Things NOT to say to an editor…

I received an email last night regarding a rejection letter that we had sent out. Actually, a letter I had personally sent out. Now I don’t want to bash the book itself, regardless of the fact I rejected it, but I do want to point out a few things the author did very, very wrong in his response to my decision.

The not so bad
The author did thank me several times for reviewing his manuscript, and for the time to send a personalized response. Both of which are fine and actually welcoming. He also thanks me again at the end:

I have heard many stories about best selling authors who got over looked by a countless number of publishing houses and agents when they first started out. Until someone in your position decided to take a chance on them, and they became great. I come with so much artistic vision and raw talent, I just need a place to call home so I can sharpen my skills and become that best selling author I know I can be. So please just give me a chance, trust me you will not be dissappointed. Thanks for you time, and hope to hear from you soon.

The not so good part

The author then goes on to tell me why he as an author should be reconsidered, not his book, by describing how detailed of a businessman he is. The problem with this is that no matter how business savvy the author is, if the book can’t stand on it’s own, then no amount of marketing will help it.

I am not the typical author coming to you empty handed, with only just a book to offer and nothing else. I understand that you can’t just invest in the production of an entire book with out knowing what your projected return is on sales within the first quarter. I have a way for you to not only know what the projected sales will be, isolating geographically where sales will be strongest, and also enough promotional material to start up a very strong pre-order campaign. All in which comes with low cost and zero risk for your company.

And there is always a risk for the publisher when accepting and promoting any book.

The really bad part

Many editors, including myself, like it when an author becomes engaged in the marketing process, and wants to actively participate. It’s actually welcomed when an author approaches an editor with a marketing idea, or a twist on an old process. But do not, under any circumstances, do or say what this author wrote:

My plan is to give away the first five chapters along with the intro piece and soundtrack for free. They will be showcased on a website in which I already have a artistic visual design for, but the most important piece is the reservation form that will be showcased as well. The reservation form will state that there is a limited supply of books and due to the overwhelming demand for the novel, it is best you reserve yourself a copy. Plus a viewable counter will be on the website as well that will be pre-set to 20,000 plus views and downloads of the first five chapters and Intro. This will spark the “I dont want to miss out” reaction in people which will further add to the number of pre-orders. By having the pre-orders you will be able to determine the projected book sales, have pre-set customers, be able to determine how big the project will be, but most importantly you will have concrete numbers in which you obtained with almost zero risk and cost. Instead of having to produce a whole book then guess how many units will be sold within the first week of the release date.
The first five will be an audio book complete with origanal instrumentals, sound effects, and a unique reading voice following in the footsteps of the greats like Orson Wells. I have my own state of the art audio production studio, so this will cost you absolutely nothing to produce. I also have a commercial treatment written and a video production team, so this will cost you nothing as well. The only thing you will have to do is help with the editing of the first five chapters and get the website designed. This is a very low cost to invest in something that I guarentee has the potential to make millions and the best part is you get to test it first before you sink any significent time or money into the book project, unlike the other projects you may have where its all or nothing.

There are too many issues with this to list, so I will merely state the top few and most obvious:

1. No publisher wants to give their product away for free. Any author would not want to do the same either. It’s bad business.

2. A soundtrack? Not only does that cost money, but it looks unprofessional. Soundtracks only work with books that have been made into movies, not just the book itself.

3. No publisher will EVER want to limit the amount of books sold or state that they are limiting their amount. This only works with signed copies or limited editions. Never with first novels, especially from an unknown writer.

4. Presetting the website counter to 20,000 is false. Not only is it unrealistic to have it preset to that amount the first day the site is up, it’s immoral.

5. As far as the commercial and audio book – unless the publisher agrees to give up audio rights, the Publisher will still put in a lot of time, effort, and money. After all, these marketing techniques will be promoting their product, and they want it to be the best representation and visually appealing as possible. I don’t know of any publisher that will just say “alright, looks like you’ve got everything under control, go for it!” and that be it.

6. No author, editor, or publisher can gaurantee that a book will make millions. One does hope, but it’s never certain, and almost never happens for first books.

 7. While you should always build your book up, don’t try to bring others down in order to make yourself look better. It’s childish.

Overall

The above are things that editors do not like to hear. Again, while I may not speak for everyone, I think I can safely say the majority would agree with me.

 Not only did this letter not make me want to reconsider his book, it actually scared me away, period. Not only was I not interested in his work, but I was definately not interested in any part of his marketing plans. It’s hard enough to work with an author who has no business or marketing know-how, but it’s double the effort when trying to rein in an author who’s ready to go buck-wild into the public by throwing out books and screaming “I’m an author! I’ve been published. Here, here’s my book, read it for free!”

…Again, my answer was no.  And this time, it was not a personalized letter, but a simple and crystal-clear “No. Still not interested.”

If you get a rejection letter stating your book “needs too much editorial work” or “inconsistent” or something similar, I don’t see a problem with replying and asking if a rewrite would suffice, or if there were any specifics the publisher were looking for. Chances are, for many of the larger publishers, you might not get a response back. For smaller publishers, it’s a chance, but why not take it? At the worst case, you get no response, if anything you might get a polite “no,” or at best you’d get another chance or at least some extra information regarding your manuscript that you can take away with you.

Communication between editors and writers does not have to be a taboo. The problem is, many people see it that way and steer clear of it. Many writers who do respond to editors do it in the wrong way (as seen above) which causes many editors to not bother responding or reading the message altogether. Many presses and large publishing houses use form rejections with such rigid language that many writers feel that the answer is set in stone and untouchable. Well, for the most part a rejection is, but there’s no reason you can’t try again.

Persistance will only help you achieve your goals, but be sure to not be a persistant pain in the ass by following submission guidelines, showing email/correspondence etiquette, and at least trying to understand the publishing/marketing industry before laying out your planned book scheme. If you don’t do it right, it only justifies the editor’s decision about rejecting your manuscript.

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One Response

  1. Many publishers don’t like phone calls or emails to ask about their submission. It seems hard enough sometimes just to get an editor to read your manuscript. If your submission doesn’t go past the first reader onto the editor, then how/why would they respond to a follow up email?

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