“I’m so very busy. I get sent hundreds of manuscripts. You should see my desk and inbox. Crowded! Busy, busy, busy picking the next Grisham, Childs, Conroy…so don’t waste my valuable time.”
That is the crux of the manuscript pitching world. It isn’t an easy job. It has its downside, too. Paper slicing fingers, paper dust chewing at their skin, ripping envelopes open, and the worst part: Reading.
So, every single publisher and agent that wants to be in it, gets in the book The Writer’s Marketplace. Each tells those with words to sell, how to approach the throne, how to bow and scrape, and in what form asking permission to speak shall arrive in.
Look. I’m all about systems. I get it. Systems save time…if you’re a manufacturer and can deal with the same parameters over and over again.
But what has happened is that publishers are not making near the money they used to. Many have closed, or been rolled up in big corporate takeovers, and employees are fired. Those same employees, who for years hobnobbed with the popular authors and put the worldwide deals together, now go out and set up a website talking themselves up as an agent.
And yet they are still using a system that ends up punishing the very people by which they want to make money.
While certain parts of the business itself, such as distribution and printing, are highly systemized and make sense because one is dealing with many copies of one work, other parts of the business are out of date.
I cannot tell you how many seminars I’ve gone to where agents and publishers get in front of a crowd and, when asked specifically about it, say they are always open to hearing something different and love, just love to find that new breakout author that will set the world on fire. They tell the audience to send what they have because, after all, they are being helpful to this audience doncha know. Then upon receiving materials, shut them down because it wasn’t sent in a certain form and therefore, the agent or publisher says, “We know you are not of sufficient quality to meet our standards.”
This isn’t sour grapes. I’m embedded in the community and have been for over twenty years. I hear these tales all the time. Writers are confused with what publishers and agents want.
Oh. Wait. I hear an agent and publisher piping up now. What’s that you say? You say your guidelines are clear? How hard can it be to meet them? Didn’t you read The Writer’s Marketplace”? Wait. Let me finish laughing.
Yes, babies. We read it. And we sent it. Then we get a snarky letter back that says, “You did not use the…”
Wait. Wait. I’ve got to stop laughing here. Please continue. “You did not use the most current version of our submission guidelines. You will find them on our website at…”
So, we access your website, use those guidelines, and get back the next reply. “So-and-So no longer works here. Please see this link for the new submission guidelines.”
I’m laughing so hard now, I’m crying, babies. Yes, indeed.
Is it any wonder more and more authors are cutting the agents and the publishers out of the loop? Please, Mr. Publisher and Ms. Agent, tell me what value you bring to the table now?
Every book is bespoke. There are no two alike.
Yet publishers’ and agents’ current submission systems treat them as if they are a cog in a wheel. Might as well use a rusty blade to cut your own throat. You are dead, but somebody else has to clean up the mess.