Thursday, January 3, 2013

What do I represent? by Terry Burns

I don't understand why people will submit to an editor or agent without looking at submission guidelines to see what they are representing and how they want to receive it. Would they go to a doctor without first checking to see if they are a general practitioner or a specialist of some kind, to see if they treat whatever they need treated? Would they go to a store looking for something without seeing if it was something the store sells?

But it is clear from the submissions that I receive that many, maybe even most, have not bothered to look at what the agency, or me personally are trying to represent at the present time. They send me things that our guidelines clearly say we do not handle at the present time, wasting not only my time but their time.

I'm from West Texas, the Texas Panhandle to be precise, and I wear a big hat. I don't know how many people jump to the conclusion that I only handle westerns. Every conference I have people who say they did not submit to me because that's not what they write. I would represent a good western, but at present only have a couple of clients that write them.

There are those who won't send me a romance because they figure I'm an old cowboy and wouldn't like them. I'm also Irish which means I tear up in a good chick-flick or like a romance that brings a smile to my face. Admittedly if it gets a little too flowery for me I tend to pass it to one of the ladies, but other than that . . .
I work with a lot of middle reader and young adult. Seems a lot of people don't expect that out of me either, totally ignoring the fact that I have 5 kids, ten grand-kids and two great-grandsons. And you don't expect me to be drawn to things for young people? True, I don't do things aimed at those younger than middle reader because I'm not a good judge of them. They all look cute to me.

I like historical or historical romance if it catches my interest. I like a good mystery, but they don't seem to like me, I'm having trouble finding a home for the few that I have. I handle some nonfiction but not as much these days. There is so much available online for free that it can be hard to place, and when it does find a home it is more about the platform and name recognition of the author than anything else. I am particularly not having any luck in the devotional market, way too many people there chasing too few publishing opportunities. Again it may be more about platform and name identification than anything else.

I like inspirationals and women's fiction, books aimed at a male audience if it is something that can also appeal to female readers. Mostly it needs to be a book that is well written, one that pulls me in from the very first page and keeps me in the story all the way trough. I like books that make me feel what the author is feeling: happy, sad, mad, scared . . . some genuine emotion.

People are making a mistake if they take a look at me and decide because of my age or the way I dress or the way I talk or some other characteristic that I will like or will not like something. There are plenty of places starting with those submission guidelines or the many places where you can find out more about the books that I'm placing that will tell you for sure whether we might possibly be a match or not. It should be that way for all agents or editors. Before we submit to one we should have a good idea whether they are a possibility or not. Blind or mass submissions seldom work. For one thing, many agents or editors feel if the submission they are receiving is not personal to them that it doesn't deserve a personal response.

So, does that help to figure out what I might or might not like?


Jennifer Major said...

I think I had you figured out BECAUSE you wear a big hat.

(Which, by the way, is not as nice as my Argentine and Bolivian wool, waterproof beauty from the nice folks at Sombrero Sucre in Bolivia. Mine look exactly like yours,only a deep shade of olive. 'Mine look' see the plural there? I have more than one, I have a weakness for cowboy hats. I also have a stunning Chaco dressage hat that I bought because it was so lovely. Annnnd, we'll stop there...)

I grew up having people judge my father simply because of the colour of his skin. So now, if I see someone dressed as, say, a cowboy, I often wonder what his his favourite opera is, or if he likes sushi.
No one guessed that my dad loves a good Broadway musical, no one thought that perhaps he enjoys cooking or Pink Panther movies.

Just as one cannot judge a man's intelligence by his accent or his skin tone, one can never judge a man's literary preferences by his hat.

I sure hope you like girl with PTSD-meets displaced Navajo boy-PTSD girl loses it-boy nearly loses PTSD girl-somebody finally prays and poof, I'll pitch the rest in a few weeks.

Happy New Year, Mr Burns. Sir.

Rick Barry said...

I suspect a lot of newbies use the shotgun approach to submitting because of impatience and ignorance. They are excited because they have finally typed the last period into a manuscript, but they haven't taken time to learn protocol for submissions. So, they blast any and all editors and agents at once in hopes of scoring a hit.

Terry Burns said...

I believe you are absolutely right, Rick, only the usual result of such a mass approach is burning a huge number of bridges that a carefully thought out, targeted, and individual approach might have worked with some of them.

Audrey said...

Terry, thanks for sharing this with us. Your example of making an appointment with a doctor without knowing what kind of a doctor he/she is is "spot on". It is almost as if we use our last scintilla of energy while we are writing, and don't leave one bit for the submission process. I appreciate your reminder to be as diligent about the submission process as we are about our writing!