Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

When-all-else-fails-follow-directionsMay I have a few paragraphs to discuss a minor issue? This is about following directions.

Before I joined Gannett, I spent years filling out online applications (paper applications having almost gone by the wayside) and have spent years querying agents and publishers regarding my books.

Each site and organization has directions to follow to fill out their applications or to submit material.

Online applications are relatively easy to follow, although a complaint I would make is that the forms are long and heaven help you if you mess up or your computer balks in the middle or when you hit SUBMIT to forward your application to the HR department. I don’t know how many times some glitch occurred and I had to start from the beginning. Ten, fifteen, or more minutes gone because of a glitch and I had to re-type all of the information.

Many times, there are directions on what material to upload to attach to the application. Resume, references, salary requirements, blood type, birth certificate, driver’s license, school transcripts, grocery receipts, etc. (Okay, some of these might not be needed.) This was a slow process, too, because I remember at one company-which shall remain nameless-I wasn’t sure whether the information had actually uploaded because the system wasn’t designed to be user friendly.

Applying to a college which shall also remain nameless (but I’m very tempted), I couldn’t work their online system. So, I spent an hour trying to find the campus HR office (which was off campus), and walked in to find half the lights out, and one woman manning the desk. I explained my situation but she said I had to apply online. “But I’m right here. I have my resume. Could I fill out an application.” No, it had to be done online. “But I’m right here.”

I walked out thinking she needed to find another job because her position was obsolete.

But, it comes back to following directions (which I balked at because I couldn’t navigate the system.)

With regards to submitting to an agent or publisher, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard to follow their submission requirements explicitly. If they want three chapters, send three chapters. If they want 50 pages, don’t decrease the font size to have the entire book on fifty pages. Most don’t want a manuscript until about the third round.

I have no problem with these directions. I may have a problem with them not replying, even to say no. I realize they’re inundated with hundreds and hundreds of queries, but I think it comes down to basic business courtesy. “Thank you but this is not for us.” That’s all it takes and that’s what I’ve received numerous times.

Anyway, I bring up this topic because I’ve signed up on a couple review sites. Authors look on the site, find a reviewer, contact him/her to request a review. Now, in my section on both sites where authors are able to see what books I’m interested in reading, I suggest that authors please look at my review blog ( to see how I review and to read past reviews. This is so they understand the difference between my review blog and others. There is also a sidebar where I list the genres I’m interested in and how to make a request.

It lists my email and states the following: “In your email, please submit name (duh!), website (must have), and any relevant information about your book (including publisher and purchase sites). Please do not send attachments with queries.”

I want something more than, “Hey dude, here’s my book. You want to review it?” Most of the time, however, I receive an email with not much more than this. Also, I don’t know how many times people have attached the book in anticipation of my acceptance or else to save time.

One of the best requests I received started with a deference to my busy schedule. She introduced herself, gave a website, gave me the elevator pitch on her book and formally requested a review. Normally, I wouldn’t have read her book because it was a foreign mystery and I think twice about those. However, because of the way she wrote her request, I accepted it, and mentioned that in the review. The book didn’t rate a black belt, but was still enjoyable.

I don’t like attachments, partially because of the reason other businesses don’t like them: the possibility of the attachment being corrupted. Another reason is I think it shows a bit of courtesy toward the person (as it would the agent/publisher) not to assume. I certainly wouldn’t attach a manuscript to an agent/publisher and basically say, “Here it is!” They’re going to be suspicious and reject it automatically…unless their instructions ask for the manuscript.

I’m not saying I’m as important as those agents and publishers, but if I speak to another blogger, in regard to either review of my book or getting space with a guest blog/interview, I’m always formal and courteous.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Do you?

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