Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Show vs. Tell

by Grace Bradley

(This was first posted on the Passionate Reads blog.)

Any writer who has been in the business more than five minutes has no doubt seen these words in a comment bubble of a critiqued manuscript. Don’t tell us what your character is feeling. Show us. I’d like to take this concept and apply it to the pursuit of publication. Don’t tell an editor you’d like a contract. Show them.

1. You present your best work. Your query, synopsis and submission have been proofread. Many times. By multiple people. This is the first exposure an editor has to your work. Make it count. If there are typos, grammar errors or missing words in what should be the best representation of your work, chances are the rest of the manuscript will be worse.

2. You behave in a professional manner online. Google is a valuable tool for editors, and a necessary step in the consideration of a new author. Do you make negative comments about the industry, your current publisher, other authors? Are you a “Debbie Downer”, bemoaning how difficult this business is and how you, personally, are affected? Does an editor want to work with someone with this temperament? You probably know the answer to that one.

3. You research publishers prior to submitting. It’s very important to not only know what you write, but also which editors and agents are appropriate for your particular book. It doesn’t matter how well your manuscript is written, if it’s not something your target publishes or represents, it will be a pass. In all likelihood it will also leave the editor or agent wondering if you’ve put any time into your research.

4. You handle rejections in a professional manner. This business is subjective, and an editor’s opinion is just that…an opinion. If you receive a rejection with editorial feedback, you’re fortunate. The editor has taken the time to let you know where the book fell short for them and how you could improve moving forward. Give their comments some thought. Do you agree? Do your critique partners agree? If so, implement those changes. If not, disregard. What you don’t want to do is respond with a long, detailed email addressing each comment and stating why you disagree, and worse, why you think you are right. What this tells an editor is that you will be difficult to work with during the editing process. Once a book goes to contract, the editor and author work as a team to make the book the best it can be. Since editors choose who their teammates are, you will want to show you know how to take constructive criticism well.

5. You persevere. I can’t speak for all editors, but I respect authors who do not give up, who take editorial feedback and try to improve their work. I pay attention to authors who continue to submit, despite being rejected. These authors clearly want to be published with Ellora’s Cave and are willing to do what they must to make it happen. This is the type of author I want to work with.


Carrie Ann said...

This was helpful. Thank you!

Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

I was rejected by EC 4 times before one of my mss was finally accepted. Good to know that garners respect! LOL

Since then, I've pubbed a dozen or more books, so she's right, folks. Don't give up!


Melissa Sugar said...

This was helpful. I like how you have given us a completely different view of the commonly talked about and read about, :show don't tell." Thank you