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Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Pain of Submission

We writers love to write, but oh, the pain of preparing our babies for submission to agents and publishers! We have to stop being writers and turn into other people. First we become researchers. We have to research every potential market thoroughly, so we can be sure we’re sending it to the right place. We then turn into clerks or secretaries, pulling together files and information each individual agent or publisher requests, printing or e-mailing it, and tracking our submissions. Next we turn into therapists, if our submissions get ignored or rejected, and we have to reassure ourselves that we ourselves weren’t rejected, just our manuscripts. We must also be coaches, pushing ourselves to keep submitting our work, despite all the paperwork, details, pain, and heartbreak.

Recently I spent hours updating my latest book proposal and revising the sample chapters. I then printed out the whole package, all forty-seven pages of it, only to discover that both places where I had wanted to submit the proposal took submissions only over the Internet, and one took submissions only through its website. Why does every darn potential market or agent want something that differs from all the other potential markets or agents? Every package has to be revamped to fit the place where I’m sending it, which adds even more hours and misery to the submission process.

I have nothing to prove my theory, but I believe that each agent and publisher sets out to create a unique submission process intentionally, so they can easily reject noncompliant submissions without reading them. I do know that some agents look for absolutely any reason to reject a manuscript, thereby whittling down the stack of submissions they have to seriously consider. For that reason every submission must be the result of careful research and meticulous preparation. I cannot throw together a mass mailing of any kind.

As in any job, the part that’s the least interesting becomes the most tedious, but if I performed only the part of writing that is fun, my work would never get published.

Meanwhile, I have a full printed submission ready, if any other agents I investigate actually want a full printed proposal and sample chapters, but by the time I locate another agent worthy of handling my precious child, I’ll probably have revised both the proposal and the sample chapters several more times, and even this printout will be obsolete.

Maybe I’ve uncovered the reason why the process is called “submission.” We have to submit to cruel punishment and grueling detail. We have to cave to the demands of agents and publishers. We must surrender our ego, abandon our self-esteem, grovel before the gods of publishing, but if we’re willing to submit truly and completely, in the end we might receive absolution—and a publishing contract.

In 2003 I worked the system and sold Write In Style, so I feel certain I can win again with my new project, my first collection of memoirs. I’ve sold individual memoirs to various publications, so I feel confident I can sell the collection as a book. If you’ve considered writing and selling your memoirs, sign up for my upcoming seminar, WRITE YOUR MEMOIRS FOR FUN AND PROFIT, to be held in my home Saturday, April 30, 2011. For more information, go to http://zebraeditor.com/speaking.shtml. You'll see another short seminar there that I'm giving for Booklogix in Alpharetta, Georgia, and that one is also going to be a Webinar, if you can't be there in person, so be sure to sign up.

One more note: Write In Style, my award-winning book on creative writing, is officially out of print, and used copies are selling for as much as $89 on Amazon. While they last, however, you can still buy one of the few remaining copies at the original price of $12.95. To purchase, go to http://zebraeditor.com/book_write_in_style.shtml. Hurry! Supplies are dwindling!