How to Do Everything Wrong

This is a learning blog. It's important to remember that. What that means is that at some point, I might use YOUR mistake as a teaching tool for others, including yourself. Such is the following.

I am posting the query verbatim because rarely do I get such a shining example of so many things done wrong. Unfortunately, however, I frequently get queries that contain one or more of the mistakes found in this one.

[E-mail query sent simultaneously to 24 different publishers]

Subject: Scipt submission?

To Whom it May Concern:

I am the author of a script for a children's book I am interested in publishing. I would like to know if your respective companies handle this type of work. I will send the script when I am satisfied of a good fit between my book and the publisher.

Never, ever, EVER send an e-mail blast to multiple publishers. If you want to query several publishers at the same time, send them each their own individual e-mail, addressed only to them.

Do your research! Of the 24 "publishers" this e-mail was sent to: 3 are not publishers, 9 do not publish children's books, 2 were for people at the same company, 1 is out of business, 1 does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, 1 does not accept e-mail queries, 5 I've never heard of/websites are "parked". Only 4 out of the 24 would be appropriate places for this author to query.

Subject: Scipt submission? Be very careful before you click send. Proof and reproof. If, by some chance, a mistake like this happens to you, do not bother resending the same e-mail with the word corrected. (The author did.)

To Whom It May Concern. This is part of your research. Find out who the editor is and send an individual e-mail to an individual person.

I am the author of a script for a children's book... A book is called a manuscript. A script is a play or screenplay. What did you write? A book or a play? I am not being picky here; I really don't know. I would guess it's a book mislabeled as a script, but I've guessed that before with queries using similar phraseology and been wrong.

I am interested in publishing. Does this mean you want to us to publish your book or you want us to help you self-publish your book? If the latter, are you querying us for printing services or asking if we would distribute your book after you've printed it? Again, I'm not nit-picking; I really am not sure. I've guessed both ways in various queries and been wrong multiple times.

If you want us to publish your book, say so. If you want us to distribute your book, say so. If you want to self-publish, you should contact a vanity press or a printer, not a publisher.

I would like to know if your respective companies handle this type of work. What type of work? Children's books? Or self-published works? The answer to your question should be covered in your research. You should already know if we handle the type of work you're talking about, whatever it is.

I will send the script when I am satisfied of a good fit between my book and the publisher. No. This is not how it works. Your research should have already satisfied you that we would be a good fit for you and your book—that we accept children's books, that your topic is something we are interested in, that your writing style/technique/theme is something we would consider. You discover this by visiting our website to 1) read our guidelines, and 2) see what we've published previously. Most of the publishers this e-mail was sent to would not be a good fit for this book.

After you are satisfied that the publisher is someone YOU would want to work with, then you send the query and/or manuscript according to the guidelines listed on the publisher's website. The publisher then decides if THEY think you are a good fit for them.

My guess is this e-mail was ignored and immediately deleted upon receipt by most, if not all, of the recipients. If the author was lucky, they may have received back a polite, formulaic rejection but I seriously doubt anyone would take the time to explain why they were rejected.

Bottom line: No serious publisher would respond in a positive manner to this e-mail because they would immediately know that this author had not done enough research to understand even the basics of how the business side of publishing works. It would require way too much work on the part of the publisher to bring the author up to speed. Also, the attitude of the last sentence would throw up lots of red flags—this author is going to be difficult to work with and will probably fight me every step of the way. Not worth the trouble.


Tristi Pinkston said...

Excellent as always, LDSP.

Rebecca Talley said...

It's hard to believe that people actually send out these kinds of queries when the proper way to query is so easily accessed. With the internet, there's really no reason that prospective authors can't find the right information and write an appropriate query.