So I Submitted Twice to the Same Publisher!

I know. Stupid, careless mistake or like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman would say: “Big mistake! Big. Huge.” And I know what you must be thinking: But Tania, how can you have submitted twice to the same place if you have that Query Tracker thingy? 

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Good question! The thing is, this particular publisher is not on Query Tracker. I sent my manuscript to them in June, and I found them through an article talking about publishers accepting novellas. I sent the same manuscript with the same bloody cover letter to them again in July! This time I found them through a different article. I need to start writing my submissions down! And guess what? They noticed. They sure did, and they sent an e-mail saying that they had already received my manuscript but that a decision on my submission has yet to be reached.

But it has. Of course, it has. Do you think any publisher will accept a writer who can’t even remember to which publisher she sent her manuscript? So learn from me. Please do not make the same stupid mistakes I do.

So the question now is, what should you do if this happens to you? First, if you realize your mistake before they do, quickly send them a reply with your second submission saying they shouldn’t bother rereading this one since you’ve already sent it and that you are sorry. Keep it short and sweet. Agents and editors have enough to read as it is.

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Second, if they send you a message like an editor did to me, reply! You must. A short and sweet answer along the lines of, I am sorry for my careless mistake, it’s just been one of those weeks and thank them for letting you know because they sure didn’t have to inform you. They did it out of professional courtesy, and you should acknowledge that and not stay silent. If they took the time to point out your double submission, you owe them a sincere apology for wasting their time.

So if you’re wondering what I did, I, of course, sent in the apology letter. And even though I pretty much ruined my chances with this publisher, I will share a link to their web page if you are also looking for a publisher interested in novellas. Who knows? Maybe some good will come out of this after all. 

Fairlight Books

Three Months Left

Three months till my deadline. At this juncture, it’s become clear my book won’t find a home with any publisher. As we speak, I’ve given up on publishing houses and started to submit to magazines who publish novellas in installments, and even that road looks dim at best.

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Self-publishing isn’t the end of the road; it’s just a fork. Either you put your work out there or forget about this manuscript and concentrate on your next one. I can’t just throw this one down to the oubliettes. It’s a story I’ve been working on for a long time, and I believe there is an audience out there for it.

What’s more, a few agents and editors have said the story does have potential, but it was not to their liking for so and so reasons. Therefore, I believe that my story isn’t awful if it sparked people’s interest.

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So, these last few submissions will be my last, as many of these online magazines have a response time of twelve weeks. I’ve already started to format my manuscript to publish it online in October.

According to Erica Verrillo, a writer who helps other writers get published, manuscripts between 40 000 and 60 000 words are deemed “unmarketable” by agents and publishers alike. So if you’ve written a story whose word count falls into that godforsaken bracket, Erica Verrillo has done the work for us and searched quite a few places which might be interested in your novella or short story, or whatever you wish to call it.

31 Places to Publish Novellas and Long Short Stories — Paying markets | by Erica Verrillo | Curiosity Never Killed the Writer

Here’s to us, mavericks! 

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It’s a Crying Shame, Uh, I mean, Waiting Game

So, I sent in my manuscript on the 24th of May to another publisher, and they answered on the 28th! Now, before you start popping the champagne, let me inform you the answer was a resounding ‘no.’

Now, a publisher that answers that fast is never a good sign. There are only two possibilities when you receive an answer this fast after sending in a synopsis and your full manuscript with your cover letter.

First possibility: they read your synopsis, didn’t like the premise of your story, moved on to the next manuscript, which is fair. Not ideal because, as I have mentioned before, synopses are boring résumés of your novel, so they don’t contain all the intricacies of your work but still fair.

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Second possibility: they read nothing. Nada. Niente. Rien. Zip. Zilch. Not your synopsis, not your bio; they barely glanced at your cover letter. They took one look at the first line of your cover letter and decided you weren’t worth their time. It happens. It’s not fair, and it’s unprofessional on their part, but it happens more often than they would like to admit.

Why do they do this? Because they want to lower that sludge pile. A ginormous pile of manuscripts all sent in by hopeful writers wanted to ‘get discovered’—the poor, delusional things. What’s more, when you get refused this fast, odds are a senior editor didn’t even get a chance to look at your work. That person didn’t even get to see the colour of your avatar accompanying your email. Why? Because all publishing houses (the big ones at least) all have readers, junior editors, or assistants who are in charge of going through that pile and digging out something worth the real editor’s time. So, if junior over there didn’t like your cover letter, your synopsis, your bio, heck, your avatar, you’re not getting through.

So, more and more, it’s looking like I’m going to self-publish. We are already in June, which means the following submissions will be my last. I only have three months left. That’s fine. I’ve made my peace with that eventuality.

Rejection is the Name of the Game

Another submission, another rejection. By now, I’ve learned to recognize the rejection letters even before opening them. The text is formatted and almost always the same. For those of you wondering, a rejection formed letter goes a little something like this:

Dear [insert your name],

Thank you for your interest in [insert name of publisher or literary agency] and for allowing us the opportunity to read [title of your novel]. Unfortunately, we don’t feel the manuscript is a good fit for us.

We wish you the best of luck placing the manuscript elsewhere.

Sincerely,

[Name of person in charge of reviewing and rejecting your submission.]

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I don’t know what an acceptance letter looks like for a novel, only for an essay. When I do, you best believe I’ll share that baby here! Three editors actually took the time to give me a personalized response. In the world of literature, editors who take the time to write something personal about your work are few and far between. So, appreciate them. Thank them for their time, and most importantly, take their suggestions under advisement. I did, and my manuscript was much improved.

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No matter how many rejection letters you get, remember, many famous writers got their big break by sheer luck. When J.K. Rowling’s manuscript was sent to Bloomsbury, an editor’s daughter read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She insisted her father read it too. And that’s how J.K. Rowling got her big break. Of course, it helps that she’s a good writer. But there are a lot of good writers out there who are not that lucky.

So, keep submitting, don’t give up. Who knows? One day you too might catch a shooting star.

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Only Five Months Left

And what have I done? Well, lately, I’ve submitted my manuscript to a contest and to a small publisher who only publishes horror. And now I wait. The results of the contest will only be divulged in late October. Their guidelines didn’t specify a timeline for the publisher, but I’m giving them three months.

It’s the most challenging part, waiting. It’s not my favourite. I distract myself by writing essays, but I always find myself checking my email multiple times a day. 

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Countless rejections I have had, and I’m expecting many more. It’s part of the gig, isn’t it? Of being a writer? You have to get used to, heck, even comfortable with rejections. If you don’t, well, you’re in for a rough ride.

To wait and see has been a recurring theme in my life. Like an old friend, I greet it with a calm familiarity. I sit with it and let its quietness fill the room. It follows me like a shadow teaching me patience and airiness. Part of it is knowing that once I click that send button, it’s out of my control. Doris Day was right, que será será.

Whatever the outcome of this whole process, I rest in confidence that my novel will be published one way or another. Would it be nice if it was picked up by a publishing house? Of course. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for, validation? Validation that these words we lay down on this white canvas mean and are worth something to someone. That we have, in fact, created art?

But either way, whether my work is validated or not, it’s something I did. I wrote a novel. How many people can say that? And with that, I leave you with a favourite citation by one of my favourite storytellers:

Jean de La Fontaine

Je vais t’entretenir de moindres Aventures,

Te tracer en ces vers de légères peintures.

Et, si de t’agréer je n’emporte le prix,

J’aurai du moins l’honneur de l’avoir entrepris.

I seek thine ear to gain by lighter themes,
Slight pictures, decked in magic nature’s beams;
And if to please thee shall not be my pride,
I’ll gain at least the praise of having tried.

English translation is done by Litscape.com.

To Monseigneur The Dauphin, Jean de La Fontaine (litscape.com)

Novel or Novella?

Well, it depends who you ask, really. The first draft of my novel was only 25 000 words. I know, not much of anything. But I thought I was done and that it could be considered a novella. I submitted it to a few publishers, a handful of agents, and, shocker, no one bit.

But one editor saw in it the bones for a good story, and she took the time to give me excellent and insightful feedback. And with her constructive criticism, I brought my manuscript up to over 45 000 words. 

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Now, if you do a little Google search, which I did, a novella is a story with a word count sitting anywhere between 10 000 to 40 000 words (according to http://www.masterclass.com). There is even such a thing as a novelette, a fictional story with a word count between 7 500 and 17 000 words. Now, good luck finding a publisher for a novelette! 

Many sites consider a manuscript over 40 000 words to be a novel. A short one, mind you, but still, a novel. So I’m golden, right? Wrong. You see, my novel can fit in either of the two following categories: thriller or horror, but sometimes these categories are considered the same. Any publisher or literary agent worth their salt would tell you a novel in either of these two categories must be no shorter than 70 000 words and no more than 90 000 words. The Write Life happens to agree: How Many Words Are in a Novel? Plus Word Counts for 17 Other Types of Books (thewritelife.com) However, many other sites place horror novels in a category of their own, with such novels having a target word count between 40 000 to 80 000 words. 

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The sad thing is 40 000 words novels are hardly picked up because they are not considered marketable, especially for first-time authors. Many publishers won’t even take a look at a manuscript that is shorter than 50 000 words. And, again, I know what you are thinking. “Why, Tania, the solution is quite simple. Just write another 5 000 words, and you’re good. Voilà!” I wish! 

The solution, I’m afraid, is far from being simple because my story is done! I can’t just add another 5 000 words just to fill out some quota! I started writing this story back in 2009 and left it in the oubliette for almost a decade. A few years ago, I picked it up again, worked on it, and reworked it and now it is what I humbly believe to be a good story. 

This is the main reason why my novel will probably never get picked up by any publisher before my deadline of October 2021. And no, I don’t feel like working again on it to try and push it past the 50 000 word count threshold. Writing a story is a lot like following a recipe. Once you’re done, you’re done. There is no need to add anything extra because you might change the flavour, consistency, and appearance, and you might end up with something unappetizing.

But a word of advice for those just starting out to write their novel. Aim for that word count for the genre you are writing. Your life will be easier. Trust me.

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The Dreaded Query Letter

I wouldn’t say I like writing that letter. It’s the bane of my existence these days. Because I am a writer, I should have no problems composing a bloody letter, would I? Well, you’re wrong because it’s not just a letter, is it? It’s a letter explicitly made to sell yourself and your story to prospective agents and publishers.


And well, I am no good at selling myself as a writer or describing my story in such a way that you might find it appealing. That’s what I like about submitting personal essays for publication. Even if your cover letter is so-so, your article follows immediately after. And if you’re a good writer, it will be your saving grace.


I’ve done my research on how to write a good query letter. It’s pretty much the same standard format unless the publisher has particular guidelines. If you’ve been following my blog, (ha! what a joke!) I don’t query agents anymore. I send my manuscript directly to publishers. Their guidelines don’t differ significantly from those of literary agents: salutations, title, genre, word count, synopsis, bio, marketing plan, sales, financial statements, cash flow, a perspective of revenue placement. All that written in no more than a neatly crafted, ingeniously designed 300-word letter! Nothing we can’t handle, right?


Not all writers are good query writers (will the real Slim Shady please stand up), i.e., me. But it’s a learning curve. You can’t just send out the same formatted letter to Peter, Paul and Mary (they were a 60’s folk group; look them up). You have to personalize the darn thing. It’s more complicated than it looks. And don’t even get me started about synopsis and bios. Take any great book, give a boring old summary; no one would want to read it. Exhibit A:


The story is about a family who sets out to live in an empty hotel for a few months. The father is a writer and plans to write his manuscript while serving as a caretaker of the premises. However, the hotel is haunted, the father goes crazy and becomes psychotic and wants to kill his family. Turns out the hotel is a lethal, living entity that possesses Jack and pushes him to continue a cycle of murders that have been going on for years.


Ok, that actually sounds good… Perhaps Stephen King wasn’t the best example!
But all you writers out there trying to summarize your story in a synopsis know my struggle.
As for the bio, well, unless you have a solid background in writing, it needs to be short and concise. I have a degree in animal biology and am now a homemaker who’s published parenting articles. Doesn’t exactly scream bestseller, does it?


To all those submitting your manuscript for representation or publication, I wish you calm seas and strong winds in navigating these tricky waters. And may your manuscript find a good, safe and prosperous shore.

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Why Not a Literary Agent?

I did send my manuscript to several agents, here in Canada and in the States, and so far, a few rejections but, for the most part, radio silence, ergo rejections. And I figured, by sending my manuscript to an agent, it’s double the work. First, you have to wow the agent with your killer writing. Then you have to convince a publishing house that your killer writing is marketable. Albeit this last part is indeed the agent’s job, it’s just too many hoops to jump through. I’d instead take my chances by sending my manuscript directly to the publishing houses, no middle man.


Now, I know what you’re thinking: Tania, maybe the agents aren’t answering because your manuscript is a steaming pile of cow dung. That may very well be, but let’s just say for argument’s sake and for the sake of my own self-esteem that it’s not. Whether or not a literary agent likes your work or not is very suggestive and does not always reflect your ability as a writer. Sometimes the material is not something the agent is interested in or will have a hard time selling.

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My novel, for example, contains elements of graphic physical violence, some aspects of sexual assault, profanities, and a dog is hurt. Quick parenthesis here, does a dog getting hit with a blunt object qualifies as animal cruelty in a novel? I don’t think it does, but one editor seemed to think it did. The dog is not tortured in the story; he’s just hit—one time. Let me know in the comments if you think that qualifies as animal cruelty. To me, cruelty equals torture. Hitting something that’s attacking you, not so much. Close parenthesis. So, as you can see, complex elements to sell in a novel. Hard to please an agent, or a publishing house, looking for horror without anything horrific actually happening. So what are they looking for? That’s anyone’s guess.


Also, did you know that you don’t need any qualifications to call yourself a literary agent? That’s right. You can just choose to call yourself one, and poof, you are one, like magic. No special training or diplomas are needed. That’s why you must do your research before submitting your manuscript to an agent. Make sure the agent has the experience and knows what they’re doing. Real literary agents start off as assistants to senior agents. Knowing their credentials and where they have worked is essential to make sure you’re entrusting your blood, sweat and tears to the right hands. And honestly, that’s just a lot of work. And I’ve got way too many kids and so little precious time to do that and find the time to write.

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Getting published

Welcome to my obligatory writer’s website. That’s right. Apparently, every writer must have one of these before getting published! You read that correctly. Every no-name out there must have a social media presence with a significant amount of followers to even be considered by a publishing house. Isn’t that absurd? It’s the literary equivalent of having a college diploma and no experience, but every job out there requires experience. Well, how are you supposed to acquire some experience if no one is hiring graduates with no experience? How am I suppose to establish myself as a serious writer people might actually want to follow if no one wants to publish my work because I have no following? See how that works? It doesn’t, it doesn’t work!

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And who, might I ask, is going to want to be let in into my daily life? A writer’s life is boring. All we do is write, and when we aren’t writing, all we do is think about what to write. But you want a boring life, trust me, you do. I’m blessed to have this happy, monotonous life. And it’s because we have such boring lives that we escape into our writing and create such unique stories.


When thinking about what this blog might be about, a mommy blog did come to mind. After all, I have some published personal essays out there that talk about my experiences as a mom. But mommy blogs are a dime a dozen, and there are so many good ones out there. How can little old me compete? How many times can one spin a story about pregnancy, childbirth, and the nitty-gritty of raising kids? It’s been done to death in blogs and props to you if you find a new way to spin that wheel.


Then one day, an idea just came to me! What am I trying to do? I’m trying to get my first novel traditionally published. Why not make it about that? And I’m going to try and do that in six months because I have been trying to get this darn story published for the past three years, and the deadline is September 2021. If no one is interested in my novel by that time, I’ll just self-publish! Why that date, you might ask? My story happens on Halloween night, so if I do end up publishing it myself, I want at least a good month to promote it. It’s that a good plan? I don’t know. I’m just making this up as I go along.


So, join me, why don’t you, on this foolish, soul-crushing quest to get my first novel published. I can’t promise this blog will help any aspiring authors out there, but I’ll at least try and make it funny. And if not, well, I don’t know what to tell you but good luck!

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