Thursday, May 03, 2007

Same Game, New Rules: How Do I Play This?

I could make a metaphorical connection between Tuesday's sunset (above) and the text of tonight's entry (below), but let's not.

As many of you know, for the past fourteen months I've been waiting for Tor Books to respond to my three chapters and synopsis for Heirs of Mâvarin, with a yes, and no, or a "Let us see the rest." I've sent a follow-up letter, and a friend has asked in person; but still there's been nary a peep, apart from word that Tor editor PNH was familiar with the submission.

About two weeks ago, Wil pointed me to a blog entry by A.C. Crispin, which essentially advised against doing what I've been doing. Crispin said that rather than wait for "months and months" to hear from a publisher or agent, without a word in reply, a writer should at some point count the non-response as a rejection, and go back to querying. I sorta meant to follow that advice, except that I really felt that I owed Tor at least a courtesy letter saying that I would now be submitting it elsewhere. And frankly, I dread revising the cover letter yet again. So I haven't done anything yet. Yes, I know: bad writer, no biscuit!

Then a few days ago, the friend offered to mention it to Patrick again, and advised that Tor is kind of a "special case" with respect to that particular piece of advice. He felt I probably shouldn't give up on Tor yet, and frankly I found this advice more appealing than its opposite.

Well, then. Tonight I got a bit of a shock in the form of new information from Tor itself. No, they haven't sent me anything - nothing that I've received, anyway. But Sara (no h) told me that John Scalzi mentioned in one of his blogs that the Tor website had been redesigned. Sara had checked it out, and found something that wasn't there the last time I looked. In place of the submission guidelines I followed back in February 2006 are new and very different ones. They say, in part:
Generally we respond to unsolicited submissions within 4-6 months. Unfortunately, your manuscripts and our replies sometimes go astray in transit. Because of the volume of submissions, it's not possible for us to track down any individual project; please don't call for a status report. If you have not heard back from us after six months, please resubmit.
Great. That tells me three things I didn't know before:
  1. Their policy is not to respond to my follow-up letter (or my friend's personal contact) asking about the status of my individual submission. This is very definitely not what the guidelines used to say. It used to say that after the 4-6 months one could send a letter referencing the title, date of submission etc., and that it would be responded to promptly. I sent the letter after a year and nothing happened - and the new guidelines say that nothing is supposed to happen.
  2. Either they rejected the proposal months ago and the reply never reached me, or it's still under consideration, but way outside the time window. I have no way of knowing which, but the former now seems more likely than the latter.
  3. If I insist on hearing back from Tor, my only option at this point is to send a new package, which under the new guidelines will not be returned. I am to enclose a standard SASE for the reply only. I actually don't mind not getting all that paper back. The question is whether it's worth the effort and expense of submitting it again to this publisher, as opposed to, for example, DAW.
The real deal!

If I go with #3, am I a total fool? 'Cause that's the way I'm leaning on this. Meanwhile, I've got to get moving again on submitting to agents. This slush pile business is a whole lot of no fun.

Let me hasten to add, since I'm not big on burning bridges (and because I really believe this), that I don't blame Tor's editors and publisher for changing the guidelines in this way. Rather than leave someone like me hanging, waiting for a response that may never come, it's better to tell people up front that certain things aren't feasible and not to expect them. They even explain most of the whys and wherefores. But oh! It is discouraging!



DesLily said...

while I know Tor is a "decent" publisher, I also think that "our replies sometimes go astray" is a copout! Yes, mail can get lost. But it's still a copout...

Have you checked out DAW well? Instead of 3 chapters worth of your ink and paper.. they ask for the whole manuscript! Hello?! One sided, double spaced!! Talk about a mailing cost! I can't believe that those who want full manuscripts can't take them on a cd!

julie said...

Unfortunately, it's up to us to notice when publishers change their guidelines. You've read "slushkiller" - you know how big the slushpiles get.

I agree that you should resubmit to TOR, but you should also send around to other places. Everyone pretty much expects multiple subs these days. Besides, what if DAW came up with a better offer than TOR? Or there was a bidding war on the manuscript? You'd never know if you just stuck with one publisehr.

@deslily - there are a couple of very good reasons publishers don't accept unsolicited submissions on CD. Virus issues are certainly one. There are also file compatibility issues. Many people don't follow instructions, and if they ask for a .txt or .rtf document they'll get every format under the sun. It's far less hassle to deal with paper.

Astaryth said...

I think dealing with rejection is why I used to give all of my story ideas to a friend who was a 'struggling'(read new) writer. His first actual sale was a short story I gave him (it actually included one paragraph taken word for word from the e-mail I sent LOL, and his third sale was also one of my ideas. I DID get a steak dinner from the first check he received! ;p

Wil said...

I think the absence of a reply is all you need to know from Tor. I'll be the first to admit that it's a special publisher and I understand your extreme reluctance to walk away. Yes, it would be fun to work with Patrick or Theresa and their staff. But the fact of the matter is you have a product which extends over several books and what you need now is an agent who believes in you and your work and is willing to shop it around.

So, resubmit to Tor -- it's only money. But more important, shop the world of Mâvarin to agents until you find real representation and let them sell your book for you.