Printing up your book for submission purposes

Last weekend at a writer’s conference, I had an author press a book into my hand and urged me to read it. It turned out that she had printed up 100 copies of her book to use in place of the usual submission of the first three chapters. I felt like a heel for declining to take her book, but I did explain why.

For starters, I knew zilch about her book. Second, I’m at a conference, which means I have little spare room to stuff a book into my suitcase. Third, I can’t make effective notes in a book. Lastly, it’s just plain cumbersome. In fact, if you want a sure way to make sure editors and agents won’t read your work, print it into a book. If you want to blow your hard-earned money, print your work into a book.

Nearly all of us have gone paperless, which has so many advantages that I hate to waste time listing them. But the most important is that we can shoot files around to our team. I can’t do that with a book. Additionally, can you imagine what our office would look like if everyone started sending printed books as part of their submissions? The picture above merely hints at the agony.

You may think you’re making things easier by showing up with a shiny book, complete with cover and all, but it’s more like bug repellant. I’ve received numerous printed galley submissions over the years, and I don’t even bother reading the letter. All of it goes into the trash can outside of my post office. Such a waste.

There’s only one thing you need to do when querying; follow the agent’s or editor’s submission guidelines. Nothing fancy, nothing hoo ha. Just follow the guidelines, and your chances of being read increase. Gimmicks don’t work. Really.

Should I Publish First to Capture an Editor’s Attention?

No. A kitten pees in his owner’s shoes every time an author goes DIY for the sole purpose of gaining attention with an editor. You have blown your first print rights, which sucks for an editor. It’s also a royal pain to wipe out an ISBN on a book. Once it’s out on the internet, it’s out there forever, which ends up creating confusion for the editor once the book goes to market.

If your intent is to be published by a trade publisher, then don’t DIY your book. It’ll backfire in a most unpretty way that will make you cry and lots of kitteh owners scream over their ruined shoes.

4 Responses to Printing up your book for submission purposes

  1. Vanessa Russell says:

    Wow, a printed book and galley submissions … I can feel their desperation from here. Reminds me of a cancer victim investing in vitamins; it’s going to take something a lot stronger to help. But to know now that editors throw away such gallant efforts somehow is sad enough for me to reply … And now I’m at a loss for words.

  2. Dan Holloway says:

    It’s extraordinary that people would do this. Assuming you aren’t fully self-publishing, the one time it can make sense to use a print on demand service is when you’re approaching your final draft, for editing purposes – you do see more, or rather different, things, as well as it being convenient for orderly notes. If you do this, keep your book private on the service, and don’t add an ISBN

  3. Rosemary O'Grady says:

    The key words are – ‘for submission purposes…’
    IF, however, a writer simply needs to clear a desk-see a book in print (for any number of reasoons)- self-publishing is a way to make it happen – and it has a long and illustrious history. Many great writers were or began as self-published.
    A recent edition of The Times Literary Supplement actually commends writers who go to such lengths – thereby preserving to posterity work which would be lost in the commercial race to the bottom of most contemporary book-marketting.
    Sorry, it’s not ‘epic stupidity’ at all.
    Rosemary O’Grady

  4. Rosemary, I would suggest that if an author wants a desk copy, simply printing it out would make the most sense, rather than spending a lot of money to print up actual books. This is different from self-publishing.

    My post isn’t a commentary on self-publishing because that’s a very personal decision. What I tried to convey is that it’s unwise to self publish a book with the intent of trying to capture a mainstream publishing contract. From what I can discern from your post, we are talking about two different issues.

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