Friday, December 21, 2007

Should I Copyright My Manuscript?


There are two reasons why people copyright their manuscripts:
1. To show that they are serious writers.
2. To prevent their hard work from being stolen.

Why shouldn't I get my work Copyrighted then?

1. If you are trying to show that you are a serious writer, do it with your professional cover letter and manuscript. That's all you need.

2. We all know that you worked very had and don't want your work to be stolen. First, a self-respecting professional publishing house will never, never, never, never steal your work. But to prevent this from happening, be sure to save all your drafts of your manuscript on the computer. When you do this, the computer automatically stores it with a date. When you have a major revision to make, create a new file. This is great for two reasons. The first is that it allows you to look over the creative process of your work, but it also shows the development over time of your ideas so that if they should ever be stolen, you'll have a good body of evidence to back up your claim. However, this is really unlikely.

But the biggest reason why you shouldn't get your manuscript copyrighted is because once you do, it is like setting it in stone. Once you have copyrighted your work, if you want to make any kind of revision, your must get a new copyright for it. And creating a manuscript involves quite a lot of revising. Even more, once a publisher does accept it, there is still more revising to do. If you have already copyrighted your first draft, that's a lot more copyrights you'll have to get. Save yourself the trouble. After all, it will be copyrighted when published and that is the only time you want it to be copyrighted.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


What Is SCBWI?

That long acronym stands for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. In the words of it's own website, "The SCBWI acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. " In addition, they also hold two conferences a year, publish a bi-monthly newsletter with tips and news and information about publishing houses. It's a great place to meet like-minded friends and learn more about the craft of writing and the publishing world. However, you do have to pay to become a member.

Will Becoming a Member of SCBWI Improve my Chances of Getting Published?


I am sorry to tell you that, but the answer is no. SCBWI isn't a magical society that opens doors for you. The only thing that will do that is your writing.

The problem is that because SCBWI has an open membership (that is, anyone who can pay the fee can be a member) I still see a lot of terrible writing. Ten years ago, being a member of SCBWI held a lot more clout. It was a more professional society. But today it's membership has grown so much that nearly every other submission I receive says that the hopeful author is a member of SCBWI. It's even worse when I receive something from an SCBWI member that reveals a demonstrated lack of knowledge about paragraphs! (This happens all the time!)

So Should I Become a Member or Not?

That is up to you. As I said, it is a very knowledgeable organization and not only you will be in the company of writers, authors and illustrators, but books publishers, editors, booksellers, and many other industry people, including the author of this blog.

If you are already a member of SCBWI, go ahead and still mention it in your letter. Some people write "SCBWI Submission" on the envelope. This doesn't help either, nor will it get you noticed faster from the multitudes of submissions that come in everyday. But a mention of it will help give you a nod in the direction of showing that you are knowledgeable about your craft and the industry.

For more information about SCBWI, here is a link to their homepage. Some information can be accessed without a membership, some cannot.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Let's talk a little about mailing. What to do and what not to do.

Believe it or not, this is an important thing to consider when mailing. Because you want to look professional, your paper should show it. So what should you use?


That's it. Yes, it's plain, yes it's white, yes, everyone else will be mailing their manuscripts using plain white paper. But plain white paper shows that you're professional, but also that you're realistic. Why? Because most of the manuscripts that I read go straight into the recycling bin. So don't send out a cover letter on pretty stationery or illustrated papers. And please, don't send your manuscript on fluorescent pink paper in the hopes that it will stand out (yes, I really did have someone do that). That won't make you stand out at all (and in some cases, you may irritate the editor who will not even read your submission). The only thing that will make you stand out is good writing. Let me say that again.


So save your money for the postage, not the paper.
And that brings us to our next topic,

I once read in a guide to publishing that a hopeful author should use professional stamps, such as a flag. Now I don't know about adult publishing, but I can tell you in children's publishing, a pretty and colorful stamp really makes me smile. No, it still won't improve your chances, but if you want to stick old Olivia, Superman, Darth Vader, or anything else that you like, go right ahead.

These are a lot more fun than just flags, don't you think?



There are a lot to choose from and you can use any you like, but here's what I recommend:


These babies stand up very well to the pressures of the postal system, are cheap, and very easy for me to open. And in the end, guess where they go? Right into the recycling bin.
The fancier ones also hold up as well, but some I have to open with scissors and can't go into the recycling. So be easy on your wallet and the environment and just use a plain manila envelope.

Do You Enjoy Reading the Slush Pile?

I LOVE IT!!! I am always looking for that diamond in the coal mine.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How Many do You Read a Day?

I try to read a stack from the slush pile everyday. On a busy day, I read for about an hour (perhaps one hundred). On a less busy day, I read for several hours (several hundred). Currently, I have completed the slush from March 2007 and am delving into April. That gives you a clue about how far behind most houses are.

Who Reads the Slush Pile?

Some editors have unsolicited manuscripts that come directly to them, but the bulk of the reading goes to editorial assistants and interns.

How Many Unsolicited Manuscripts Does a House Get?

Thousands and thousands. Most editors offices look like this.

This is why it takes so long for a response (if the house even sends one at all). When an editor says she's six months behind in her unsolicited manuscripts, she usually means she's ten months behind.

What's a Slush Pile?

The Slush Pile is the term (albeit not very nice) for unsolicited manuscripts. This means that the publishers did not ask for the manuscripts, but the authors mailed them to us anyway. Unpublished (though not always unpublished) authors send their manuscripts to a publishing house in the hopes of being discovered without the use of an agent.