If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me

November 23, 2009

Ok, I suppose I sounded impatient and a wee bit frustrated with the phone call but, geez, when someone calls me to find out what we accept and I point them to our submissions guidelines, I don’t expect a, “Well, ok, here’s the deal…it’s written for older teens and college age,” I want to scream, “WHAT PART OF ‘PLEASE READ THE DAMN SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES’ DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Even the beagle looses her patience and growls, which interrupts her sunbath on my desk.

Instead of saying what I was thinking, I grit my teeth and replied in as unfriendly a tone as I could muster, “our submission guidelines are very concise so that we can avoid these types of phone calls.” She finally got the message and ended with a terse “goodbye,” and probably a few colorful metaphors dancing on her tongue.

I know agents and editors say it over and over again – please do not call. And yet, it happens all the time.

Ringy Ring. Hello? Overworked and Underpaid Editor speaking.

Author I’d Like to Kill: “Hey, I wrote this fabo book, and I want to pitch it to you. Now. Like, on the phone now.”

Head to desk. “Beagle, find me my box of Twinkies and fire up the blender.”

Gah. It’s always the ones just starting out and don’t know anything about the query process. And this takes me to a deeper level of the problem: research. I’m always yammering on about its importance. It’s the difference between “send me pages, please,” and “go play on the freeway onramp during rush hour.”

It’s hard to believe there are still people who believe that slamming down a few thousand words in a Word file constitutes readiness for a book deal followed by fame and fortune and adoring fans. Meanwhile, they ignore the most important facet of finding that fame and fortune; protocol. I guess my impatience derives from the fact that I wouldn’t have the walnuts to cold call an editor. Or an agent. My first instinct would be to research how this whole query thing is done so I don’t piss anyone off. Lord knows I can do that easily enough, and with very little effort.

I’ve thought about removing our phone number from our site, like a lot of my colleagues, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

But I have to say this stuff leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Should those authors actually query me, I’m already cranky and have no desire to read their stuff. Yes, I know with the holidays just around the corner I should be more charitable. But when I’m five-feet deep editing a manuscript, as I am right now, a phone call about word count or genre is an unwelcome intrusion.

When is it ok to call an editor?

Tough question. I usually say never because we all work very hard to circumvent unnecessary questions by making extensive guidelines on our websites. I’ll admit that I’ve had some lovely conversations with authors who cold-called me in search of information – yes…I answer my own phone because the beagle can’t be bothered. However, would my life be worse for not having talked to them? No. So the safe answer is don’t call – unless that editor is YOUR editor.

Very few submission guidelines lack pertinent information, and most submission guidelines are fairly standard.

Query letter should include [all on one page]:

  • Word count
  • Genre
  • Title
  • One – two paragraph pitch
  • Very short bio [two, three lines] about what makes you the perfect person to have written the book
  • Why is your book marketable? [two lines]

I can’t think of a question that an author could ask me that isn’t already on our guidelines. Anything outside that realm isn’t pertinent. If I want pages, I’ll ask for them.

Gee, Lynn, kinda cranky pants for a Monday, aren’t you?

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