Innovation in your submissions

I thought I'd take a moment to remind everyone of the places where it's good to have innovated, creative ideas in the stuff you submit to editors & agents:
  • In the text - Great new ideas for characters, in plots, or in settings. There's nothing more exciting than a brand new style of story, as long as it makes sense.

  • In the marketing plan - Now, you often don't need to submit a marketing plan with your submission, but if someone asks to see one, here is an excellent place to show your creativity. Postcards and bookmarks are great, but everyone does them. If you have a great, practical idea for getting your book in the public's eye, then now's a great time to tell us.

  • In your pitch - Like anything, you want to have an eye-catching, interesting pitch when you go to sell your book. You should be able to describe your project in one interesting sentence.

Places you should not show creativity in submissions:
  • Submission packaging - Send your submission in a normal envelope or box with the submission bound by a rubber band or large binder clip. Do not use ribbon or string to tie up your manuscript. Knots are a pain to deal with. And don't wrap your submission like a present. I've had more than one submission sent to me in wrapping paper. It's unnecessary and just adds another layer between me and your work.

  • Submission formatting - I know I've said it before, but double-spaced, standard 12 pt font (Times, Arial, etc.), one inch margins. Don't deviate.

  • Submission spelling - This is a pet peeve of mine. I don't read phonetically so sounding out words can be an absolute nightmare for me. Jim's dialogue in Huck Finn was incomprehensible. Spell stuff the normal way. This isn't the 1600s. We have standard spelling now.

I just thought I'd share this friendly reminder. We recently had an influx of creativity in strange places.


What's new at Blooming Tree

The boss has posted some updates regarding submissions at BTP on her blog. Curious about our new policies, etc? They're there. Trot on over to her blog and have a look-see.

Ducks all in a Row

Last night I scheduled my newest spring speaking engagement. As I was adding it into my calendar today, it occurred to me that I should make my schedule public so that if I'm going to be somewhere near you, you can come visit with me. I like being able to put faces with names even if I never seem to remember either one. So without much ado:

March 15 -- San Antonio SCBWI monthly meeting
April 15-18 -- TLA in Dallas (I'm not speaking, but I will be manning our booth. Yuck.)
May 28 -- Agent/Editor Pitch Session hosted by Writer's Digest at BEA (So, this one isn't confirmed yet, but I shall cry if I don't end up getting to do this. As far as I can tell, I'm the only person even sort of excited by the prospect of 2 straight hours of having authors pitch to me for three minutes.)
May 27-31 -- BEA (I'll be in LA for BEA although we don't have a booth. However, I'll happily meet up with anyone who is going to BEA too.)

Now if you're looking at this and thinking, but I live nowhere near these places, then I have only one solution for you. You have to start your own conference and invite me to speak. I jest. But if you do know of a conference in your area, and you think I should be speaking at it, either recommend me to them or tell me about the conference and I'll recommend myself. Either way we'll all eventually meet up someday.


Argh! Disease!

I think I'm getting the flu again for the second time in six weeks. Is that even possible?


Happy Birthday to all

I had planned on talking about the recent store visit made by Kadir Nelson or about some of the great books I've just read. However, my husband's brother had a baby girl this morning (the first in 2 generations), and the inlaws are about to descend on us. So, if I have a chance I'll be back later. Otherwise, toodle-loo.

Oh, and it's my friend Topher's birthday, too. Happy Birthday Topher!

To resubmit or not. Tis a tricky question.

I'm still operating on the high I got yesterday from finishing my first novel. When I read it today, I actually kind of enjoyed it. Oh, I'm sure I'll find it dire in a few months, but for now I am just reveling in the bliss of having a complete novel done. I also promise this will be the last time I mention it.

Instead, let's discuss rejection/resubmission ettiquetee. In most cases a rejection is a firm and complete rejection. The house has decided not to pursue your manuscript for some reason, and it is unlikely to change its mind. This is especially true of vague, impersonal rejection letters that may or may not be a form letter. And form letters while regrettable and (I'll be honest) sucky are a neccesity in this business. The GLA blog actually has a nice little article on these kinds of rejections. You have to scroll down to the second post, but you will find a quote from The Boss (my boss, not Springsteen) and a link to one of the bestest small presses on earth.

No, the issue of resubmitting becomes stickier when the editor or agent writes a personal rejection letter. In these types of letters the editor often offers words of encouragement or advice. It's tempting to think that since the editor went to the time and effort to create this dialog with you, they would would want to see the new version of your work. But the truth of the matter is that this isn't always the case. I've written personal rejection letters with advice for authors on how to make the story stronger, but the story itself is inappropriate for our press or not the type of story I'm personally interested. Even if the author takes every comment I made to heart and ends up writing a dynamic new story out of it, the truth is that I still don't want to see it again. I could tell that story had potential, hence the comments in my letter; however, the story isn't a good fit for me.

So in a situation like this, how does an author know whether or not the editor wants them to resubmit? Simple, the editor or agent asks. They will say something similiar to the following phrase: I would be interested in looking at this work again. If that kind of sentence does not appear somewhere in the letter, then assume the editor is not interested in a resubmission. Consider the editor's advice, and then move on to the next potential target.

Now, on a rare occassion you'll come across a time when you are unsure if the editor wants you to resubmit or not. Perhaps they've been unclear in the letter, or one paragraph flatly contradicts another. In this case, be sure to ask before resubmitting. Write or email (but only email if and only if your previous communications with the editor have been through email) the editor thanking them for their advice, and then ask them if you can resubmit. The worst that will happen is they will say no. And if that turns out to be the case, you've saved both yourself and them time. You can move onto the next house. They won't sit down to a manuscript and think, "Haven't I seen this before?"

All of this resubmitting stuff popped into my mind because this morning I emailed a woman some comments on her submission. Since I knew The Boss had already told her she could resubmit, I didn't think to put anything about looking at a resubmission in the email. The author then sent me the nicest email basically thanking me for my suggestions and then asking if she could resubmit to me. I wish I could show it to you since it is an excellent example of how to professionally communicate while still showing enthusiasm. And it's this kind of professionalism that I encourage all of you to aim for. When an editor or agent is unclear, ask questions. And I'll keep trying to post advice here.


Free at Last

I have in the past few moments finally finished, completely and in its entirety, the first draft of my thesis. There are no more holes, areas of dropped logic, or gaps -- at least not that I know of. I may find some when I go to revise tomorrow and my advisor will certainly find them, but for now I feel triumphant in that the lion's share of the work is now done.

And my thesis is doubly exciting to me because it is also the first novel I have ever created. Weighing in at a lofty 34000 words, it's a little shorter than most YA novels on the market these days, but really there was nothing more in that story to tell. And like all good first novels, after this one serves its purpose as thesis, it will go live on a shelf never again to see the light of day. However, the important thing is that I can finish a novel. I can really do it.

And trust me, if someone with as little writing discipline as me (I spent 4.5 hours today getting those last 3000 words done. I hadn't worked on it for months up until this point.) can do it, than you can write a novel too.