How Not To Be Published (part 2)

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Fiction, General, thomas smith, writer, writers market, writing

Step 2: Don’t Worry About Formatting

If you have ignored Step 1, there is still hope for you to avoid dealing with checks and contracts. Just get the words on paper. Single space everything, use whatever fonts you think are effective (Hattenschweiler font looks really cool for science fiction) and let ‘er fly. Use the front and back of the page to conserve paper if you want to. Make the margins as small as possible to save paper. If you use brightly colored papers it will really make an impact on editors, especially lime green (paper, not editors).

Everybody makes such a big deal about formatting, but your work is important enough that the editors should be glad to see it in whatever form it takes. And if you have skipped step one, then the best thing to do is make your own formatting rules to make things easier for you.

However, there are a few of you out there (yes, you there with the stack of dog-eared and highlighted copies of all those writing-related magazines on your desk) who are going to format your manuscript correctly. You are the people who will insist on double spacing, using either Times New Roman or Courier font (10-12 point), one inch margins all around, with all the proper contact information at the top of your white 20lb paper, typed on just one side. You know who you are. But let me warn you about something right now.

You’ve started down a slippery slope, because an editor will open that envelope or pull that properly formatted document up on their screen and start looking at you like a professional. Then you’ll jump ahead of the competition, and at that point you’ve taken one more step toward being published. But don’t lose hope. The third step may still save you.

Step 3: Skip the Market Research

If you have written something, how do you decide where to submit it? The best way to submit a manuscript with the least chance of having it accepted is to fling it out there  wherever you feel like flinging. Sure, Better Homes and Gardens doesn’t print vampire erotica. But they’ve never read your vampire erotica. And good writing is good writing … right?

The same goes for agents. Just because an agent says in the guidelines, on his/her web site, and during every conference appointment that they do not handle poetry collections or YA books, they haven’t seen your poetry collection which includes the epic 942 stanza poem Metaphysics in E minor, or your YA series Fuzzy and Muzzy Meet the Ghost of Booger Hollow. So go ahead and send it. Besides, if they don’t normally handle the kind of thing you’re sending, it will be a nice break for them.

And while you’re at it don’t worry about word counts. Even though a publication may list 750-1500 words as their limit, your topic may take more words to cover. And if it wasn’t important (or supremely entertaining) you could have written your piece within that limit. So disregard the word count. That was probably put there for long winded people who have nothing to say anyway.

This no research strategy puts you worlds ahead of those writers out there who consult market lists, guidelines, market guides, and the web sites of publishers, editors, agents, and other publishing entities. Those folks know who is buying what, how much they pay, and how long the piece must be. And people like that tend to be published more often than folks who don’t.

Serves ‘em right for doing all that research.

Step 4: Don’t Worry About Writing Etiquette

Just as there are some universal standards for manuscript formatting (unless you’ve skipped that step), there are also some universal standards when it comes to dealing with editors and other publishing professionals. But if you have followed the steps up to this point, don’t waver now. Just plow ahead and skip the etiquette.

First, if you skipped the previous step and have done some market research (you keep this up and you’re going to be published despite all my advice), you can still throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just send your manuscript to any editor in any department. For example, if you are writing a political science related article, but the first editor you find in the market guide handles parenting articles, just send it to him/her.  They should know to send it to the right person. Also, don’t be too concerned about spelling the editor’s name right. Surely they know their own name by now.

Also, if you meet an editor or agent at a writers conference and want to get your manuscript to them, the best place to do that is the bathroom. Just slip it under the stall and then wait outside for them. Banging on the door to see if they got the manuscript is also helpful. Do this, and I promise you will make a real impression on them, and you will NOT have to worry about being published.

If you decide to skip this step, you may find yourself making sure to find the appropriate editor for your work, spelling their name correctly, waiting for appropriate times to approach them in public, and conducting yourself as a professional. You will start to do things like thanking them for their time, responding to requests for additional information quickly, and keeping your communication brief and appropriate. And you will probably find yourself having to be published.

Just remember: I warned you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s