Writing Nowadays: The Hunger for Information

Steven Harper PiziksA while ago, I was invited to speak at the Kent District Library’s annual writer’s conference.  I have a number of regular workshops and speeches ready to go, so I ran them past the coordinator, and she asked me to speak on how to submit a manuscript for publication.

I arrived at the conference without incident, plugged my computer into the local projection system for my visual aids while Ashley the coordinator introduced me, and I spoke.

I’m a good speaker–twenty-one years in the classroom will do that to you–but I’ve found this particular workshop always garners a huge response.  You would think that with the Internet as a resource, new writers would have an easy time figuring out how to do query letters and agent hunts and such.  But I’m finding the opposite is true.  There’s TOO MUCH information on the Internet about this kind of thing, and a lot of it is contradictory.  As a result, people feel more confident about the process if they can actually talk to someone who’s in the field AND who isn’t trying to sell them anything.  (I have no vested interested either way if the attendees get the process right or not, so I’m trustworthy.)

After the session was over, I was deluged with people who had further questions, and I willingly answered as best I could.  Some of the questions I got included:

“How do you deal with being rejected?”  It’s never fun.  I always coped by saying, “Well, what does SHE know?” and sending the manuscript to another market within 24 hours.  And by griping about it to family and friends.  After a while, you develop a callus about it.  It always hurts at least a little, but you get used to dealing with it.  Develop a support system for dealing with the stress, whether it’s smacking a pillow or petting your cat or throwing rocks at a tree so you can let the unhappiness out, but never let the fear of rejection stop you from submitting something.  Rejection WILL happen, but it has never killed anyone.

“Is there a central web site or database where I can find someone to edit my book before I submit it?”  I don’t know of one off-hand, but I myself know a handful of people who edit books for a fee.  It isn’t hard to find them, really, but make sure you know what you’re getting.  If someone promises you’ll get published if you just do as they say, walk away.  Ask what books the person has edited and see if they’ve been published by the Big Six publishing houses.  If they haven’t, walk away.  Ask for references from previous clients and ask those clients if they were happy.  If they weren’t, walk away.  Make sure you get in writing what the editor will do for you.  Most look for stylistic changes that will strengthen the book, along with plot points, character development ideas, and so on.  Copyediting (catching continuity and typos) is usually not included, and isn’t worth paying for anyway.  (If the book gets published, you’ll get a copyeditor for free.)  Editors usually charge by the hour or by the page.  Make sure this is money you can afford to spend without getting anything back.

“You said you can’t submit a full manuscript to more than one editor at a time.  If an editor sits on a manuscript for too long and you send a letter telling them to cancel the submission, and you still don’t hear from them, how do you know they deleted or tossed your manuscript?”  You don’t.  But if you sell the piece to someone else, and then the slow editor says she wants to buy the piece, too, you respond with a copy of the cancellation email and a short note apologizing that the story is no longer available.  However, you would be happy to send the editor something else . . .

It’s strange how the information highway has created a hunger for information.

–Steven Harper Piziks

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