Check Your Submission Guidelines – Thoroughly

I participated in a twitter pitch event earlier this week, and lucky me! I got a great big ❤️ from two different indie presses. I was hoping to find a new agent, but an indie press is just fine with me, so I immediately headed over to their webpages to get a feel for the both of them.

The first thing I look at on an indie press is the quality of their book covers. Sadly, I’ve seen a few indie presses with book covers that look like they were photoshopped by the author with limited skill and put up hurriedly on Amazon the same night the book was finished. You know what I mean. If a publisher can’t give you a professional looking cover, then they’re clearly not going to be invested in you as an author.

Not every publisher will ask for the same thing upon submission. Some want five pages plus your query, some want ten. Some want the first chapter. Some want all of that plus a synopsis. Someone only want your query letter. Some want you to forgo the query letter altogether, and give you an outline of what they want to hear from you in very specific order, something like “give us your bio in the first paragraph, use the second paragraph to tell us why you’re the one to write this book, then give us the pitch in the third and final paragraph.”

If you’re submitting to an indie press versus an agent, they may also have formatting requirements for your manuscript that differ from the average one inch margins all around and double-spaced typing. So, of course I made a point to read these very thoroughly.

And here’s where the word “thoroughly” comes into play.

Some writers just skim this section, looking for the keywords of five pages, ten pages, first chapter. Don’t stop there, keep reading. Most indie publishers will have the usual blah blah blah about we’re looking for good writing, strong voices, unique narratives, and stories that thrill us! Yeah, who isn’t?

I read on to discover that indie press one was looking specifically for cyberpunk sci-fi and fantasy, and only short stories, as they’re an online magazine. I write YA sci-fi and fantasy but not cyberpunk, and I have nothing for them in the way of short stories. I’m not mad at them for giving me the like. They were taking a chance, in case I had something to offer them. I don’t, so on I go.

Indie press two was a little more complicated. They do publish novels, and their book covers were grade-A professional quality. They had several books that won indie book awards. Well, this looks promising! Query letter. Ten pages. Next paragraph probably full of the usual blah blah blah, but I’ll give it a read.

And it turns out this particular indie book publisher will not publish books with LGBTQA themes/characters, or books that depict any sort of spirituality other than Christianity.

Clearly, this is a Christian publisher. They don’t bill themselves that way because they publish more than just Christian themed books, but their adherence to strict Christian principles is very evident in their submission guidelines. And I am very grateful that they gave those details upfront.

I’m an active member of the YA community. My readers, my author friends, and my personal friends and family members embrace many different religions – and some no religion at all. I am a strong supporter of the LGBTA community and of #ownvoices in publishing. The book they were interested in actually falls within their guidelines. There’s no mention of anything other than heterosexuality within the book, and no mention of religion at all—neither really are applicable to the story, so they weren’t a focus.

I could submit the book, but I’d be betraying my personal values in aligning myself with this publisher. Likewise, the publisher would most certainly not be happy to see me tweeting and posting in support of things that go against their publishing platform. And I’m not saying any of this to bash the publisher—please don’t think that. They have a right to their platform, just as I have a right to mine. We’re just not a good fit. So back to the query trenches I go.

Read the fine print, guys. It’s important.

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