Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Query Policy

Some people refer to their manuscript as their "baby." That tells me that no matter what needs fixed before it can be published, every word is sacred and regardless of how wrong the manuscript will not be changed for God or country, much less for a publisher.

When that is the case, and if you know you don't want anyone to mess with your masterpiece, self-publishing of one type or another is the solution. There are three basic groups of self-publishing. One is to upload your ms to one of several free sites (free to upload, but consider the cost of books), send the file to a for-hire outfit (consider the cost of the service and the books), and the real-deal self-publishing model where the writer finds and hires each professional in the publishing process; editor, proof reader, book formatter (layout), cover artist, and off-set printer. Be prepared for several thousand books to be in the first run.

For those seeking publishing from a large publisher, the process is to query literary agents. Most small independent publishers, like Cactus Rain Publishing, will accept a query directly from the writer. Purists reserve the word author for a writer of a published work.

In general, the basics of the query process are universal. Some agencies and lit agents add specifics to the query fundamentals, which are the genre, the page count, a brief synopsis of the ms, and a short bio of the writer as it pertains to the specific ms being queried.

In addition to the query letter, which is a business letter, is a one page (single spaced lines, written in third person) synopsis that tells the beginning, middle, and end of the story. The final item is the sample chapters. These are the first chapters not chapters in random order. For CRP, it is the first three chapters.

In the past, CRP has responded to each query. Most often a reason for rejection has been given, such as we don't publish non-fiction. At times I've coaxed the basic information out of the writer by asking, "What is the genre of this work?" or "What is the word count?" Those days are over.

That practice is coming to an end. A query should not be mysterious about what major event changed the protagonist's life and neither should the query. There is no way to know if I want to publish a book that I know nothing about. I'm not sure the reason, but recently someone sent a query without the required sample chapters. How am I to know if they can hook the reader and can deliver the basics of writing?

The new policy is that there will not be a response if the query does not follow the posted guidelines. My belief is if a writer thinks their manuscript has merit, they will put forth the effort to correctly query it.