Thursday, February 17, 2011

Today, I Will Post Something Sane and Useful

I looked back on my posts since the start of the year and have discovered that I haven't posted a #fridayflash story since before Christmas  *hangs head in shame*  I also noticed a disturbing trend away from writerly topics. Recent posts have varied from the mundane (the weather and snow shovelling) to the bizarre (athletic supporters and flower bearing hamsters). I have also delved into the world of culinary pursuits, with posts about haggis and soylent green (note- tastes like chicken) and even the a post about my son's artistic endeavours that always seem a, phallic.

I thought it high time to get on track with a writerly topic...especially since we are attending the annual 'cheese cake' party this weekend and I'll HAVE to post about THAT.

The surviving members of our writing group recently attended a 'one-of' writing class at the university. It was called 'Writer's Bootcamp' and was taught by local author Chad Pelley. There was a ton of information to take in regarding publishing, agents, self-publishing, local contests and a lot of writing tips. I'm sure that Chad wouldn't mind if I paraphrased a bit from his page on getting published from "The Slushpile".

The first thing to know about unsolicited submissions to publishers: No publisher will read your full manuscript right off the bat. They don't have the time.

As a rule, what they want from you at first is a one-page cover letter about you (as a writer, NOT where you live and how many children you have, but your writing credits, etc), a brief summary on your book, and a ten-to-fifteen page sample from your manuscript. If they like this, they'll request the full manuscript.

Despite the nasty name, people DO get published from a slushpile. Many people. There are plenty of examples of wildly successful books having been plucked from the masses. This can't be stressed enough:
your submission package is more important than your manuscript. You get one chance to impress the reader into wanting to read you manuscript.*  Don't get lazy about the cover letter your book will speak for itself. Make the book summary an engaging read. The publishers who do accept submissions get hundreds of submissions every year, but, can only publish 10-20 books a year. The grim reality is that less than 10% of what get submitted to a publisher gets published.

The ultimate goal of a query letter to a publisher (or agent) is to get them to ask for you book.

Sound like a writer and keep focused and convincing.

* As a side note-- I had another night school instructor who had worked for a publisher reading submissions from the slushpile. How HE decided if a manuscript submission went on? He would flip through the pages looking for dialogue. If care was given to ensuring crisp, engaging dialogue then the same care was likely given to the rest of the book and it would be given further consideration. Something to think about.

All sounds like good advise to me. Now I've just gotta write the damn book. I'll be back this weekend with highlights from the cheesecake party. I's not quite the same as being there. I'd send you all a piece through the mail, but those darn posties would probably sniff out the sample and it would be deemed 'undeliverable'. Do not fear. I'll be getting back to my usual silly posts. Topics being considered for the near future are--

  • leather fashions for chinchillas
  • Is alcohol REALLY a good sleep medicine?
  • care and cleaning of your winter fez
  • Daily living with guidance from Tarot cards
  • fine dining in the Newfoundland out ports


Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

(Has it really been a year already?)
Make damn sure you take photos this time.
I pick Fine Dining in the Newfoundland out ports.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I think it's time I got a fez.

Jarmara Falconer said...

Thank you for helping me get out of the slushpile... Now how much do I owe you.

Do you take cheese cake or Fez cards :-)

David Barber said...

Thanks for the advice, Alan. I'm nowhere near that point yet bit it's good to know!

Enjoy your cheesecake night. Want to see photos and recipes!

Have a great weekend!

Katey said...

Good advice, I'd say!

Is alcohol REALLY a good sleep medicine?
It might help you FALL asleep, but STAYING asleep is sometimes a problem.

Mari said...

I never thought of sending only a cover letter and the first chapter to fill the "slushpile" criteria. As far as I understood, it's almost like a regular submission? Either way the advice is excellent.

We do miss your stories, btw. :)

John Wiswell said...

At least people keep coming to read your musings, whether writerly or not.

Have a good weekend, Alan!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

You do look like Sean Connery.

Bukowski's Basement said...

Alan ... I've been in the same funk here on my own blog. No shame in that ...

Michael Solender said...

you have inspired me sir, i have visions of being burried in the slush pile but now have a bit of hope..

Laurita said...

I like how you say the surviving members of the writer's group - like we managed to kill off the rest of them and only the fierce ones made it through.

I'm so in that same blog rut, but you pulled yourself out of it quite nicely with this post. Definitely something to consider when you get overwhelmed with the current WIP.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Cathy- Next time you're out for a visit you can help us search for the fine dining in the outports. Budget a lot of time.

Wendy- I can recommend a hatmaker in Damascus for you...

Jarmara- Gifts or cheesecake are always welcome (chocolate is a good substitute).

David- I'm nowhere near that either. I'm the eternal optomist, though.

Katey- Thanks for the input on alcohol and sleep. I had a sneaking suspicion that you had expertise in that area.

Mari- Yeah, I don't know WHAT happened to my #fridayflash muse. Hibernation I think.

John- Thanks. That's a vote of confidence, for sure.

Gillian- Thanks. And you DO look a tad like Jullian Moore. (FYI to others, the Daft Scots Lass was blogging recently about celebrity look-alikes...)

Ant- Very true. I think that we've got to accept the lows with the highs. I admire your regularity with the #fridayflash stories.

Michael- I have hopes that we can all crawl from that primordial ooze commonly refered to as the 'slush pile'.

Laurita- I kinda thought you'd see the horror, er...I mean humour of that. That's nice you think I'm out of the rut. Perhaps I shall prove you wrong by the next meeting...