Monday, February 7, 2011

A Snail Trail

Last week I prepared my latest fantasy novel, First Dragon, for submission.  I polished my query pitch thanks to some help from my friends here.  I tweaked a few formatting issues.  So many publishers demand some little things be just so.  One wanted the entire manuscript.  Most wanted three chapters and a synopsis. I can handle that.  In an evening, I submitted to three fantasy publishers.  But two of the publishers I wanted to submit to took much longer.

I had to print out two hard copies of my query letter, synopsis and first three chapters.  One of the publishers strangely exact spacing on the title page as if they wouldn't be able to read it if my name and address were not a perfectly placed eight spaces from the top.  Neither of these publishers will return my partails even if I include a SASE.  They say on their website they just don't have time to go the post office to mail things back.  I would really like one of them to snap up my manuscript but I found myself becoming increasingly disgusted with the process as I wasted ink and paper to prepare the submissions. 

The thought running through my mind was, 'why in this day of internet ease do these publishers still not take electronic submissions?'  Why waste so much of my time and money?  Why fill their office space with packages? Why require their junior editors to tear open envelops and lug stacks around their offices or perhaps even take home?  Don't their people have laptops? IPads? Any electronic gizmo for their convenience of reading my prose?

I know my electronic submissions arrived within seconds of my submission.  What of the snail mail submissions?  First of all, we were inundated with two ice storms last week so it three days from the time I had the packages ready until I could make it to the post office.  Six dollars later, the postal worker tossed my big envelops into a bin with the rest of the outgoing mail.  Is it there yet? 

I doubt if it is.  One submission was going to Canada and the other New York.  If they decide they like my first three chapters, they'll email me and ask for more or tell me no thanks.  They can email me but I can't email them?  Now what if they do want to see the entire book?  Must I now stuff all four hundred double-spaced pages and take another trip to the local post office?  And all this adds up to time. 

A growing criticism of the big NY houses is how long it takes to take a book from acquisition to publication.  Add to it the time it takes to acquire it.  Even if one of these big publishers decide they want my book at some point, it is likely to be nearly three years from the time I first send it to them until I hold it in my hands.  Time.  And during that time the industry and technology are sprinting forward. 

What do you think?  Have you submitted anything by snail mail lately?  Do you think I wasted my six dollars? I have a list of small publishers I'm investigating.  I know many of you are published by independents.  Are you glad you went that route?


  1. I wish you lots of luck with your submission, Susan and I hope you are lucky too. I've been very tempted to try my luck in America, but I'm put off by the thought of printing up and sending anything off by air snail mail. It must be far easier for them as it is for us, if they don't like something to just delete it.
    and email someone back thanks, but no thank you.
    I'm with you on this. We both can save time and money, 'Email Please only'

  2. No wonder people are bypassing big publishers.
    On a side note, the post office was picking up and delivering mail while their two biggest competitors were closed due to weather.
    Biggest problem is publishing is still in mid-twentieth century.
    Best of luck!

  3. Hi Susan. Good luck with your subimssion. It really is a painful process, and the more I get to understand it the more I tend towards self publishing. It's no longer a vanity industry, it's a mainstream publishing option, and many self published authors are having huge success with books that were rejected by agents and publishers.

    There are many arguments authors make against the self publishing option, but all are summountable, and you get to be in control of your work as well as taking home substantially more of the royalties.

    Having said all that, I hope you are successful with your queries. There are very few of us who would say no to a publishing deal if it were offered even if we were contemplating self publishing.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement. All of you seem to be thinking the same thing I am.

  5. Hi Susan,
    I received your book today along with some very cool book thongs, thank you very much. You asked me about my publisher, but I can't find your email. Mine is
    I'm guesting on L'Aussies publication party on the 16th to talk about it too.

  6. Good luck with your query! No submission is a waste! Snail or no snail.

  7. You're welcome, Nancy.
    You're so right, Colene. The durn snail can get expensive though.

  8. I don't submit any query letters via snail mail. Nothing. its all by email or nothing. In this day and time its inconceivable to send a query letter email IMHO>

  9. Good luck with your submission! Snail mail is a pain but sometimes is worth it.

  10. I'm not to the querying stage yet, but I sympathize with you! It does seem strange that anyone would require paper submissions anymore. I'll have to put those on the bottom of my list.

  11. You got a point. It's takes long and it's a hard journey. I think it's obvious though why they want paper copies. This way they can easily make notes and also distinguish serious writers from sloppy "I-m-gonna-send-a-story-off-that-I-wrote-last-night" writers.
    It sucks for us. I hope the money wasn't for nothing.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  12. I'm sure part of the reason is a fear of viruses via attachments, too. All it takes is one incident to make someone very gun-shy.

    Good luck with the submissions!

  13. The publishing world is changing so rapidly that it seems those who insist on snail mail submissions are akin to the dinosaurs. There's nothing wrong with small and medium-sized presses, and some of the new e-book publishers look pretty interesting...and fast.

  14. I always hesitate to send a full manuscript. I figure, if that agent/editor is that out of touch with new technology, they probably wouldn't want to buy my work anyway. It is ridiculous to expect a writer to send an entire manuscript, especially when they can tell if the story is for them within the first chapter. The cost and time involved is not worth the rejection.

    --Good luck, Susan!