Who am I?

I am a writing and publishing guru. What I dont know about the market just isn't worth knowing. So what if I'm unpublished? I choose to give other writers the gift of my wisdom and experience* that the other 500,000 writing blogs out there fail to give.
* No actual experience

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Some of us frugal, economical, thrifty, careful and prudent types (ok – tight-a**es!) don’t like to part with our cash. It hurts- neurological studies have shown the pain-centres of the brain to rev-up (and maybe even start smokin’) when a stingy person is faced with the prospect of having to pay-up. Especially for something that was previously free.

I’m talking about paying a publisher to consider one’s submission.

Ok, I get that it was never actually “free” – in this case it was one of their expenses.  It was some overworked editor’s job to wade through the slush. And for those who only accepted manuscripts via an agent, the expense was not negated – they would pay more for the rights if they got involved in a bidding war.

I want to state that it still seems to be against the code of conduct to charge to read through an author's manuscript. However, some companies have found a novel solution... they hold an unpublished manuscript competition. And charge a fat entry fee.

I truly believe that publishers are committed to the philosophy of developing emerging writers. This is a laudable motive. I get that the entry fee offsets the editors’ salaries. Hey, they’ve got families and mortgages too. And I’ve always thought that sending a manuscript or synopsis or whatever to a publishing house has always been like entering a comp.

So what’s my problem?

The publishers have tweaked things to their advantage. Fair enough, they’re not a charity. However, when they congratulate themselves for “developing emerging talent” and secure a government grant to do so, I feel uneasy.

Let’s consider the advantages to the publishing house.  One:  they are closed to unsolicited manuscripts and can cut some editorial staff. Two: the fee also means that people with unpolished manuscripts will hesitate to enter – one of nature’s great screening devices. Three: they are not committed to publish any gems they unearth during the process. The prize is not publication – the winners will be invited to attend a workshop to develop the manuscript with agents and publishers, with the company retaining the option to publish.

Having just sent off a manuscript, with a $50.00 entry fee, my feelings about this are mixed. I’d love to win the one of the places at the workshop, but my disappointment will be greater if rejected – not only would my MS be deemed not good enough, but my fee’s been wasted. In this particular comp they won’t even give unsuccessful applicants a line or two of feedback. Just like a regular publisher!  I don’t expect feedback from a publisher, but if I’ve coughed-up my dough.... hmmm. Even a few lines would suffice (lousy concept/ poorly developed/ strains credibility etc).

My pain centres are pulsing. Wish me luck!


  1. O.M.G. May I ask who it is?

    Del Rey in the States, who is an imprint of Random House, recently held a contest. They don't normally accept unsoliciteds, but they didn't charge. They did receive 700+ subs, and a winner and runner-ups (who also received prizes) were named within 4 months.

    Angry Robot Books in the UK also opened for a month for subs. They received 900+ subs. No prize but no entry fee either. They recruited 6 unpaid volunteers to read through the subs. 4 of the volunteers dropped out, but 2 are still slogging their way through the partials and fulls requested. They'll probably wrap 6 months from when they opened.

    A number of organizations run fee-based contests, but the contests are essentialy the underpinning that funds these writing orgs.

    Wow. Just wow.

    I am happy to know that I can blame my frugality on research-supported biology!

  2. If this is the direction the industry is headed, I predict the emergence of a lot of unedited self-pubbed garbage finding its way to Kindles and Nooks in the future.