Have you been thinking about submitting to Hallmark Publishing? I’ve had editor Stacey Donovan on my show, WRITE NOW! Workshop Podcast, talking about what she’s looking for, and several Hallmark authors have come on to talk about writing and their experience with the publisher. (Stacey Donovan as author, Alys Murray, Nancy Naigle, and Cassidy Carter.)
Last week, author Leigh Duncan shared with us her best tips for submitting to Hallmark. I hope you find some helpful hints here!
This month on From a Cabin in the Woods we are featuring Submitting Your Work by A. E. Decker
A. E. Decker is a former ESL tutor, tai chi instructor, and doll-maker. She holds degrees in English and colonial American history. Her Moonfall Mayhem series, chronicling the adventures of a half-vampire girl run amuck in the land of fairytales, is published by World Weaver Press. Her stories have been published in Fireside Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and PhobosMagazine, as well as in numerous anthologies. She has been a member of the Bethlehem Writers Group since 2010, and edited two of their anthologies. Like all writers, she is owned by three cats.
I’ve come around to the belief that the real bugaboo of a writer’s world is not that dreaded phantom, writer’s block, nor even learning to take criticism without curling in a ball and weeping.
The very hardest part about being a writer is submitting your work. I’ve watched a lot of friends twist themselves into contortions trying to avoid it. One man I worked with in a critique group refused to hear any recommendations for his perfectly saleable military sci-fi novels, saying “he only wrote for his own enjoyment.” I have one friend who insists she doesn’t know how to write a query letter, and another whose work always needs one more revision before it’s ready to show to an editor. Speaking of query letters, I also know plenty of writers who spend more time agonizing over the perfect writing that will infallibly catch the agent/editor’s eye than they do on the work they’re submitting.
I’m not excusing myself from methods of submission avoidance, either. I have a formula worked out for short story queries, so I can whip them off pretty quickly, but I rarely refrain from dabbling with my work before submitting it, fiddling with a few lines here, adjusting the grammar there, as if these miniscule changes will somehow make all the difference in the editor’s mind. And, as far as novels go, present me with a perfectly good market that requires a summary as part of its conditions, and I’ll find any excuse to procrastinate until the deadline passes rather than think “Hooray! This might be someone who’s actually interested in reading my book.”
Why is submitting so hard? Surely most of us—the man from my critique group aside—write in the hopes of someday having people read our work, and unless we’re ready to go the self-publish route, that means finding someone to represent us.
I think the answer can be summed up in a single word: rejection. Rejection is harsh. The mere term carries many connotations. We equate it with Not Good Enough. “Loser” and “failure” might even drift through our cringing subconsciouses. We envision the editor/agent as some mighty judge on high, handing down the final word on our literary merit.
Of course it’s all nonsense. Editors and agents are as much flesh-and-blood people we are ourselves. People have their own tastes. As much as we all want to write that one great novel that transcends genre and is beloved by all who read it, we have to recognize that it isn’t possible. I personally would have rejected The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, and anything written by Ernest Hemmingway, if I were an editor, and I bet half of you nodded along with that list, and the other half substituted your own choices.
So, what does this mean, when it comes to dealing with rejections? Am I suggesting that the next time you receive one of those form letters you should shake your fist at the screen, shouting: “You fool! You just turned down the next Herman Melville!”
Actually, yes, if it sounds like fun, and doesn’t scare your cats or members of your family too badly. Because getting a rejection, even a form rejection that tells you nothing of the editor’s true thoughts, means that you submitted. You took a chance. And I can tell you, personally, through the carnage of hundreds of rejection notices, that submitting is mostly a number’s game. It’s not about polishing your writing until it’s “good enough” to be published; it’s about managing to put it in front of a person whose taste matches your style.
Think about it: you only really have to appeal to one person, so long as it’s a person with the ability to publish you. Suddenly, the eighteen varying opinions in your writers’ group don’t seem so weighty. (That said, if they all agree on an aspect of your work, you likely have a problem.) With this thought in mind, submitting becomes more of a hide-and-seek game, searching out that one agent or editor who thinks your writing is marvelous. Yes, they are out there somewhere. It’s up to you to find them.
So stop fussing with your story or novel, trying to make it “perfect.” Take a breath, make a list of agents or publishers, and get to work. Keep records of who sends you encouraging feedback—they might like your style, if not the piece you sent them. Most importantly, remember submitting isn’t like the lottery; you will win if you just keep playing.
And until then, you can yell at your screen. Just don’t scare your cats.
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