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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Atlanta Homeschoolers & Sending Rejection Letters

Today I spoke to a number of homeschoolers. They set me up in a Church which was literally around the corner from where we're staying in Atlanta. I ended up speaking for over half-an-hour and then answering questions in-depth for another half-hour. I was hoping to put the audio on my website but it says the file is too large, so I'll have to explore other options of sharing that with everyone. (If anyone knows how to put an hour-long presentation [mp3 format] on my website, I'd appreciate your input). A guy from the church set me up with the sound equipment and even arranged a second mic for the audience to use when asking questions. And there were a lot of intelligent questions... which I thoroughly enjoyed answering.

On a side note: I sent out another rejection letter today to an aspiring author. This one was especially hard because I could sense the author's heart was in the right place and they had a passion for their subject. But the query had a few problems. So I'm going to offer a couple tips to all would-be future-submitters to Flaming Pen Press (and this can all be avoided by simply taking time to read books on crafting query letters and books on publishing).

Two Rules:
1) Don't tell the editor that your writing is excellent; that can be an immediate turnoff. If your writing is excellent then hunt down endorsments from professional writers and then include those endorsments in your query.
2) Don't include writing that you did in your childhood as credits. This does not interest a professional. Only include credits that entail a professional took note of your work, ie. magazine stories.
3) A Tip: Keep the teaser about your story and its content succinct, and give specifics on how you intend to market your book. Don't say you'll do store signings, give us a list of contacts you can use and/or methods you will employ to reach the necessary people who can put your book in readers' hands.

It feels strange to be on the other side of the submissions fence. But I remember all too well the many rejection letters (most of them generic, instead of personalized) that I received. The most important thing to remember is not to get discouraged. Learn from your first query and move on; improve. And research the market extensively. The path to publication has little to no shortcuts (and no author that I know has taken them). It takes years. But those years prove to the publishing world that you will persist and that you are determined to succeed.


Wayne Leeke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Appleton said...

Thanks Wayne. I actually just finished splitting the long track into several short clips. So now everyone can listen to them on either my blog, or my website.

I'd like to clarify a couple things I said in the post because you didn't quite understand:
1) Being humble is the worst thing you can do when presenting your work. Not telling the editor you are an excellent writer is bad because it takes up space and doesn't convince him that you are. However, endorsments would.
2)If your age is an asset to your marketing then you should include it. One of the things AMG is excited about is that I am young, so they know I can reach my target audience perhaps easier than older writers.
3) Your take on marketing is the opposite of what a publishing house wants to hear. I remember talking to an editor once who told me that the first and primary aspect of the book proposal was the marketing package;because only if the writer is sellable will the editors look to see if they can also write well.
Since the 80's the publishing market has greatly changed: most publishing houses will not put out the money for marketing expense. That is now up to the author. If the book is going to be a hit the author has to make it happen.

The publishers' reason is that 6 out of 10 novels never make back what the publisher spent on them. So they wait to see what stands out in the crowd and then put the money on the good ones.

You said the publisher would tell you how to market AFTER deciding to publish, but that is reverse. The publisher first seeks to see if you can present a good marketing plan. If you don't...they pass you up for the writer who will deliver sales.

Wayne Leeke said...

Oh wow, that is the opposite of what a few books have told me. Then again, they may have been simply out dated. I may have to have to start looking for the "published on" date on the books I read. Thanks for the clarification. Looks like I need to start reading up on the publication process. The saying "information has an expiration date" is true after all.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Nice discussion :)
And great post Scott! Glad to hear your selling like crazy :) And I"m sure AMG is glad too ;)

Yeah I agree with all you said. It isn't as hard as people seem to think to get endorsements (or maybe I'm just very well connected ::shrugs::) so that's an added plus. I actually remember looking through AMG's submission guidelines. They ASK for endorsements haha

Scott, point 2 said not to include works from childhood. What if a professional recognized your work while you happened to be a child? For example, I've had poems, short stories, and a book published. Would it be acceptable for me to include things such as this?

Point 3 is plain awesome :) That question alone can set aside a bestselling author from an aspiring novelist :)

Anyhow, can't be too fun writing rejections :( Hopefully you don't have to do another one anytime soon ;)

Also (yeah...this is a long comment :P) I just finished reading Offspring!!!!

Daniel L. Boone said...

Yes, I agree with Nathan. I am of the lucky few to have something published when I was a child. Should we include that in a query?

Scott Appleton said...

If you wrote stories for a recognized professional magazine as a child, then yes, that should be included. However, if it was a story in a Sunday school paper, or something like that, it would be passed over. I was specifically referring to generalized references in queries to "I wrote lots of stories as a kid" or some such like. ...Maybe I'll elaborate on this later

Seth said...

I agree on those points. I also think it's important to put your age in there though. For instance, since I'm only a teen right now and haven't gone away to college, if I were to get published, it would be much harder for me to go on nation wide tours, I would probably be limited to my state(although I would probably have more freedom than some, being that I'm homeschooled). So, yeah, that's my little thing. It's kinda important to a publisher I think if you can't really do much touring, signings etc.

Wayne Leeke said...

Such as publications as e-zines and contests (state wide, etc)? Having you elaborate on this would make for a great post.

Also, I deleted my first post due to its irrelevance now that you have cleared things up.

I remember talking to an author about a year ago (I really can't give out his name though) and he said receiving rejection letters is the first step to becoming a good author. I doubt he'll mind too much.

Neil said...

Sir, could you clarify the difference between "solicited" and "un-solicited" submissions?

Scott Appleton said...

I've had so many questions as a result of this post that I decided to answer them more fully in a new post. You can find the answer to your question in my latest post.

Let me know, everyone, if you think of anything else you'd like me to elaborate on. I love it when the responses to my post give me ideas for new posts! (-:


"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." -Proverbs 16:24

In a world where morality is forsaken and Christ neglected, wholesome books are uncommon. The themes of my writing are love, self-sacrifice, and honor.

I see my generation turning from God to the gods of this world. I see homes torn apart in the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Children are murdered by the millions every year . . . without ever seeing the world outside their mothers' wombs. Through fiction I strive to encourage those who are willing, to stand against these things and be heroes and heroines; chivalrous, gentle, full of righteous indignation, and the fear and love of their Creator.