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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The unthinkable query

Reviewing submissions can sometimes be rewarding (happening upon that fantastic story I simply must edit) or sad (knowing a book just isn't quite there yet, and remembering that sucky rejection-letter feeling). And sometimes, like yesterday, it inspires me to blog. Angrily.

Knowing how many hours I pored over agents' and publishers' requirements and adjusted my query letter and/or submission accordingly for each submission, I'm often flabbergasted when I see submissions come in to LPI which don't follow our guidelines. But, hey, sometimes people make mistakes. So we do cut them slack. However...

This time somebody crossed the line. We received a query where the writer (and I definitely will not be using the term "author" for this person, who has a mountain of professionalism to learn) had the nerve to complain about our formatting guidelines. Namely, font size and line spacing. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but would you go into a job interview and complain about where your boss-to-be put the reception desk? Or about anything? Not if you want the job. (I'll probably be returning to that point again...) And would you go to said job interview with only half the material you were requested to bring? Say, just delete parts of your resume. Then shove it back into your portfolio and head on in. Because this writer who managed to include her complaints failed to include key parts of the query letter. (the LPI submissions guidelines page states pretty clearly what a query should include, such as a few paragraphs about the book, a bit about the author (writer!) and contact info)

Why does formatting matter? It's simple. Many different editors in different countries on different continents work for LPI. We all review submissions, but between us we use many different word processing platforms. Times New Roman (LPI's preferred font, although a couple others are listed as acceptable) is universal. All the platforms recognize it. Size 12, 1" margins is also pretty universal, and gives a nice full page of text, viewable on any computer screen. If somebody needs their text larger or smaller, all text programs have a magnifier or zoom feature. The thing is, if we didn't have formatting standards, we'd get submissions in hot pink, size 28 Jokerman, 1789 pages long. Fact is, we the staff are too dang busy to screw around reformatting manuscripts into professional, readable text. That's your job, O aspiring author. (writer!) Same as it's your job to include a blurb in the query, so if your book is about an ax-wielding vampire who eats senior citizens for fun, some other editor who likes that stuff can review it, and I can spend my time reviewing the subs I'd consider editing. Conversely, if it's a boy-next-door sweet romance, probably our eds who specialize in horror or paranormal or erotica would rather bypass it. See, this isn't rocket science. It's following the rules. Rules that are there for a reason.

Besides seeing red over the outright disrespect shown, guess the first thought that ran through my mind? This writer is going to be a big old pain in the butt about things like house style, editing procedures, how the book gets put together (where acknowledgments and the like go), etc, etc, etc. to infinity. No way do I want to work with somebody like that. Anarchy has its place, but not in the publishing biz, that's for sure. If this person balks at using a few clicks to reformat a manuscript to a new font size, how's she going to react when she's got to whip out the elbow grease and work on edits? Once again, it's like she's purposely setting herself up to be rejected. (aka not get the job) And, well, that's her right. Maybe she'd be happier self-publishing. Although, I've an idea self-pubbed books also must be formatted according to the printer's standards...

Today's lesson in a nutshell: If you want somebody to do something for you (such as publish your book), ask nicely. And act like you'll be agreeable to work with.

Piper Denna
Romance is sexy!

1 comment:

Lux Zakari said...

I'm occasionally stunned by the audacity of others who experience unapologetic entitlement when relying on others. Unbelievable!