Vague Rejection Letters

I received a very vague rejection letter today. “Thank you for submitting [My Wonderful Novel]. Unfortunately, it does not fit our needs at this time.”

What the heck does that mean? [Sorry. Unless it was my letter, I have no idea what that really means. You’d have better luck asking a magic 8 ball.]

If my novel stinks, why can’t they just come out and say so? [Because we want you to keep writing.] Or if it’s for one of the other reasons you discussed previously on this blog, why can’t they tell me so that I don’t like, go off and do irreparable damage to my laptop or something? [Because we don’t want you to go off and do irreparable damage to us!]

And would it really kill them to offer just a couple of sentences of feedback? [There are days when it almost does.] Sometimes I wonder if they even read one sentence of my submission. [Uhm, we’re in the business to find manuscripts. Trust me. We always read the first sentence. Unless you’re a flamer (see last paragraph).]

Ticked Off

As a submissions editor faced with an unpublishable manuscript, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place here. On the one hand, I love authors and I want to give you as much information as I can to help you get that manuscript published. On the other hand, there are only so many hours in my work day and I need to spend most of them on tasks that will earn the company money. If I don’t, we go out of business and nobody gets published.

I’ve been asked why I can’t create a form letter that says, “Your manuscript was rejected for the following reasons…” then check all that apply, or leave a space and insert 2 or 3 sentences. I’ve tried. It doesn’t seem to make the process any easier for me or for you.
In my experience, specific feedback ticks people off. (Funny, no one got mad when I gave specific feedback as a free-lance editor and charged them $40 an hour for it. But when it’s free, they don’t like it.)

A personalized rejection takes a lot of time and thought to create, and it usually comes back to bite me. When I sent the more personalized rejections, a lot of the authors would call to argue with me or send flaming e-mail messages.

But guess what. Nobody argues with a vague rejection letter. Maybe 2% of the authors who get the vague letter call or e-mail back. Interestingly, those who do are generally very grateful and respectful of both my time and my opinion when they ask for additional feedback, and so I generally oblige.

So if you want more specific feedback, first cool down. Then send a very short and polite e-mail asking for it. I’m guessing most editors will respond if the tone of your message is respectful and not argumentative. In our company, we keep a log with brief notes on every submission. It’s not too hard to copy and paste those notes into a reply e-mail.

Or if you’ve sent a full, include a large SASE and ask the editor to send their notes. When I read a full, I keep my pen handy and put notes in the margins of changes that need to be made if the manuscript is accepted. I don’t send these notes unless I’m asked for them because they’re really honest. Most people do not want to read, “Give me a break!” written in the margins of their masterpiece. So if you ask for it, be prepared to accept it.

When you get the feedback, you don’t have to agree with it. And you’re more than welcome to rub my nose in it later if you want. Just file it away and bring it out to show all your friends after you’ve become a rich and famous author, while I’m still a little podunk publisher. That’s fine. But please, please, please, don’t argue with me about it. I won’t change my mind. It won’t earn you any points if you try to submit another manuscript to me in the future. I note these follow-up communications in the submissions log. If I put “called 10 times to argue with me” or “sent 17 flaming e-mails” in that log, you better believe I’ll never read another sentence of anything you send me.

Is LDS Sci-Fi in Your Future?

I’m wondering what the market for LDS science fiction is like at this moment. I’ve heard that there isn’t any, that while LDS audiences do enjoy mainstream sci fi and LDS books as separate genres, they don’t want them combined. Is this true? If it is, could it change in the near future?

I guess what I’m really asking is, should I hope to publish the space opera that I’m currently working on which uses Book of Mormon themes? Or should I abandon my labour of love and turn instead to romance and/or mystery, although I’m secretly wondering if the market for those two genres is not slowly becoming glutted?


Is there such a thing as LDS sci-fi/fantasy, otherwise known as speculative fiction? The answer is a definite Maybe.

Clean Speculative Fiction: If you mean are LDS readers interested in these genres and themes, the answer is a resounding YES! With the national speculative fiction market becoming more and more saturated with sex and violence and the occult, the LDS reader is having a more difficult time finding “safe” books to read. There is definitely a market for clean, non-graphic, clear-cut ‘good vs evil and good wins’ stories.

LDS Publishers of Speculative Fiction: If you mean do LDS publishers accept and publish speculative fiction, the answer is also yes, but it is not quite so resounding. A few current examples: James Dashner’s YA fantasy series (CFI); Stephanie Black’s futuristic The Believer (Covenant); Obert Skye’s fantasy Leven Thumps (Shadow Mountain).

I think that the future will see more speculative fiction available through LDS publishers. This genre really lends itself to teaching thinly disguised correct principles and moral values in a non-preachy way. It also lets us take a good hard look at ourselves and our society without being overtly offensive or ruffling too many feathers. And the basic fantasy plot line is one we as LDS people believe in–the little guy learns of his own unique, usually divinely bestowed powers (often connected to birthright or high moral character) and uses those powers to champion over evil. We love this archetype. It’s repeated over and over in our scriptures. My company would love to find some good manuscripts in this area.

Mixing Speculative Fiction with LDS Culture: If you mean can you openly place LDS theology and culture in a fantasy or occult setting and have it published by LDS publishers and enjoyed by LDS readers, the answer is NO. (Futuristic setting is probably okay.) You cannot have bishops performing magic and you can’t baptize a vampire family. You can’t have the angel Moroni come down to teach a young woman with special powers how to part the Red Sea with her magic wand. Even Orson Scott Card, an incredibly gifted writer of speculative fiction, offended lots of LDS readers with his Alvin Maker series and his Homecoming Saga (loosely based upon the life of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, respectively).

This type of treatment is highly offensive to many LDS readers. For this reason alone, it is not a cost-effective area for the LDS publisher. Take into account the fact that many LDS publishers are also personally offended by this mix and the probability of getting it published is reduced even more. I don’t know of a single LDS publisher who would touch it with a 10 foot pole. Will it change in the future? Well, you never know who will hang a shingle and be willing to try it. But I can safely say that my company would never, ever consider it. Now, we might consider something along the lines of the Magic Treehouse or the Good Times Travel Agency Series for children, but it would have to be handled very carefully.

So, about your space opera. I can’t speak to that directly because I haven’t read it. Book of Mormon themes are probably okay. Nephi’s descendents preaching to Lamanites on Pluto, probably not. You’ll have to make your own best judgment on that and see what happens.

Glutted Market: The reason the market seems to be glutted with LDS romance and mystery is because that’s what the readers want–and I don’t see it slowing down soon. I have several friends who are romance junkies who would buy and read 1 or 2 new LDS romance novels a week if that many were available. (That’s 104 romance novels a year. I don’t think the combined LDS publishing industry is producing that many yet.)

These friends also complain that there are not enough quality LDS romances out there. They read what’s published because they’re clean and safe, but they yearn for more top-notch writing. So I’d say if you lean that direction, and you can create a solid, quality, well-written manuscript, give it a try. There will be a place for it. Same for the mystery and suspense.

But if your heart is in speculative fiction, don’t let go of that dream. Keep working on it. And if the LDS publishing market isn’t quite ready for your masterpiece, take out the overt LDS references and go for national. The national speculative fiction market is going gang-busters right now. And despite what you see on the shelves, I really believe there is a demand for clean speculative fiction and it’s just a matter of time before some smaller publishers step up and fill that need.

Submitting According to a Publisher’s Schedule

I’ve been reading your blog ever since I discovered it about two weeks ago, and I’m really impressed. I check your blog every day, several times a day in fact, hoping for a new update, because it’s not only informative, it’s entertaining as well. (Thank you!)

I have a few questions. You say that sometimes a book is rejected because the publisher has already filled their schedule. Does that mean that it’s better to submit a manuscript in the first six months of the year, or at the end of a year so that they’re accepted by January? Do the schedules vary by publisher, or does this matter at all?


Publishing schedules vary by publisher. Some publishers work 2 to 3 years ahead, accepting in 2006 for a 2008 release. Some publishers only work a few months ahead, accepting in January and releasing in June. Some may schedule their whole year at once. Others may work on a quarterly or 6 month schedule. Still others have no schedule at all and will accept a good manuscript whenever it arrives. As a writer, you may not be able to determine how the publisher you’re submitting to works because they may not tell you. Or they may tell you their “plan,” but their reality is something else entirely. (see below)

This is how my company works. In January, we look at sales and profits for the previous year and estimate how many titles we think we can publish for the coming year. Then we make a wish list broken into genres with a loose release schedule. For example, we may decide we want to do 2 romances, 2 suspense, 2 young adult and 6 non-fiction in a calendar year. (Genres and numbers adjusted to maintain my anonymity.)

This is “the plan.” In reality, the plan never works out. We may not get any good solid romance manuscripts during the entire year. Or we may get 6. Or even 12. Or maybe we’re flooded with suspense. Or maybe we get some exceptional non-fiction manuscripts. So then we look at what we’ve got and change the plan as we go.

By December of 2005, we pretty much had our release schedule committed up through LDS Booksellers in August of 2006. After the convention, we wil look at what sold, what bookstore buyers were looking for and unable to find, and then in September, we look at our submissions and decide what, if anything, we want to try to rush out before Christmas. Everything else goes on the 2007 schedule. Then in January, we’ll evaluate the schedule and see what we have room for.

So, the short answer is just this: don’t worry about hitting a schedule because no matter how well you and/or the publisher try to time it, everything is subject to the “mice and men” phenomenon. Submit your work when it’s ready and hope for the best.

And don’t tell anyone I said this, but I have been known to jiggle the schedule myself to make room for a really spectacular manuscript. If it’s May and I’ve already committed every penny for this year, I’ll go ahead and put it on next year’s schedule. And if that won’t work, and there’s absolutely no way I think I can publish it in the next three years, but I love the book and I think it really needs to be published soon, I’ll forward it to a colleague with a letter of recommendation (with the author’s permission, of course).

Summer Insanity

Much of my summer is spent selling books. We go to conventions, contact bookstores, set up book signings and Christmas promotions. From mid-May through August, I spend more time out of my office than I do in it. In fact, I’ve already clocked over 3,000 miles in May.

The problem with traveling is that sometimes I hit a motel without wireless internet. (Yes, those behind-the-times locations do still exist.) No internet = no e-mail and no blogging. Then, when I get back to the office, there’s the mountain of catch-up work to do before I take off for the next trip.

Therefore, I apologize in advance for a sporadic posting to this site. Please don’t think I’ve forgotten your questions. I haven’t–and I promise I will get to them. I will post daily when I’m in town and when my work schedule allows it, so check back often. But for the summer, if I miss a few days here and there, please be understanding.

(BTW–I have been amazed at the response to this blog. I very much appreciate all the kind and wonderful e-mailed comments I’ve been getting. I also enjoy reading your opinions on what I have posted–whether you agree or disagree. I’m sure other readers of this blog would love reading your comments and opinions as much as I do. I encourage all of you to consider posting comments and opinions in the comments trails, and e-mailing questions to me.)

Why Did I Reject Your Manuscript?

Manuscripts are rejected for a variety of reasons–only one of which is the quality of the writing. Although grammar mistakes, tired, confusing and/or unbelieveable plots, stale dialogue, flat characters, and plain old boring are the more common reasons manuscripts are rejected, there are plenty of other reasons you might be rejected that have nothing to do with your skill as a wordsmith. I’ve listed a few of them here (in no specific order).

  • It’s not in our niche. We just don’t publish [insert your genre here].
  • We’ve filled our schedule. Believe it or not, publishers do not have money trees out behind the warehouse. If we can only fit 5 or 50 or 500 books in our budget, and your manuscript is number 6 or 51 or 501, we have to reject.
  • We don’t think we can sell it. You may have written a masterpiece, but if there’s a glut in the market for that topic or that genre just isn’t selling well at the moment, we will probably reject.
  • Your treatment doesn’t fit the market. This is an LDS market and some treatments will not fly here. If your murder mystery is too bloody, your romance too explicit, your fictionalized history takes too many liberties with the accepted version of the story (example: biblical stories or events from early Church history), then we won’t publish it.
  • Your topic is contrary to LDS doctrine. I shouldn’t have to explain this one, but based upon some submissions I’ve received, apparently it’s not as obvious as I think it is. When you submit to an LDS pubisher, your manuscript must support LDS beliefs. You wouldn’t expect a Catholic publisher to accept a manuscript proclaiming the pope to be a polygamist or a Christian publisher to accept a manuscript proclaiming Christ to be a myth, would you?
  • We have recently accepted/published another book with a similar plot or theme.

Regardless of the reason, rejection can be disheartening, but don’t let it stop you. There is hope behind every rejection.

If you’re rejected due to writing quality, keep writing. Writing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you will get. I believe that there is no manuscript that is so bad it can’t be fixed with enough time, patience and rewrites. I also believe there is no such thing as a wasted effort. Even if you choose to scrap your original manuscript (or your first dozen manuscripts) and start on something entirely different, the process of writing those first unpublishable works is invaluable.

If you’re rejected due to one of the reasons listed above, keep submitting. Submit that manuscript to other publishers, as many as you can. Submit new manuscripts to publishers who’ve rejected you before. Eventually, you will find that serendipitous moment when the manuscript you’ve submitted fits the needs of the publisher you’ve submitted it to. And that makes it all worth the effort.

Webbie Awards for Web Marketing

Traditional publishing is changing and we (publishers, authors, editors, agents, bookstores, libraries, teachers–in short, anyone who creates or peddles the written word) need to change with it or we will be left behind in the dust. One significant change that every author should know about and plan to use is Web Marketing.

Web marketing is a wonderful tool. It’s one of the least expensive ways to market and promote yourself as a writer and to let people all over the world know about your books. Every author should have at least one website with their writing name as the URL. If you write under several pen names, create a website for each one. If possible, create a unique website for each of your books with the title as the URL. The more ways that people can find you and your books, the better.

Websites are great, but you can’t just slap up a one pager and hope that will do the trick. You need to create reasons for readers to visit your site, over and over. E-newsletters, daily blogs, contests, prizes, freebies, interactive activities–the sky is the limit. Spend a little time surfing the web for ideas. Google some of your favorite authors and see what they’re doing. Which sites make you stop and look? Which ones did you bookmark and why? Which ones will you probably not visit again? Make a list of ideas and then brainstorm ways to make them your own and use them on your site.

As a publisher, I spend part of nearly every work day looking for new and exciting ways to promote my authors and their books. Finding good promotional ideas is part of my job, and it’s part of your job too. Here’s a link to an article on Web Marketing for Writers to get you started. (Note: I am NOT promoting this site, this company or their services. Just this one article.)

Here are links to a few LDS authors who are using some of these web marketing ideas, chosen from a completely random sampling of about 40 LDS author websites.** I’ve decided to give them “Webbie” awards.


“Webbie” for Promotion of New Release:
Robison Wells (the two sites promoting his upcoming release: The Unknown Patriot and Trial of the Century)

“Webbie” for Free Give-Aways & Contests:
Shirley Bahlmann (free e-book)
Julie Coulter Bellon (contests)

“Webbie” for Great Visuals & Other Cool Stuff:
James Dashner (great visuals and music)
Jeffrey Savage (contests, newsletter, “secrets”, “cool stuff”–makes you want to click on the link)

“Webbie” for ‘I Might As Well Earn Money While I’m Doing This’:
Julie Wright (google ads earn you money)

Lisa J. Peck (e-news, interlinked websites for CTR Club books, Escaping the Shadows, Surviving Abuse, Mothers of the Prophets series)

Rachel Nunes (very interactive & has everything I’ve mentioned as being good ideas for a website)

**Obviously, I have not visited every single LDS author’s website, nor do I intend to. This was a completely random sampling gleaned from various author forums and support sites. If you think you do a great job of web marketing and you are not on this very short list, feel free to add your link in the comments trail.

If I get a lot of comments and links on this post, maybe we’ll do it again in a few months, and you can nominate sites for me to go look at.

Mac People

Had a complaint about blog displaying improperly on a Mac. Apparently blogspot is working on support for Safari and other Mac based web browsers, but it’s not here yet. Sorry. Had I known that before I started this blog, I may have chosen another host.

If anyone knows of anything I can do to jiggle the settings and/or code that will make this site display better on a Mac, please e-mail instructions.

Print Runs & Free Books (Pt. 3)

Also, just curious, what is considered an average number of copies of my book that the publisher will print? And do I get any of those copies free? Or do I have to go to the store to buy them like everyone else?

Like word count, this depends upon the type of book. It also depends on things like how confident your publisher is that it will sell well, how much money they have to invest in your project, how energetic you are about marketing and promoting your book, how many pre-release orders they get, how the industry is doing, whether they print in the USA or overseas, which way the wind is blowing that morning and whether or not they’ve had a recent fight with their spouse. (Oh, no. Strike those last two.)

For the LDS market, an initial print run on a new book/author is 2,500—5,000 copies, although this does vary between companies. If you’re a big name (like a prophet), the first print run is probably closer to 10,000, maybe more. If your initial print run sells through quickly (in the first 3 months), then the next print run could be much higher.

Most companies will give the author a certain number of free copies, then allow you to purchase additional copies at a wholesale price, which you can give away or sell yourself. The terms and conditions for purchasing and reselling your own titles are usually spelled out in your contract. You should never have to go buy your book at the store.

Manuscript Formatting–No Perfume, Please (Pt. 2)

Is there a particular way of formatting my manuscript that I should know about? If I do it wrong, will they automatically reject me?

Check your publisher’s website and see if they have any special formatting guidelines. You will find that most of them are pretty similar. 99.9% of publishers will be satisfied with the guidelines posted on this website. (Except I prefer Times, rather than Courier. Easier on MY eyes.)

If you do it wrong, it may or may not lead to rejection—depending on what it is you’ve done. I absolutely refuse to read a manuscript that is smaller than 10 pt type and single spaced. Or if the margins go all the way to the edge of the page. Or if it’s in some really obnoxious font that is hard to read, or set in all caps. Or if it’s printed on neon or patterned paper, or paper that has been wadded up and then flattened out again. Or if it’s been sprayed with perfume. Believe it or not, authors will do this thinking it will set them apart from the rest of the slush pile. It does, but not in a good way.

Will Short or Long Word Count Lead to Rejection? (Pt. 1)

[Sorry for not posting last night. I got distracted by American Idol.]

Received a letter that asked several questions all in one. I’m going to break it up into chunks for easier reading.

I’m working on my first novel and I was wondering if there is a
minimum/maximum word or page count that I should aim for?
If my novel is too short or too long, will that cause it to be rejected?

Word count is secondary to the quality of writing, but it is important.

The average length of a book depends on what you’re writing. A children’s novel is 20,000 to 40,000. YA or middle grades are 40,000 to 60,000. Adult fiction is 70,000+. These are the general rules of thumb, but they are not hard and fast. As we’ve seen with Harry Potter, if the story is captivating enough, you can go longer–but probably not on a first book. Sometimes you can go shorter, but then you get into the psychology of price vs perceived value.

For first novels, I recommend sticking close to the averages if you can. A word count outside of the averages will not necessarily produce an automatic rejection, but the quality of your writing, the freshness of your story must be able to support a deviation from the norm.

As to figuring word count: Unless your publisher tells you to do so, do not figure word count based on your software word counter. Format your page according to industry standards (see post on formatting) and then figure you have an average of 250 words per page. Multiply that by the number of pages and that is your word count.

10 Steps to a Good Query Letter

1. Follow Instructions. Check the publisher’s website and scrupulously follow any instructions for creating and sending a query that are posted there. This is the most important step. If there are no instructions, create a 1-2 page letter (1 is better) that is clean and crisp and follows standard business letter format.

2. Finish your manuscript. A fiction work needs to be completed before you start sending queries. Make sure it’s your best work. If there are any parts that you feel aren’t quite up to snuff, work them out.

For non-ficton, a solid outline is usually adequate in the query stage, but I’m going to have to see finished product before I send a contract. Until then, you’re writing on spec. Hopefully, you write fast because “hot topics” can change quickly.

Before you call it done, have your manuscript read by 6 to 10 other people who know something about writing in general and your genre/subject area in specific. These need to be people who will be completely honest with you and won’t pull punches. (Recommended: a good writers group; Not recommended: mother, sister, husband, best friend.) Clean up your manuscript based on the suggestions of your readers.

3. Do research. Research the publishing house you’re sending it to. Read the submission guidelines on their website. Make sure they are looking for manuscripts in your genre/area. Make a quick call and ask the secretary who to address the submission to. Also ask them how to spell the editor’s name correctly.

4. Address. Address the query to the right person, name spelled correctly. If you use a title (Mr., Mrs., Queen-of-the-World, etc.), make sure you use the right one.

5. Introductory Paragraph. Introduce yourself briefly, making realistic statements about your writing ability and how much I might enjoy the book. Also, tell me how you came to submit to me. A referral by a current author or another publisher or someone I personally know is a plus. But don’t name drop unless it’s legitimate. I will check up on you.

If you don’t have a personal referral, just tell me how you heard about me and why you think I might like your book. Example: “I saw your company listed as an LDS publisher on the XYZ list. I went to your website and noticed that you’ve published several [genre or topic]. I believe my book will fit nicely with those…”

6. Pitch Paragrpah. Tell me about your book. What is the genre? Give me a brief synopsis. Who is your target audience? Why will they buy it as opposed to the 27 others like it on the shelf? Again, be realistic. You could say, “Readers who enjoyed ABC might also enjoy this book.”

7. Credentials. Brief description of your publishing credentials, if you have them. (Self-publishing only counts if your books were carried in bookstores and you sold more than 2,000 copies.)

Don’t be afraid to say this is your first book. Every single published author had a first book.

If you’re submitting non-fiction, this would be where you tell me about your expertise in the area. Example: a nutritionist writing about a new weight loss program. I also consider life experience to be a credential, if it applies to the subject area. A formerly 300 pound homemaker can speak to weight loss as well.

8. Conclusion Paragraph. If you have some good marketing ideas, you might do a 1-2 sentence pitch on that. Otherwise, just say something polite and end the letter.

9. Clean Up. Run the spell check. Let it sit for a day, then print it out and read it to make sure you haven’t left out words, etc. Print your query in an easy-to-read font: 12 point type, Times, regular spacing. If you e-query, do a virus check before sending it. Also, do not attach a document file as your query letter. Just copy and paste it straight into the body of the e-mail.

10. Include SASE. (I know some of you don’t believe in SASEs, but you asked for MY tips for a good query, and this is one of them.)

If you e-query, put the editor’s e-mail address in your address book so the reply does not bounce back. Also, if you have any of those annoying programs that make people “register” before they can send you e-mail, turn it off. Or get a separate e-mail address just for submissions, and don’t give out the address to anyone but editors or publishers. (And an address like is probably not the best for creating a professional, businesslike impression.)

If you need more specific help, ask your published writer friends if you can see the query they used to get their book accepted. But don’t cookie-cutter it. You are original. Your book is original. Your query should be original too. (And whatever you do, don’t buy one of those software programs that writes your query for you!)

Why I Am Anonymous

Hi there, I just happened upon your very creative and humorous blog. (Thank you. I’m blushing right now.) Of course you realize, what I’m doing right now is wracking my brain to try and figure out if you’re someone I know. How anonymous are you remaining? Any hints? Maybe even a “Yes, ‘Beulah’, you know me” or a “No, ‘Beulah’, you don’t know me?”

No hints.

I have made comments in public forums like this before and I have a couple of friends who blog in a “professional” capacity. And what happens is, it becomes a mess at work. Blog readers call you at work and want to argue with you over some comment you made. It drains away my work time.

My job is to find new authors and publish them; not to spend 10-20 minutes on the phone arguing over the fine points of the SASE or the finer points of e-queries vs snail mail. As a representative of my company, I can’t really tell these callers to shut up and go away. That would be mean and rude–and reflect poorly on the company I am with. But spending a lot of trivial time on the phone also wastes company time.

Now, YOU would never call me over something this trivial. YOU would only call if you were submitting a manuscript, or inviting me to a conference, or wanting to bribe me with lunch or chocolate. But past experience has taught me that not everyone attends to these professional niceties. So I choose to protect myself (and the company) with this cloak of anonymity, even though it means I may miss out on the lunch and chocolates.

"Let the Editor Fix It"

Yea! Your manuscript is done and ready to start the submissions process.

Well, all but one little part in chapter X, that is. It’s not quite right and it’s bugging you, but you don’t know what to do about it. You’ve worked and reworked it, taken it out, put it back in, moved it around–nothing helps. Even your mom and your best friend and your cousin who teaches English in high school don’t know what to do with it.

So you send it in anyway, hoping the editor will catch it and fix it, because you’ve tried and you can’t. Besides, most editors think they have to change something just to prove they’re the boss, right? Even if you submitted a perfect manuscript, they’d change SOMETHING, so if you leave this part as it is, they can change it and feel like they’ve earned their salary, and maybe they’ll leave the rest of your stuff alone.

I know these thoughts run through your head. When on the writing side of the street, I certainly thought them. Even now when I know better, I find myself nodding and laughing in agreement when another author expresses these sentiments.

I understand that you’re impatient to get your manuscript out. And I know it’s frustrating to keep hitting a brick wall trying to fix problem areas. But I’d like to encourage you to keep trying. Even if it means putting your book away for a few weeks, or even a few months, and coming back to it later. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be in a good writers group, have them brainstorm with you. But don’t submit yet.

Eventually you will be able to fix the problem. I know you have the ability to fix it by the simple fact that it bothers you; you notice the problem area exists. If it wasn’t within your skill level to fix it, you would be blissfully unaware that there was a problem to begin with. Let it rest. Give it time. Work on something else awhile. Then come back to it. Somewhere in the deep recesses of your creativity, there is a solution and you will find it.

And the reality is, if you send the manuscript in with a problem spot, the editor will most likely write “Fix this” in the margin and send it back to you. If there are too many problem spots, they’ll just send it back.

And trust me. If I received a perfect manuscript, I would feel no need to change anything just for the sake of changing it. I’d be doing the Snoopy dance and singing the hallelujah chorus because my profit margin just went up!

Getting On My Links

There are so many wonderful LDS writer blogs and websites out there that I could not possibly link to all of them here. So for now, to have your blog/forum/website on my links list, it has to be a site that is PRIMARILY for support and/or education for LDS writers; not simply an author’s slice of life, or even his/her daily experiences as an author. It also needs to be kept current and posted to on a regular basis.

If you’d like to be linked here, e-mail your site address to me.

P.S. All links will be listed alphabetically. I don’t want anyone accusing me of favoritism. (Although, favoritism has gotten a really bad rap. Every choice we make in life is based on favoritism of some sort…)

P.P.S. If you’d like to put a link to me on your blog, have at it. And thanks.

Please Include a SASE

Got an unsolicited manuscript. (Our website clearly states query first.)

It’s not a genre I publish. (Website also states what we’re looking for–again, very clearly.)

No e-mail address in the query. (Ok, not everyone is connected. I’m not in the Writers Market so if the author doesn’t have Internet, I can overlook those first two errors.)

And no SASE.

Can I just say that including a SASE says to me that you’re professional and respectful?

Not including a SASE does not kill your chances with me (as it does with some others in the business), but I do wonder why it’s not there. Are you uninformed? Are you being rebellious? Do you have poor short-term memory? Or are you just cheap?

Or maybe you intended to include a SASE and were mortified to find it still on your desk the day after you mailed your submission.

Because the latter has happened to me, I will respond to your submission sans SASE in a polite and professional manner. But for those of you who may be thinking a #10 SASE is not necessary, please, think again.

Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing

Received several “edgy” submissions lately. All were rejected because I’m a “mainstream” LDS publisher.

If you want to save yourself time, expense and grief over rejection, here is a clue: Check out what the publisher has published in the past. If they’ve NEVER published in your genre, chances are you won’t get accepted.

The only exception to this might be a very small publishing house. Maybe they haven’t published fiction yet, but are willing to look at it. Maybe they’ve only published romance, but would be willing to look at fantasy. If this is the case, you can usually find another clue…

Check the submission guidelines on their website. Most will have a list of what they do and don’t accept, what they’re looking for, what they give preference too, etc.

Or a short phone conversation with the receptionist, “I’ve noticed you’ve only published pioneer fiction. Is your company thinking of expanding into other genres..?” (If they say no, politely thank them and hang up. Don’t argue with the receptionist who has absolutely no power to change policy. And don’t even think of arguing with the editor or the president of the company, who if they wanted to change their policy would have already done so.)

And if they say “mainstream LDS publisher” or “we want manuscripts that are supportive of LDS principles and beliefs” or other wording of that sort, then do NOT send them an expose (why won’t this do accents?) on Joseph Smith or a treatise on early Church doctrine that has been hushed up. Sorry, it’s not going to fly.

Reminds me of a postcard I used to have on my fridge, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.” Not that publishers are pigs. And not that we don’t sing. But you get the idea.

Don’t Mix Magic and Mormon

I had to reject yet another manuscript that had LDS people having magical, mystical experiences.

You just cannot mix the two and have your book sell in the LDS market. Mormons cannot wield magic. They cannot meet up with aliens or be whisked off to a fantasy world. And you just cannot have them dealing with talking animals who pop in and out of existence in one scene, and then have them (the people, not the animals) being baptised in the next. It doesn’t fit in our belief structure.

If you want to write fantasy, then write fantasy. Leave the Church out of it. If you want to write a conversion story, write that–but the character’s conversion cannot be based upon a fantastic experience.

Well, okay, maybe if you have time travelling teens who go back to the days of the Book of Mormon, (or vice versa) but even that is a stretch for me.

Send Me a Da Vinci Code Fast!

Yea! The judge ruled. Dan Brown did not infringe on copyright when he wrote The Da Vinci Code. Publishers everywhere are dancing in the streets tonight.

So here’s something. They said on the news this morning that Dan Brown has made $400 million dollars on that book. And the movie hasn’t come out yet.

$400 million! That’s just obscene. And it’s not even his best book. I’ve read all four and I liked Angels and Demons best.

$400 million. And while he’s a good writer, he’s not the best in the world. His plots are pretty good, but after you’ve read two of his books, you know who the bad guy is going to be. (He must have father issues or something.)

$400 million.And the publisher has made more than that. So figure they pay him 20% (which is absurdly high, but he might have been able to negotiate it after he hit the $5 million mark). That means they earned…well, I can’t do math that high.

So let’s say they spent another 30% on expenses (production, marketing, sales, support staff, etc.) That means they still netted $800 million.

Well, maybe not. Because they could have done a 50/50 on foreign rights, book club, and stuff like that. Okay, so let’s say they ended up at only $600 million.

$600 million. Someone send me a Da Vinci Code fast! Actually, I’m not greedy. I’ll take a book that only does 1% of that.

Writers Groups

I just finished my first manuscript. I have a friend who wants me to join her writers group. She thinks this would be a good way to get some feedback and determine if I’m ready to submit. But I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. I’ve heard horror stories about critique groups. What do you think? Is this a good idea or not?


Dear Groupie,

The good news: A good writers group can be an invaluable resource. It can be a great incentive to write according to schedule. Sharing information, successes, rejections is a great support to the often lonely world of writing. The bad news: Good groups are hard to find.

A good group often has a mix of beginners and published authors. It may also help if the group is specific to your genre. You don’t want to be in a group that is too nice to give you honest feedback, but you also don’t want a group where flaming and destructive criticism are allowed or encouraged. Good feedback should point out what you did right, as well as places that need work. All feedback should be given with respect. You also want to avoid groups with overbearing personalities that dominate the group. Interaction should be a give and take among equals, not bossy know-it-alls condescending to share their advice and experience with the ignorant. (I’m not a bossy know-it-all. Well, not always.)

Go to the group. Read a few pages. Listen to the comments. Think about the feedback. It only takes one or two visits to determine if the group is a good fit for you or not.

And don’t be offended if a group invites you to attend on a trial basis. There are a lot of new writers who start out with a bang, but then become hit-and-miss non-producers. This is a burden to the group. A screening process allows a healthy group to protect the integrity of the resources they offer. If you are rejected because you’re not a good fit for them, you probably wouldn’t have had a good experience with them anyway.