Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Understanding the Other Side of the Contract

This particular publisher caught me eye this week. They say they are closed to everyone except certain people with certain situations. I expected them to say they'd only publish currently published authors or those they've published in the past, but their list is bigger than that. Then I noticed a trend. See if you see it.


Dog Horn Publishing is dedicated to publishing the best in cutting edge literature. We publish bold voices and writing that takes risks. We are less concerned by genre than we are by defying convention, taking readers someplace new, and challenging the limits of what writing is and does.

We are currently closed to unsolicited submissions. This is largely due to the fact we can only publish a few books each year and have a staff of three. This is also partly due to the fact that many writers who submit do not seem to understand what it is we're looking for and have not looked at our existing catalogue. With that in mind, we want to make it easier for those writers who are appropriate to reach us, and easier for us to handle the number of submissions.

We consider solicited submissions to be those from existing Dog Horn Publishing or Polluto writers, Dog Horn Masterclass students and graduates, writers recommended by our authors and peers, writers represented by an agent, writers with publishers whose work has links to our own (i.e., they publish similar genres or similar authors), and writers who are members of a professional organisation (e.g., SFWA, HWA, BFS, BSFA, etc). Until further notice, we will also consider submissions from subscribers to our newsletter and/or Polluto as solicited, for the simple reason that our subscribers should at least have a good idea of what kinds of things we publish.


How brilliant! The writer who skims these guidelines will read the line I underlined and stop. That's what the publisher wants. A serious writer will read the guidelines further to the end, to understand the publisher in case it's a good fit and the writer might want to come back later. But this publisher, in order to curtail submissions and workload, lead with the negative to see who keeps reading. In the end, if you are a serious writer, you'll fit into one of the categories for consideration, but only if you respect the publication.

Lesson: Don't be flip about submissions. Don't waste a publisher's time. It isn't a matter of how many publishers you can shotgun submit to, in hopes that you hit one that answers. This publisher, like all publishers, want you to know who they are, know what they publish, and make an intelligent decision to pitch accordingly. Of course, the query letter would clearly show how much the writer has in common with the publishing house.

Take publishers seriously. Send them a letter as if you are applying for a job that means the world to you. Because if a publisher takes you on, it's usually in hope that you are a long-term, hard-working writer with a voice that will represent the publisher well. It isn't just about you publishing or the publisher making a buck. It's about the publisher looking good, too. You are a good-will ambassador for any publisher that signs you on, and the editors reviewing your query letter needs to see that potential shining through.


Janet Hartman said...

I consider myself a serious writer, even though I don't make as much time for it as I would like. I read all the way to the end, so maybe this part-timer does qualify as a "serious writer."

I like this publisher's definition of a serious writer. Although this market is not a fit for me, I am encouraged by how broad that definition is. Dog Horn sounds like a good publisher to work with.

Anonymous said...

Yes this is so true.
But one little story... I thought I had a publisher boxed and knew exactly what they were after... I'd researched recently published book, read their guidelines and done as much research as I could... Forgetting the 1-2 year lag between publication and acceptance.... They had changed their focus and were no longer publishing books like they had published in the past... But didn't mention that in their guidelines. Interesting experience


It is purposely designed to throw a would-be author off? I don't think that's very nice or professional.

Sometimes while researching I'll see what looks like an updated line stating that a publisher is currently closed. I might bookmark the site and check back.

I always figure that publishers want to make it as easy as possible for would-be authors to connect with them since writers are their bread and butter.

I know it's got to be frustrating for publishers and agents when they receive so many submissions but it's frustrating for aspiring authors too, especially when they're rejected time and time again. I'm just sayin'...

Marie Gilbert said...

Love this post. It's true that we need to look at both sides of a picture to understand what is happening.

Susan Sundwall said...

Excellent reminders about what really makes a writer worth her salt.