9 Replies to “Jane Yolen speaks about trying to have your work published”

  1. I think Yolen’s journal title, Telling the True, is apt. Everyone thinks they can be a writer, and maybe they can if they’re willing to take the time to learn and practice the craft by reading, reading, reading or by taking courses and/or seminars, or by writing carefully and polishing their work until it shines. Or all of the above. But the wide availability of computers and printers and the occasional “out of the ashes” or “hit it big from nothing” story encourages far too many folks to throw their manuscripts into the ring, when in fact they’d be better off using them as a hat. Or a doorstop. Or food for their goat.

  2. Of course. It’s definitly true, and painfully true when you’ve spent hours reading the slush pile.

    That said, I heartily disagree with Knopf’s new policy. Let’s face it. Most publishing houses have interns. Interns love to do stuff. Interns hate not having stuff to do, because then they feel like they’re doing something wrong. As soul-deadening as the slush pile is, interns will read it, and as long as there is an SASE attached, interns will stick a form rejection back in the envelope and toss it in the mail pile without much effort or heartache.

    And if there are no interns, then on Slush Pile Fridays, everyone will band together and do it instead. Or whatever. But writers who send their babies in and hope for the best deserve to know at the very least that thier manuscript was recieved, so they don’t feel like it’s fallen into the great abyss of lost mail.

    (Note: I was an intern. I speak from my own experiance, and the experiance of my fellow interns.)

    1. The word “interns!” popped into my head when I was reading Yolen’s post, too. Getting some interns to work through the slush pile wouldn’t even have to cost much of anything to Knopf, since I’m sure their internships either a.) are unpaid, or b.) pay about $7 an hour.

      Besides, there are a lot of stubbornly hopeful writers out there who might see their lack of acknowledgment from Knopf not as a sign that their work was rejected, but rather as a sign that it got lost in the shuffle… and so they’d send it again, creating a larger backlog of slush for Knopf.

      1. I can’t even begin to count how many letters we got along the lines of, “I sent my MS in three months ago, and I still haven’t heard from you. Can you please send back this postcard and check whether you (a)recieved it (b)hated it (c)loved it (d)none of the above?”

        And I always felt bad, because I had never heard of their manuscripts because I had only been interning there for a month or something.

  3. I was a slush-reading intern, too — at a tiny publishing company that had each and every slush submission read by 4 people (or at least 2, but usually 4) and returned with a form rejection letter, personalized form letter, personal letter, or revision letter (no acceptance letters in the time I was there). It broke my heart to put in that form letter which gave no indication of how many people had read and thought about the submission, so that the author would probably assume that it was never even looked at. I wish we could have done more — it helped that these were all picturebook submissions, there’s no way it could have been done otherwise — but it was reality. There wasn’t even enough intern-power for that. After all, interns aren’t an autonomous, inexhaustible resource; unpaid they may be, but they require a lot of supervision, and that takes time away from people who have a lot of work to do.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for encouraging authors to include SASPs that can be immediately tossed into the mail when the submission is opened, to acknowledge receipt. That barely takes any effort on the part of the publisher and assures the author that if absolutely nothing else, the manuscript *was* received. Beyond that, I think Knopf’s policy is sad but totally understandable. I once read about an editor who absolutely hated submissions that included acknowledgement-of-receipt SASPs because he felt like it “put him on a deadline.” I couldn’t understand that attitude at all. *That* seemed disrespectful — as if he was saying that it’s not just that we don’t have time to acknowledge you, you don’t even have the RIGHT to be acknowledged.

  4. It’s sad, but every word of it true. So MUCH of what is submitted to publishers is crap. Seem as if anyone who can hit the keyboard in a reasonably orderly fashion can hammer out a novel and ship it off. Publishers are utterly overwhelmed with dreck, and there aren’t enough minutes in the day or people in the world to wade through it all and then deliver a response.

  5. hi!

    hi! thanks for the comment! it made my day! and it motivated me to update my LJ if you want to know the latest. i just get so busy with school and homework and all that but i’ll try and update my site more often for you and my other friends too. i miss you and hope things are going well for you! i wish we could see each other sometime. maybe we could try and meet up somewhere in NYC when you’re not too busy. i thought the entry was interesting. well talk to you later and comment whenever you get a chance! once again i miss you! ♥

  6. Great link. Thanks. I’m going to share it with my writing group. And it makes me realize just how fortunate I was to be offered a contract, and how easily it would be for something decent to slip through the cracks.

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