Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Bookish Holiday Greeting

Today’s blog post is a reprint from December 25, 2013.

* * * * *

In case you have trouble reading the titles of the books in the picture, they are:

  • How Fiction Works, by Oakley Hall
  • Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
  • Plot versus Character, by Jeff Gerke
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin
  • You Can Write a Mystery, by Gillian Roberts

  • Here Lies the Librarian, by Richard Peck
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • In the Company of Others, by Jan Karon
  • Decision in Philadelphia, by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier
  • Amazing Grace, by Kenneth W. Osbeck
  • Your God is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips
  • Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life, edited by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Keeping Track of Submissions

Kathryn Page Camp

It won’t surprise anyone who knows me to hear that I’m a very organized person. Unfortunately, I’m also a forgetful one. So when I started submitting articles to magazines, I developed a submission chart to keep track of them. You can see a copy of the chart at the head of this post. You have my permission to copy it for your own use and to distribute it to your friends for their personal use.
As you can see, the six columns show the submission date, the article title, the publication, the address, the result, and any additional  notes. ATS1 and WC1 are codes I wrote inside the return envelope in case the response didn’t identity the publisher. This was a suggestion from someone who had received several form rejections and couldn’t figure out who had sent them. I don’t always remember to use a code, but so far I haven’t received any anonymous responses.
When I submit books, I create a separate chart for each one. I modify the form by putting the working title of the book at the top and leaving out the Article column. Everything else remains the same. You can also do this for articles and short stories that you submit multiple times, perhaps as reprints.
If you intend to submit reprints—or even if you don’t—you should also keep track of the rights you have sold so that you don’t try to sell rights you don’t currently have. I didn’t realize this immediately, so once I had created a rights chart I needed to locate and fill in the past information from other records. Fortunately, I was able to find everything.  
As you can see, the columns show the manuscript title, the copyright owner, when sold and to whom, which rights were sold and which were retained, and when the rights reverted (if ever). If you sell first rights, for example, that publication has the bought the right to publish the item first. If you resell it in the meantime and the second publisher wins the race, you have violated your contract and may find yourself blackballed. As with the submission chart, you may copy the rights chart for personal use and distribute it to friends for their personal use but may not sell it or distribute it commercially.
You shouldn’t sell all rights to an article, short story, or poem without an adequate payoff, and some people refuse to do it even then. I have never sold all rights on an already completed work. The few times I have sold them, I received an assignment to write something new and was well compensated for it. For books, traditional publishers expect a temporary assignment of all rights by contract, but don’t sign away the copyright and make sure you have a reversion clause that gives you the rights back when the publisher stops printing physical copies and/or e-sales drop below a set threshold.
If you want to stay out of trouble with publishers, you must know when and where you submitted and what rights you sold. Develop your own charts, use mine, create an electronic report, or do whatever works for you.
But make sure you keep track of your submissions.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Read the Guidelines

Kathryn Page Camp

You’ve finished that poem or a short story or non-fiction article or book and are ready to submit it. You have talked to friends, searched the Internet, studied the current edition of Writer’s Market, reviewed the publication collection at your local public library, and complied a list of potential markets. So what do you do next?
Read the submission guidelines.

First, reading the guidelines helps you eliminate publications that are not a good fit. Even if Writer’s Market says a particular science fiction magazine accepts stories between 5,000 and 10,000 words, that information can become quickly outdated. Maybe the magazine recently decided it can publish a greater variety of stories if it limits them to 4,000 words or less. The writers’ guidelines on the publication’s website are the best source for current information. Reading them will keep you from wasting your time, and possibly your money, submitting to markets that don’t buy what you have to sell. No matter how hard she tries, Georgia Washington is never going to convince Romance, Inc. to publish her novel.

The second reason for reading the guidelines is to ensure that your submission gets noticed in the right way rather than the wrong one. I try to follow the guidelines in every detail for this simple reason: if I were the editor, I would assume the departure means the author isn’t good at following directions and will be hard to work with. I won’t submit anything that I would discard if I were the editor.
But that creates a dilemma. If I follow the guidelines, won’t I look like every other submission that comes in? How do I stand out from the crowd?

My response is simple: I write the best query letter I can, focusing my creativity on the hook and the book description. Some writers respond by departing from specific parts of the guidelines, and it may work with some editors—but only if the departures are thought through first. If it will make you sound unprofessional, don’t do it.
What if the guidelines say to submit a hard copy to “Fiction Editor” at a physical address and you submit to a named editor by e-mail? Obviously, if you met the editor at a conference and were given permission to submit that way, you should do it. Some people recommend seeking out the name of the current editor and submitting directly to that person. If you do, make sure you send your manuscript to someone who is involved in the acquisition process. Even then, you run the risk that the person will see the use of his or her name as an end run around the process outlined in the guidelines.

Then there is the issue of simultaneous submissions. If the guidelines prohibit them, I usually put that publisher on the bottom of my list and submit there last. But on the rare occasions where I have ignored that part of the guidelines, I’m honest about it. My standard closing line is “Thank you for considering this simultaneous submission.” If they are going to ignore my submission, fine. But at least I won’t be blackballed if two publications end up vying for the same manuscript.
Whether you follow the guidelines is your call. If you can color outside the lines in a way that screams “innovative” or “creative” rather than “lazy” or “novice” or “not good at following directions,” then go ahead. But it’s still a risk.

Do you have any interesting experiences from the one time—or one of many—when you didn’t follow the guidelines? If so, we’d love to hear them.

Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at