2.27.2007

Visiting

I am sending a requested full manuscript to a small press. I will be in the very city of this small press in two weeks. Is it okay to mention this fact in my cover letter, or will it make it seem like I'm putting pressure on the situation?



Since Miss Snark is neither a small press nor a writer, she fobbed this question off on Ben Leroy, publisher of Bleak House Books, a small press (in that it's not Random House--yet) who was kind enough to put Mr. Clooney's office on hold and take my call.


Herewith his answer:




Here you go Miss Snark-

Well, that's certainly a good question. Any answer I give you is a mish mash of personal opinion and projection. So, as long as we can agree on that, and you don't come after me if it doesn't work out, here's what I think:

It certainly doesn't hurt to let people know you're going to be in town. Is it eager sounding? Sure. And I guess the fear is that you may come off like that guy from the football team who is clearly angling for a cheerleader date to the big homecoming dance. And maybe that fear is grounded in some good common sense-it's possible that your cheerleader only knows that you
play on the football team, and that her experience with football players has been a mixed bag. Plus, she's got other commitments with a math tutor, grocery shopping for Old Lady McGregor down the block, and her mother has come down with a touch of the common cold, so there'll be increased choreload around the house.

Or, maybe she not only knows you're on the football team, but that you're good, and that you've got a bright future. Maybe her parents are off on vacation, Old Lady McGregor's son is visiting from Tulsa, and her B average in math class is good enough for her. That might be just enough for her to react positively to your advances and agree to meet you at the corner ice
cream parlor for a root beer float.

I don't know how much you know about this cheerleader or what this cheerleader knows about you. But I do know that sometimes in life we have to take chances based on the facts as we understand them. Offer the information, but don't be disheartened or offended if it's met with a stony indifference. Publishers, like everybody else in the world, are very busy people who are always fighting against deadlines and focusing priorities on what they already have in house. Sometimes it's easy to step out of the office. Sometimes it ain't. Play it cool and try not to have expectations and you should be just fine."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

From the writer of the question:

This is excellent. And it basically follows my mental scramble to a tee. Thanks for the quick answer!

Sometimes, when I sit back and think about my querying life, I feel like I'm going to prom again. Only this time, I drink really good gin. (Back then, it was cheap beer).

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I was raised with a rather old-fashioned set of standards. I'd never drop in uninvited. It simply isn't done by pixies of good breeding.

The difference between those "ladies" down on first and pike and me is that they walk right up to car windows, and I don't ride with strangers.

I also don't ride with people who misuse vocabulary. I'm easy over poor grammar as long as I can understand the point intended.

I avoid unshaven men, women with hairy pits, the wild-eyed, and strange publisher's I've yet to meet.

I think it would be wrong to confuse seeking publication with seeking a job, which is why I'm giving **** Press another month before I write and say, "Hey! Dude! You said you'd have something to tell me in four months. They're up! So ... where's my rejection letter?"

**** Press isn't my employer. I'm not their employee and won't be even should they choose to publish what I've submitted. So ... okay, take five months, but someone else is looking now. Get off the spot fellas. I'd rather have you than them! But, am I writin' and tellin' 'em? nope. Pixies don't do that.

Dropping in unannounced would appear to be poor judgment to me.

Dave said...

My humble advice:
Ask, and if they say NO or ignore you, don't feel bad.
If they say YES and meet with you, put on your Sunday best smile and go forward cautiously.

If you don't ask, the answer will always be NO.

joelle said...

This (sort of) happened to me except it was a big publisher and an editorial assistant who'd been showing interest in my writing. I mentioned I'd be in the 212 if she wanted to get a cup of coffee and she said "sure", so we did. It was nice. We didn't talk about what I'd sent her that she was reading, but what I was writing, what she was writing (she's also a writer) and what we liked to read. It was fun, low key, and short. I can email her a question now and then if I have one and she answers and asks me questions once in a while too. We still haven't found "that project" to do together, but it's nice to have a face with her name and email address.

Anonymous said...

I did this very thing when pitching a picture book manuscript to a small press.

You can suggest a meeting, giving specific dates when you are available and leave it to them to bite.

Not only did I sell the original manuscript at the meeting, but I garnered interest in two other projects.

If you were in the business of selling widgets, wouldn't you try to get a meeting with a potential customer if you were in the neighbourhood?

Same difference. But of course, never drop in uninvited :-)

Good luck!

Helene B

Anonymous said...

Damn, what a pleasant surprise! Ben sounds like a real person, and nice to boot. Not like the ogres most publishing house folks (and agents) seem to try to portray. Thanks for the glimpse!

Ben from Bleak House Books said...

Sha'el, nobody said anything about dropping in unannounced. That would be in very bad form. But nobody suggested it.

r louis scott said...

I work with several shops that fabricate parts or provide other services to projects I work on. There is nothing quite like face to face contact. I would not hesitate to mention your trip, but if you are put off or ignored, treat it as a professional rejection, nothing more. If you are invited to stop by, wear a clean shirt and make sure your fly is zipped up.

Good luck.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Ben,

I am aware no one mentioned it. I did though. ... mostly because no one else did. And, yes, it would be very bad form. Impolite too.

What I wrote wasn't meant to criticize you or your comments. Any impression that I was critical of you is unintended.

Sooo ... Ben ... How about I send you the mss. of Pixie Warrior and we do lunch?

Ben from Bleak House Books said...

Anonymous 3--If I sound nice, it's because at the end of the day I realize that we're all in this together (not just publishing, but being on the planet). I've got no room for being a jerk, or dealing with them.

Sha'el--I'm afraid, based on the info I could find on your website, that we wouldn't be a good fit for your book. We focus on hardboiled crime fiction. I wish you the best of luck. We can always do lunch.

As far as uninvited guests at the publishing house--it's happened before. It is a very awkward couple of minutes when I have to explain that we aren't a printer, and that we're not open for unannounced guests. Sometimes people get indignant as though they are owed something. Please see my comment above about "jerks."

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Ben,

You actually looked? How nice! I was just teasing, and I already knew you don't publish fantasy.

I'm afraid all that's on my pixiesnit.livejournal.com thing are poems I write for my kids and a few "I'm thinking this through" things. But,how nice of you to have takem me seriously -- Especially when I was just teasing.

Nice guy! Bad blogspot though! This is my 4th try at posting this comment.

Bernita said...

Ben makes me wish I wrote hard-boiled crime.
And their submission requirements are clean and clear.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I think we should hear more from Ben. I don't write detective stories, but I read them. Besides, it's not every day one finds someone who is so easy to tease ....

Ben! Make your own Blog! Nice, well-spoken, considerate, and smart people are rare. Do it. I'll read it. Except you have to tell us when you do it, or we won't know. Will we?

Maybe I should switch genres.

"It was May 5th and rainy. It always rains on May 5th in the Big City.

That's where I live - and work - when there is work. Big City, Illinois, population 107, down from 112 from a year ago. And rainy.

I reached for my bottle of gin. It was gone, of course. That woman from New York had sipped the last of it New Year's Day. And I haven't worked much since that wench Nancy Drew vacationed here in 1930. I can't afford a new bottle.

"Dang it! I'm thirsty," I slammed my desk drawer shut and it fell to the floor.

"Why don't you come up and see me sometime?" I knew that voice, even muffled by the closet door.

Martha, the cleaning woman, was old enough to remember Don Juan, the first of the talkies. She thought she looked like Mae West. Perhaps she did in 1924, but now she looks a lot like the mummy of Rameses the Great. I'm too softhearted to tell her so, but she does.

I was seriously considering her proposition. She has an endless supply of Gin, though the source is a mystery. I may have something to do with that extra bathtub she owns. ...

I was saved from temptation by a low and seductive whistle. The source? A tall, almost gaunt, woman with lips painted so red that they put a fire engine to shame. Still, she was a looker.

I knew she was a looker. I'd seen her window shopping in the Mall of America. ... "

So, Ben? Should I switch genres?

Ben from Bleak House Books said...

I've got my blog, but it has very little to do with publishing, except when work is on my mind.

Would love to have you visit.

www.benjaminleroy.com