Time for a genre check.

23 01 2008

Let’s imagine that you’ve written a fantastic story. A short, a novel, it’s not important. What’s important is that your story fits into a genre or two. Perhaps it’s science fiction, perhaps it’s historical romance. Naturally you want the best for your story. You’d like it to end up in the hands of an editor who’ll nurture it and help it grow. You want it to get published and picked up, perhaps even loved, by readers from all around the world.

So why in the hell would you send it to a publisher who does not publish the genre that your story is in? Why? Why would you do this? Do you enjoy wasting people’s time, your own included?

I’ve heard tales of writers sending their science fiction stories to gardening magazines. Writers sending their poetry to publications which do not accept poetry. Writers who send their articles on historical firearms to a children’s publisher. Why? You can’t be that phenomenally thick; you managed to write the thing in the first place, didn’t you?

So let’s get back to this fantastic story that you’ve written. You want it to get published. Logically (if nothing else persuades you, at least allow logic to try) Blackwell are not going to want your Young Adult novel. Transworld do not want your poetry anthology. Jessica Kingsley are extremely unlikely to even think about publishing your Space Opera. So, and I don’t think I can be any clearer than this, do not send it to them.

Sending out your writing is like applying for a job. You look through the relevant publications, see what’s on offer, and hand-pick the ones that seem to be the best fit for you. You do not scattershot your C.V. to every employer on the planet, because those who have jobs which are clearly not suited for you will just bin it.

Manuscripts are considerably more expensive to post than a C.V. too, particularly if your masterwork is a novel, single-sided, double-spaced. That’s a parcel you’re sending to the wrong person. That’s money you’re wasting, as well as time you could be spending writing your next one.

And don’t think the small presses have any more time on their hands than harried editors at Random House. They don’t. If anything they have less time, as they’re doing all this in-between a day job, a life, and a family. Do you have such little respect for others that you would waste what time they do devote to their publication on the submission you sent them which does not, in any way, match the genres that they publish? Worse, do you actually have absolutely no respect for your own work, to appear so desperate as to have it published by anyone who has a printing press, no matter what?

Seriously. Don’t do it. Get help.

Help is available in many forms. If you are in the UK, there are the Writers’ and Artists’ YearbookWriter’s Market UK, and the Writer’s Handbook. Americans have a wider range of options including Writer’s Market and a zillion websites from Ralan.com to Writer’s Weekly. There you can find lists of publishers, what they publish, whether or not they accept unsolicited submissions, and how (if at all) they pay.

Are you serious about getting published?

Then get bloody serious about submitting your work to the right publisher, not just the first fifty a Google search throws up.




6 responses

24 01 2008
Write A Romance Novel

[…] Time for a genre check. […]

24 01 2008
John Shore


24 01 2008
Trudi Topham

I sometimes wonder if I’m being a little too harsh. But some people just persistently refuse to get it… It makes me cry.

25 01 2008

You go girl! [punches air with fist]

30 01 2008

Who are these people? I’ve never understood this mode of thought. I had a discussion with a published author on another website who was saying “it doesn’t matter if your manuscript is in times or courier.” Now, I’d agree – but if the submission guidelines of your chosen agent (assuming that the agent/publisher deals with your genre of course) say “times new roman” – why not send it to them in times new roman. This woman said that if the work was great, then it wouldn’t matter, but I think the truth often is that things that don’t adhere to the guidelines get chucked in the bin.

I could be wrong, but for me it’s a case of giving yourself the best chance, as you say above Troo.


30 01 2008
A beginner’s guide to not shooting yourself in the foot. « Hello Spacegirl

[…] guide to not shooting yourself in the foot. 30 01 2008 It may seem as though I’ve already covered this, but I’m actually widening the net now. Let’s assume that your story is written, and […]

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