Sunday, February 13, 2011

Exclusive Submissions or Multiple?

Let me begin this post with my admiration for the publishing industry. I commend those who have their nose to the manuscript. I salute you.

However, I'm on the flip side. Meet the aspiring author. The writer of the manuscript. The one who fretted over every last detail. The one who wrote the query letter over and over and over, until the query queasiness overtook my body, and I collapsed on the floor in sheer exhaustion. I finally reach the decision that the manuscript is ready, only to discover several of the agents I'm looking at want exclusive submissions. Why?

I discussed this subject with my writing partner last week in our critique group. We've both been sitting on the most adorable picture books we readied over the summer for a contest. The winners were notified in October and obviously we didn't win. So why have we only sent them out to one agent and one magazine?

What in the name of Strunk & White are we waiting for???

We both have a unique, well-written, edited, and complete picture book, and all they've become are files on our computers!

In this day and age, publishing has become a dog eat dog world. (Sorry for the cliché, but it's true!) I find it difficult to understand how there are agencies or publishers out there that still expect to have manuscript submissions sent to them exclusively. This is in no way a slam to the industry; I'm merely making an observation. I adore the publishing world, everything about it.

Take my picture book for instance. Little Acorn's Big Fall is a 500-word rhyming picture book. It is written in an AABB rhyme scheme. Now, before you say, "Rhyming picture books are soooo last decade" take a moment to watch a five-year-old when he or she is read a book that rhymes. They're starstruck! I would know. I spent the last two years as a library assistant in an elementary school. They LOVE rhyming books. Not to mention, rhyming is an essential skill they must master before graduating kindergarten. A rhyming book needs to be well-written, natural and not forced. I've also read before, "No more rhyming books about tooth fairies!"

Okay, back to my book. I submitted the story to the contest in July, which was an obvious no-go come the end of October. I held on to the smallest amount of hope (that I could still possibly win!) and waited until the beginning of December 2010 to mail it to a reputable and well-known (will not name) children's magazine. I polished the story, once again, printed out a pristine copy, included a SASE, sealed it with a kiss, and mailed it. Have I heard anything as of today, February 12, 2011? No. Should I wait to send it out to someone else?

That is the question.

Personally, I don't think submissions should be exclusive, unless you're being offered representation or negotiating a contract. When you are querying your manuscript, why just send it to one and lessen your chances of success? By all means, mention it's a multiple if you get a bite, however, if we all waited to hear back from each agent / publisher before sending it on to someone else, we'd be gray, wrinkled, and arthritis will have set in and crippled our fingers.

It's a tough market out there. You have to take care of yourself. Send it out to as many agents / publishers who are looking for what you've written. Be sure to read submission guidelines with a magnifying glass. Don't send a children's picture book to an agency who only represents adult non-fiction. Be respectful of their time! Also, if they clearly state exclusive submissions, move on to someone else who isn't so demanding. It's your book. You wrote it. You decide when to send it out.

I was thrilled two weeks ago when I sent a query letter for Little Acorn's Big Fall out via email. Have I heard from them yet? No. It's only been two weeks. But why must I wait to hear back from them before I send it to someone else? There may be a publisher out there wanting to find a story about an acorn's journey of letting go of his parent tree and having to grow up. The story takes place in the fall and would make a great story in a fall / early spring edition of a children's magazine.

Why must I wait around while my query sits in a slush pile, probably only to receive a form rejection letter? I'm not whining, form rejections are just part of the game. I get it. Agencies and publishers are busy, yet so are we. I just say, get on with it. While that query is swimming around in some pile, there could be others letters out to publishers whom may be interested!

It comes down to this; exclusive or multiple: it's ultimately your decision. Follow specific rules by agencies, but remember, it's your book; take care of it. In conclusion, I'm researching agencies / publishers this week. By Friday, I will send Little Acorn's Big Fall to three additional prospects. Best of luck to all you writers out there! Let me hear about your experiences.