Presenting Yourself as a Professional Writer

This is another one of those posts that has to do less with self publishing than with the questions I get by e-mail. What really amazes me is how some of the most earnest writers I hear from insist on shooting themselves in the foot, even before putting it in their mouth. A form of auto-vampirism? My favorite of the "I found your e-mail address on a website that has something to do with publishing so will you publish my book?" form ran something like:

My mother is read my story and she really liked it. She's going to make my father read it, and then she wants me to find a publisher. Will you publish it?

The gist of my answer was:

Stop, don't run through all of the potential publisher e-mail addresses before learning how to pitch a book in a professional manner. I'm afraid nobody is going to be impressed by your mother's enthusiasm, even if your father agrees with her. See my article on proposing a book.

Another way to tip-off acquisitions editors, reviewers and media contacts that you aren't a professional is to lead off by telling them how stupid their guidelines are:

I know you said to send a query letter first and that you only publish/review serious medical texts, but you haven't seen how good my book is and you would probably have turned me down since I'm not famous so I'm just sending it anyway.

Following up to tell them how stupid they are for not accepting your unique proposal helps close that door forever:

I'm on staff at the local hospital and I think I know a good medical book when I see one. You are small-minded and ignorant for not accepting the existence of vampires, so don't come running to me if one bites you.

Frankly, I'm always a bit lost when it comes to communicating with a person who isn't in touch with reality, whatever their professional qualifications. There will always be room for a number of eccentrics in publishing, whose eccentricities are part and parcel of their attraction, but it's a tough role to break in with.

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