TThere are some amazing things about being a publisher.
Meeting talented authors, getting great stories out to the world, and seeing how much readers love those stories: these are just three of our favourite things (we’re trying desperately not to launch into song, a la Mary Poppins, right now…)
But before you get to any of those stages, there’s the dreaded ‘submission process’ (cue: screaming sound effect).
We know how much authors despise the torture of submitting their novel – after all, we’re authors ourselves, and we’ve been through our fair share of submissions and rejections. But we’d like to let you in on a little secret – as publishers we really dislike part of it too!
Because unfortunately, for every author and their story that we sign up, there are many, many others that we can’t publish. And when you’re talking about books that authors have spent months and years of their lives creating, it’s never easy to turn round and say that it isn’t for us.
Why So Harsh?
Sometimes we turn down a submitted novel because it just isn’t the right fit for us, or what we’re looking for. This cuts both ways: just as much as an author and their story has to fit with the publisher, the publisher also has to fit with what the author wants and needs.
When you, as an author, are considering who to apply to – or which offers to accept – think about what the publisher is doing, what they’re promising, how they operate… whether all of that works for you. If it doesn’t, then our advice is to think twice.
Sometimes we can tell that a story and author would be a far better fit somewhere other than Burning Chair. It could be the story – there are certain genres, or storylines, that we just can’t get passionate about. And if that’s the case, we’re not going to waste anyone’s time pretending just for the sake of it. But it could also be the author – we’re very clear that a core part of our philosophy is that the author-publisher relationship is a partnership and, like all good partnerships, both sides have to have a similar outlook and want similar things.
And then sometimes we just feel, when reading a submission, that there’s something missing or doesn’t quite work. Maybe it needs reworking, or a fresh pair of eyes to iron out some errors and make it more readable.
The Burning Chair Way…
Whatever the reason, wherever possible we try to give constructive feedback on the submissions we read. Too many times, in our lives as authors, we’ve felt that we’d submitted our precious books into a black hole, with never a response received. We’ve also been on the receiving end of far too many rejections which told us absolutely nothing about the why. Pete still dines out on the story of one response from an agent, who shall remain nameless, who responded with just three words – the hugely helpful: “Not for us“. Great. Thanks.
We know how frustrating that is for an author. If our story or writing is tosh, we’d rather just know, so we can think about how to make it less tosh-y (Pete: Is that a word? Simon: It definitely is!). Similarly, if we’ve submitted to the wrong place, it’s nice to know that too. After all, surely you can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t know what the mistakes were in the first place??
That’s the really terrible part of our job as publishers (cue violins!): turning authors down. But unfortunately it’s a fact of the industry. After all, we only have limited resources and, if we published absolutely everything that crossed our desks, something would give. Probably our sanity, first and foremost.
But then there are those special moments when all the stars align: when the story wows us, the author is a perfect fit for us, and vice versa. Those are the moments that keep us going, the times that put huge smiles on our little faces. The days when one of us runs over to the other with a submission and screams: “You HAVE to read this!!! I love it!!!”
Those are the days we love.
And, if you’ve been kind enough to share your novel with us, we really hope you’re one of those submissions.
But Bear With Us…
As we said above, we do take care to read every single story and submission which is sent to us and, if it’s not for us, to come up with a coherent reason why not. Rather than just a “Not for us”. We will never do that because we believe that’s kind of a crappy way to do things.
The downside of this Burning Chair approach is, as you may have guessed already, that these things take time. Like Guinness, it can’t be rushed.
We’d love to respond to all authors within weeks. But reading a book properly does take time. Then passing it on the chain for another opinion, working out a view, pulling together feedback… If we did it quickly, we’d not be giving your story the attention it deserves.
So. If you’ve submitted to us at any point and it’s taken a while for us to get back to you, or you’re still waiting for a response, we know how frustrating it is. And we apologise for being the source of that frustration. But we won’t apologise for making sure that we do our jobs properly. If it feels like we’ve taken our sweet time, chances are it’s because it’s a tough decision, which is only ever a good thing.
Sometimes we have to close submissions just so we can get through the ones we have. If you’re reading this blog when it’s posted (Feb 2020), that’s where we’re at right now, but we’re aiming to open very soon – our plan is by the end of the month. If you want to be the first to hear when we do reopen for submissions again, please join our mailing list, or keep checking our website, or keep an eye on our Twitter feed.
Please, never, never think you’ve submitted into a black hole. We will always try to get back to you as soon as we can. Do bear with us, and keep us posted if anything changes, like you receive another offer, or if you’re just worried about how we are*.
Until next time… stay lucky
Pete & Si
*Don’t worry – we’re fine – our mums check in on us very, VERY regularly…