by Lu Ann Staheli
So many want-to-be writers have the same roadblock stopping them from success—they don’t send enough submissions.
For some, the fear of rejection stops them from actually sending their work out to editors. For others, they are so busy worrying about the arbitrary rules set down by publishers—no multiple submissions, agented submissions only, wait 6-10 months for a response, etc.—that they either wait months at a time for a rejection that is sure to come or they fail to send their submission to a house or publication that might be waiting for just what they have written.
All too often, today’s publishers do not even respond to submissions, SASE or not. The author who follows the rules might wait for a long time, never having the nerve to send the same submission to another house, always in hopes that the one place they’ve sent it will come through in the very end. I hate to break your bubble, but that scenario isn’t likely to happen.
So, if you want to increase your chances of publication, you have to break the cycle of follow-the-rules, then sit and wait. Here are a few tips to help you get around those roadblocks and into the fast lane toward publication, even if it means more rejection.
First, let me assure you, a fast rejection is not a bad thing. The quicker you find out who doesn’t want your manuscript, the better chance you have to find the right house or publication for your work. A quick rejection will help you cull the list of potential markets for all of your work, saving you the trouble of submitting again and again to an editor or house who isn’t a good match for your style.
Next, remember that multiple queries and multiple submissions are two separate things. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t send several queries out for a single project at the same time. The likelihood of more than one publisher wanting to grab it up is slim, and even if they did, what a great place to find yourself. That is how bidding wars that drive up an author’s advance and the final contract percentage happen with books. I know one writer who had two houses buy the same non-fiction book from the same query. The author took the same information and wrote one book from a humorous slant while the second was for the more serious sportsman. Two advance checks and royalties for the same work, all because he sent multiple queries for a project he believed in.
As for those editors who say they only accept submissions from an agent, this may not be entirely true. Some editors will accept queries from anyone, agent or not. Others will accept queries and submissions from people they have met (interpret this to include spoken-in-front-of) at a writer’s workshop or conference. If you’ve attended a conference, or if you belong to SCBWI, it doesn’t hurt to add a label on the outside of your submission envelope stating this.
Even a rejection of a particular manuscript or idea does not mean the editor has rejected you altogether. Pay attention to any notes or comments you might receive that encourages you to submit something else to the same editor. I use a self-addressed postcard with check-off options in my submissions. Many times editors will choose the option that states: “Although this manuscript does not meet my current needs, please feel free to query me on another project.” I always take advantage of that invitation, and so should you.
Editors can’t buy your work if they don’t know you’re out there, so, if you’re sitting around waiting for that response from a single editor, wait no more. Get busy and send your query out to additional places who buy the same kind of pieces. Every time a rejection comes back, send the query out to another house. Keep track of where and when you are sending, then be ready to smile when the request for a completed manuscript a contract offer comes through.