Thursday, January 19, 2006

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

As new writers we get all twisted up about the details. We are full of questions and angst about getting published. Let me relieve your fears.

I have written a picture book. How do I find an illustrator? This is a misconception, publishers would rather find their own illustrators. Just write your best story and submit it to the right publisher.

The market book says this publisher will get back to you in 4 weeks. They have had my manuscript for five weeks. Does this mean they are interested? Probably not. It probably means they are backlogged with work. If you are standing at the mailbox waiting for them to reply you are not writing. Act like a professional. Relax and write another story. Remember the saying about the "watched pot".

My story is 1005 words long. The guidelines say 1000 words. What should I do? You should be able to trim 5 words but if you really can't an editor that is really interested won't let 5 words stop her/him. However if the guidelines say 1000 words and your picture book manuscript is 5000 words it isn't likely they will be interested.

The guidelines say "send to submissions editor". Don't I have to have an editor's name to submit to? No! If that is what they ask you to do, that is what they want you to do. There is some merit in following instructions. However, if you attend a conference and an editor specifically asks you to send them something you would address it to the editor by name and mark the envelope "requested manuscript".

I received a rejection from one publisher and absentminedly sent it with the same cover letter to another publisher. Am I going to be blackballed as a writer? No, but don't do that again. When submitting be mindful of what you are sending. I would wait awhile before sending to publisher #2 again to give him/her time to forget your name. Don't fret, we all make mistakes.

I wrote a story about a boy and his dog. Now I find out there is already a book about a boy and his dog. What should I do?
I am sure there are many books about a boy and his dog. They are not going to be just like yours unless you copied one of them. If you are concerned about this read the other books. Then make sure your manuscript is different enough to interest an editor.

How do I copyright my manuscript before I send it out? I am afraid an editor might steal my work. Your work is copyrighted as soon as you write it. It is unlikely that an editor will steal your work but if you are really concerned, I have heard you can seal a copy of your manuscript in an envelope and mail it to yourself. When you receive it, keep it sealed, and file it away. The postmark is supposed to help show that the work is yours.

The writing is the important thing. Follow the publisher's guidelines when submitting. Be professional. Don't sweat the small stuff.

(c) 2006 Sharon A. Soffe

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