The Submission Paradox

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately going through book blog listings, identifying bloggers that might be interested in reading and reviewing Haunted, and sending those bloggers requests via email.  It’s a relatively slow process, and I’ve been focusing on sending two requests a day.  I’ve gotten a lot of yeses, which is great and encouraging.  There’s a lot of people I haven’t heard from, however.  That’s fine, of course, and part of the process.  A writer’s life is full of rejection, often rejection by silence, and that’s something you have to learn to live with.  If you can’t stand the heat, step away from the computer.

The thing about rejection, though, is that the best way of working through it and getting to acceptance is to put yourself out there a lot.  Being rejected by the only place you send your story to is devastating.  Being rejected by one of the ten places you send your story to is…well, still devastating, but not nearly as much, and the chances that one of those ten will accept that story is greater than the chance that the one in one will accept it.  You only need one person to say yes, and that makes that string of “no” worth it.

Marketing a book seems to be very similar (I’m still hiking up the marketing learning curve, so this is observation, not experience).  For instance, consider this article on contacting Amazon reviewers.  The author says that “if you spend two or three days contacting about 300 potential Amazon reviewers, you can expect to receive about 40 to 50 responses, and wind up with perhaps 35 reviews, a quite satisfactory result.” 

Think about that for a moment.  300 potential Amazon reviewers.  When I mentioned this to my husband, an astrophysicist who does math for fun, he worked out the numbers.  If I spent ten hours nonstop, sending an email every five minutes, I would send out 120 requests.  The quote above blithely says that two or three days would do it.  This is clearly poppycock (thank you, Elementary, for that one).  A nonstop ten hour day is not something to be sneezed at, and you’d still need three days to do it.  And that’s just sending out emails.  What that estimation does not take into account is identifying which reviewers would actually be appropriate for your book!

Doing research on your market is important.  When magazine editors talk about what submitting authors should do before sending in their work, they almost always say that they should read a couple back issues to get an idea of what sorts of thing the magazine publishes.  This is good advice on its face, but it’s the other extreme to the 300 reviewers advice.  Yes, knowing your market is important.  Sending a story that is clearly inappropriate for a certain publication is just going to annoy a submissions editor and net you a meaningless rejection.  But expecting writers to have the time to read a couple issues of every publication they submit to is, again, poppycock.  Writers need to paper their walls with rejection slips, and they can’t do that if they’re spending all their time reading the issues of magazines that will probably reject them anyway.  And how would they have the time to write?

So, researching your market in-depth and perfectly tailoring each submission is not a good use of your time.  Yet, on the other extreme, spamming editors (or reviewers) is also a bad use of your time and effort, because you’re going to get a lot of meaningless rejection.  And annoy a lot of people.  And possibly incur some sort of penalty, at least on Amazon.  Clearly the key is to aim for the middle ground.  Check out a publication’s website, read their submission guidelines, skim the latest issue. (And for god’s sake, make sure you know who the current editor is, and spell their name correctly.  Don’t be lazy.)  And when marketing, check out a reviewer’s profile, see what they’ve reviewed in the past. 

Simply put, going all in on quantity, or all in on quality, are both folly.  Find a balance.

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