#Day 7: follow the guidelines…to the letter.

I was talking to a friend today about a rejection that I got from a publisher and he said something that completely slipped my mind. And for any writers who are trying to publish their first book, it is really important to remember this.

When a publisher does not wish to pursue with your work, it does not necessarily mean that your script is bad or not worthy.

Publishers have their own list with specific genres that they’re looking for. If you’re sending a children’s book script to a publisher while it’s looking for young adults books or picture books, it will more likely to be rejected.

For any of your submissions, make sure your script is submitted to the right publisher. Pick them well, accordingly to the genre of your book and its audience. Do some research online, read all the guidelines, you need to know a few things:

  • The type of publisher you’re submitting your work to
  • What type of book they’re publishing
  • What genre they are looking for
  • For what audience

Most of the time, publishers who are looking for specific book genres will mention it in their submission guidelines: don’t ignore it and read it carefully if you want to give your submission the best chance to be spotted.

At a first glance, your submission needs to fit the guidelines of a publisher. Then they will look at it and decide. 

Do not despair when you receive a rejection because it will happen. A lot. Do not take it personally either. It’s not turned against you.

Read the submission guidelines very carefully and follow them. To the letter. 

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#Day 6: good news

When my alarm clock rang this morning and I painfully aimed to turn it off, something suddenly got me very awake, excited and scared.

A notification on my phone popped up to say that I’ve received an email from one of the publishers I have submitted my work to.

Big pound in my chest. I always expect a rejection to lower the disappointment but raise the excitement in case of great news. It’s a self-defence thing that I do.

I am already scanning the email to read the words “sorry” or “not going to pursue” in the first paragraph. Instead, I read this:

“We would like to invite you to submit your full manuscript for further consideration for our new lists.”

Hooraayyy! My first step to victory!

Of course, nothing is settled. It’s not a publication offer yet. But what this email says is so valuable and priceless to me: YES, my manuscript is worthy of interest for publishers.

And that is all that matters.

#Day 5: no spelling mistake please

Today I feel like sharing some good advice from the lessons I’ve learned during my journey so far.

What’s repulsive to publishers and will annihilate your chance of being published?

Spelling mistakes and bad grammar.

I feel a bit silly saying that coming from a non-native English but it’s the universal truth.

It happens to make spelling mistakes but don’t make any in your writing craft. Your final script needs to be edited and re-edited. In my case, everything that I write needs to be reviewed by a native speaker and it’s not even enough.

One tip,  I use Grammarly which is an online Grammar checker and a good base to have a first clean version. After that, I need the fresh eye of a native English speaker (with good grammar and spelling skills obviously) to read my work. Otherwise, you can get the services of professional editors.

But the most valuable thing that I have done for my script is this: get a script assessment by a published author. It changes everything. It is the moment when you know that you can succeed because you have the talent and the skills. But it can be also the moment when you need to re-work or re-start your script because it’s not good enough.

In either case, I am categorical: get your script assessed! What you need is the truth about your work from a professional who does not know you and will give you an objective point of view. 

It’s lovely and reassuring to share your craft with your family and friends, I do it all the time, but I know their opinion will always be biased.

Also, don’t be afraid of investing a little bit of money to perfect your script. Who knows, it might bring you thousands and millions in a few years. 🙂

#Day 4: day dreaming

It’s one of those sunny cold days that I love in New Zealand. The sky is perfectly blue and the sun on my face makes me feel warm. Autumn is here, spreading a lovely palette of colours and setting up the backdrop of a painting.  The leaves are adorning the trees with a beautiful blending of yellow, red, light green and brown.

Autumn always makes me feel nostalgic. It’s a time where everything gets slower, a preparation for the hibernation that is going to follow before life starts over again. I remember going to the woods with Dad, to pick up mushrooms and chestnuts. Then we would grill them in the fireplace at home. Dad would give me the biggest ones.

Autumn makes me daydream even more that I do already.

On this sunny day, I am sitting at a hipster café near my place, using the free wifi to search for new publishers to submit my script. Publishers that accept submissions for children’s book. It’s getting tighter, I feel like I’ve found them all. Especially in New Zealand and Australia. I know that I have to go for international publishers too.

Books don’t have any borders, they are universal, that’s the beauty of it. The more submissions I do, the more chances I am giving to myself to fulfil my dream.

#Day 3: get it right the first time

There are a few things that publishers make very clear in their guidelines.

If you don’t hear from them, then assume that they’re not seeking to pursue with you and “no further correspondence will be entered.”

Or don’t submit your script more than once, because they won’t take the submission into account.

I thought of my first screwed-up submission. I got pissed off at myself because it was for a publisher that I really wanted to work with.

I feel stupid for not having done it properly. But instead of letting it go, it makes me want to give it another try, even if it goes against the guidelines.

After all, I have nothing to lose, what can happen? An endless silence that I am already experiencing?

I know the story, publishers receive hundreds of script every week and can’t allow themselves to read and re-read all of them.

In the publishing world, there is no second chance, you have to get it right the first time.

#Day 2: first rejection

“If you haven’t heard back within a fortnight from the …. of your email then assume that we will not be seeking the rest of your manuscript.”

Today it’s been a fortnight that I have not heard from this famous New Zealand publisher.

So here it is, my first rejection. For 15 days, I desperately hoped to receive an email from them. I was annoyed and disappointed every time a random notification on my phone popped up. Ads, phone bill, Mum, bank statement, Dad, more ads. Nothing came up to get me closer to my dream.

It reminds me of the time when I was a shy teenager, madly in love with a boy who did not care and waiting for a reply that never came.

It made me feel bad during these 15 days. Thinking that my story is not of interest for a publisher is quite depressing. Any writers would feel the same way.

This first rejection is the answer to my first submission. At least now I have an answer. And somehow it makes sense. The first submission cannot be the best, it’s new, it’s scary. There’s a flavour of amateurism that can be felt miles away. It’s like your first time with someone or your first time at getting your driver license. The first time, you fail.

A few days after submitting my script, I remember saying to my boyfriend: “Babe, I think I’ve screwed up my first submission.” He asked why and I said: “I did not really follow the guidelines. I was too excited and did not think of the basic and simple things to include in my submission.”

So deep inside I knew. I just fooled myself with hope, hoping that it would work, even if it was not perfect.

Every time you’re rejected by a publisher, don’t blame them, blame yourself for not doing the right thing and do better for the next time.

#Day 1: thank you for submitting your work

Since I have submitted my script to some publishers in New Zealand and Australia (8 to be precise), my morning routine consists of two things: counting the days of my calendar and checking the unread emails in my inbox.

I have read and re-read the automatic reply that hits your inbox straight after your submission a thousand times:

“Thank you for submitting your work to us online. This will now be passed to the board of editors for their consideration. We will be in touch with you once a decision has been reached – this can take up to 3 months. We appreciate your patience and will contact you in due course.”

“Patience” and “due course”. They’re the only words I can hold on for now. It’s a pretty crappy feeling to wonder if you will ever have feedback, something, anything from these publishers.

I know the rules. The silence of their response will break your dreams or further correspondence will bring you closer to the ultimate goal.

“Because of the large volume of submissions we receive, we are able to respond only to authors whose manuscripts we wish to develop.”

I find it hard to accept the rejection without knowing the reason. It’s like being dumped by your companion without knowing why. How can I get better if I don’t know my weaknesses? What’s wrong with my book? So many questions unanswered that leave you bitter and sad.

It eats you from the inside. How come my utterly amazing book, hard work of many years, does not catch your attention? It’s not possible!

The truth is yes, it is. Accepting the fact that your amazing book is not everyone’s cup of tea or does not fit the requirements, are the first signs of wisdom to cope with the publishing industry.

As a writer, you’re writing for readers. Not (entirely) for yourself.