Monday, June 14, 2010

From Behind the Publisher's Desk

What a Publisher Probably Wants From You
Guest Post by C. Maggie Woychik, Editor for Port Yonder Press

Much of what I write or read about, I do so because I want to, I like the subject, and it’s what I feel I need to do at the time. My topics of choice are a purely subjective matter. 
But what does that really mean? I make subjective choices based on individual personal impressions, feelings, and opinions rather than external facts. Every single publisher (and possibly editor) makes subjective choices with every single manuscript that crosses their desk.
What this means for authors is that the very slim chance you have of getting published by a traditional publisher is made even slimmer by a publisher’s or editor’s whims.
Okay, so how can we give ourselves the very best chance for publication within that very narrow slice of possibility? I can think of all the usual ways, ways which you’ve probably heard ad nauseum but bear repeating: write well, have a great proposal and opening chapters, have a spectacular marketing plan, platform, and social networking presence.
Well, is that it? Yes and no. You also want to know the specific genres a given publisher deals with, any nuances they may favor (such as our love of the sea at Port Yonder Press, our love of the unique or literary, our love of the bold and brazen without wallowing in the grimy smut of reality’s seamy side), and it certainly doesn’t hurt to know the editor / publisher on a somewhat personal basis (writing conferences are good for that).
Those are the basics.  Now for the specifics of one publishing company, the only one I can address with any authority: mine. And these aren’t “how-to’s” as much as some of this publisher’s whims mentioned above.
1)      "Write quickly and you will never write well. Write well, and you will soon write quickly." -Marcus Fabius Quintilianus  (i.e., take your time and sculpt that manuscript until it’s worthy of our time and our readers’ time)
2)      "I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter." -Blaise Pascal (i.e., a repeat of point #1)

3)      "The ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding." -Francis Bacon (i.e., a repeat of points #1 & 2)

4)      "There is no great writing, only great rewriting." -Justice Brandeis (i.e., a variation of points #1-3)

5)      "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." -W. Somerset Maugham (i.e., a separate but similar point to those above: format/method is one thing; good writing is another)
6)      “To any aspiring writers out there — write for love, not money.  Only a small percentage of writers will ever be published but that should not deter people from pursuing their dream of writing a book. There is a great sense of achievement to be had from writing one's own book regardless of whether it becomes a commercial success [or not].” –Philip Tatham (i.e., write from your heart; write when you feel no one will read it; write not to impress but to do what you must)

We are looking for the best books we can find. Period. If you write a good story but won’t take the time to make it better than just good, don’t submit to us.

If you’re finicky, hard to work with, have unresolved relationships around you (believe it or not, this *does* show up in the subtleties of a manuscript), find another publisher. We want authors we can live and work with, authors who have shown themselves disciplined and pliable.

Lasso your artistic temperament and funnel it into busting the bronco of mediocre writing: train it to produce works of lasting merit, works which will outlast all of us.

For the specifics, visit our comprehensive site at and contact me if you still have a lingering question rolling around in your brain.

Liberty, thank you for the opportunity to visit your fine blog.

Maggie, thanks so much for sharing with us today! 

Until next time,


Tabitha Bird said...

Thanks for this. I agree, all writers should submit work that is the best it can be and maintain an attitude of a life long learner.

I am wondering about the relationships thing. Don't we all don't have some sort of unresolved relationships around us? I mean, that is life isn't it? I am wondering how this relates to the path towards publication?

Maggie Woychik said...

Remember "context", Tabitha. Take that phrase "in context." The whole paragraph was this:
If you’re finicky, hard to work with, have unresolved relationships around you (believe it or not, this *does* show up in the subtleties of a manuscript), find another publisher. We want authors we can live and work with...

Yes, we all have relationship with others that *we* can't seem to resolve, regardless of how much we try. But far too many of us are just plain difficult to live or work with; many of us possess that infamous artistic temperament, and as I've already discovered in my short tenure as a publisher, a person of that type is nothing but trouble to work with.

As we strive to live at peace with those we come in contact with, it'll soon be a part of us, making us easier to work with too.

I hope that helps define that phrase within the context of its paragraph.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

All this time I thought Mark Twain said the letter quote first. Shows he read the classics! Roland

Liberty Speidel said...

Thanks for stopping in, Roland!

I wouldn't know about the quote, but I'll bet Twain was smart enough to repeat it!

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