Sunday, 26 October 2008

How not to - #3

Continuing with our 'How not to' guest blogs, Stu from Tonto Books explains how not to approach publishers:

Firstly – and the most obvious one – if you don't know how to approach a publisher... ask them! Ask who you should send to, ask if they are currently taking submissions, ask everything you need to in order to know what you are doing. Hang on a sec – this is how to, rather than how not to.

Ok, don't just send them material. Ask if they'd be interested in reading it and then send it. Don't just send it to 'submissions' either – find out who to send to. And you'll already have researched the publisher and their output anyway, right? At Tonto Books, we've had some pretty bizarre submissions in our three years of publishing.

It's always a difficulty when you are an indie with a relatively open door policy. There was one poet who put us on his mailing list for some reason and kept sending us dozens of poems, asking us if we were interested. Each time we rejected them (as we don't publish poetry) and every couple of weeks we'd get bombarded by more. At first we even offered advice but he never took it and never responded. When we asked to be removed from his list and told him we were not interested for the last time, he turned nasty and verbally abused us. One of his tirades even said he 'didn't want to be published by a couple of smug Geordie tw*ts anyway'. I was in hysterics – best complement I'd ever had. I even blogged about the whole saga until he emailed to apologise. We get poetry submissions quite often. One was addressed to 'the poetry editor' who doesn't exist, one poet came to the office in person to have us publish their work and another even phoned to ask us to go to his house to read and then publish his poems, getting annoyed when we declined.

So, if a publisher offers advice – take it. They don't always have the time. If they don't respond after sending the same material several times – they're not interested. And they aren't being rude by not replying, it's just because they are busy/probably haven't had time to read it. So don't email them and be rude, it was unintentional! Even independent publishers have a slush pile.