bombs. You are to correspond in a professional manner.”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Yes, Father.”

Patient Catholic Priest:“And, my child?”

Overworked Underpaid Editor: “Yes, Father?”

Patient Catholic Priest: “Try a shrink next time. You’re not even Catholic.”

21 Responses to Submissions guidelines, the editor, and the priest

  1. Clearly, that priest needs to create his Confession Guidelines!

  2. Kate says:

    LOL – superb!! I laughed so much I spilt my tea!!

  3. Lauren says:

    OMG, I laughed until I cried. “Go forth and multiply with a rabid mongoose?” “Make merry with the rotting corpose of a yak? This is SO much better than the tired old curses. I plan to steal these for my own needs.

  4. lynnpricewrites says:

    I write to amuse you, Lauren.

  5. tbrosz says:

    I can tell this problem has been getting to you. Over time, your “things we don’t accept” list has been getting longer and more specific. 🙂

  6. Bep says:

    Dearie, dearie me! Lynn, I need a cleanex for my laptop. You have the power to lift me when I’m low. I thank you for that. Not only is your blog always educational, today it’s funny. I think the Priest needs a Margherita and you need a Twinkie.

  7. lynnpricewrites says:

    Over time, your “things we don’t accept” list has been getting longer and more specific.

    Actually, that’s not true. In past years our list was much longer and more detailed. When I saw that no one appeared to adhere to or read our guidelines, I had our techienerd restructure the page so it was cleaner, less cluttered looking, yet still had the big ticket items of what we don’t accept.

  8. Mike Doran says:

    Author: Bless me Lynn, for I have sinned.

    Lynn: My dear, it’s you again.

    Author: Yes Lynn, I come to ask for forgiveness for my sins.

    Lynn: I’ve told you, silly author, I cannot forgive you of your sins. I am not your Lord and Savior.

    Author: But Lynn, it is you I have sinned against.

    Lynn: Right, and I don’t forgive such outrageous sins. You didn’t read the guidelines. You do know how to read don’t you?

    Author: Yes, but your words they are such, such…

    Lynn: (interrupting) Okay here is your penance, drink a pitcher of Marguerites and pray to the porcelain God. We’ll see how you get forgiven then. Now be gone with you.

    Author: Will I be forgiven?

    Lynn: No, but you will have such pain you’ll forget.

    Author: Thank you supreme master of all.

    Lynn: (interrupting) I’m just a publisher, get a life, pal.

    Author: oh, I thought you were a high priestess.

    Lynn: No, that’s the next door on the right, marked confessional. Not the door marked: Submissions. You can’t read. Can you? If you had read you would have known. I may not be a god but I do hate sin.

    Author: One more thing?

    Lynn: Are you still there?

    Author: Yes. Why does it stink in here?

    Lynn: This is a lavatory and what you smell is rotting, worthless, inappropriate and mistaken queries and manuscripts. They all smell like that. Leave now, I have words to flush.

    Author: (flushing) I feel better already. I’ll be back.

    Lynn: (to herself) I’ll flush you then too, unless you follow the guidelines.

  9. lynnpricewrites says:

    Note to self: cancel letter bomb to Mike.

  10. Thanks you, Lynne–as ever- for turning this miserable ‘justgotupandnotdrunkenoughcoffee’ person into an ‘aintlifegrand’ happy me. As an ex-short story submissions editor I wish I’d read this when I used to get poems, political rants, drawings and recipes, in fact anything other than short stories that were publishable.

    I am linking this to my blog: if that’s all right with you?

  11. Jane Smith says:

    Lynn, you made my day with this one: having spent my own share of time on the editing side of the desk it rings very true for me.

    Sally Zigmond’s linked to you already, look:

  12. I posted a comment before Jane did explaining that I would like to post a link on my blog but it got lost somewhere near the Falkland Islands, I think. Either that or the beagle ate it.

  13. Fabulous and so so very true. Thank you!

  14. lynnpricewrites says:

    Either that or the beagle ate it.
    Fecking beagle…

  15. My God… now I understand what I have been doing wrong. I haven’t been to confession in 30 years!

  16. Brandon says:

    I am Roman Catholic…this is so funny! Hahahahaha!

  17. abroadabroad says:

    The last time I was in a confessional, I heard the priest snoring. Now, that’s just plain rude. I worked very hard on those venial sins! But, the mortal sins I’ll keep to myself. Love your writing, Lynn, it motivates me!

  18. I’m also Roman Catholic, and this is the funniest thing I’ve read all week! Found your site through Absolute Write btw.

  19. By the way, I just queried you–I write Middle Grade Fantasy/Mystery. Wait–wait! Don’t shoot!

  20. demon says:


    […]Submissions guidelines, the editor, and the priest « Behler Blog[…]…

  21. Josh says:

    Had to laugh at this. very funny.

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