Rules Are Rules…Or Are They?

09 Jul

In going through my emails, I saw that a friend posted a blurb she’d created for a new novella and asked for opinions on it. Was it too long? Did it get the point across? Did it intrigue the reader? Etc. This particular author is experienced–she’s had a number of ebooks published and has self-published some works on her own. Still, she, like the rest of us, is wondering if she’s following the “rules” that we hear and read about so often.

It got me to thinking about all of the rules that plague writers today. Many of these so-called rules come from articles or buzz about what editors or agents are looking for. If you’ve been in the business of submitting for any length of time, it becomes quite clear that what agents or editors say they want or how they want it presented isn’t really true. Why? Because when pressed, most will say that don’t know exactly what they’re looking for; they’ll just know it when they see it. In other words, it has to strike a chord with them—right subject, right time, right place, etc.

The sad thing for me is that publishing has become such a numbers business that the heart of it is lost. There’s almost no professional feedback for the author trying to break through publishing doors. Submissions are made and either a request follows or…get ready…one never hears a word. That’s a new rule we could all do without. Do you agree?


Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Idaho


15 responses to “Rules Are Rules…Or Are They?

  1. Janis McCurry

    July 9, 2013 at 7:05 AM

    The lack of respect in neglecting to reply to queries has long discouraged me. What used to be common courtesy has been dropped because “Just too busy. We’ll notify if you’re worth it.” Well, hey, who isn’t busy? You can’t send even an impersonal standard rejection letter that you print off by the dozens?

    Writers have had very little power for a long time. But, you know what they say about Karma. IMO, traditional publishers are terrified (perhaps too strong a word), perhaps discomfited about the rapid-fire changes occurring. They can no longer put their heads in the sands and hope they can do business as usual. With e-pub and self-pub becoming standardized, writers can thumb their noses at the Big 6 or however many there are now.

    Not that it makes me feel any better about being ignored… 🙂

    • Judith Keim

      July 9, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      I agree, Janis. The publishing world is changing rapidly and writers do have more power. I still am hoping to be accepted by the big publishers and a hard-working agent…even though I hate the process.

  2. Jennifer

    July 9, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    I think “the rules” make writers feel safe. They think that if they do “a,b and c” then they will get published. In reality, that’s not the case and they end up feeling frustrated because after all, they’ve been following “the rules”. There seems to be some luck involved in getting published (by the biggies anyway). I haven’t turned in any submissions yet so I can’t comment much on that. I am looking forward to getting my first rejection letter though. That means I actually completed something 🙂

    • Judith Keim

      July 9, 2013 at 8:17 AM

      Jennifer, you’re right…all rejection letters aren’t bad! They’re a way to take a second look at your writing and yes, there’s luck involved in the process. Oftentimes, a lot of luck! It’ll be such an accomplishment when you make that first submission! Good luck!!

  3. Suzie Quint

    July 9, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    I can’t think of another business where a non-response is “business as usual” as it is in publishing. Agents love to tell us it’s an “equal partnership” but how equal can it be when there’s such a power imbalance. Whether the agents and/or editors intend to or not, their choice to not respond sends the message that the writer is a supplicant, unworthy of the amount of time it takes to make even a few keystrokes. That is IMO a horrible way to do business. Thank God for self-publishing.

  4. Stephanie Berget

    July 9, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    “when pressed, most will say that don’t know exactly what they’re looking for; they’ll just know it when they see it” This is so true. If the book speaks to the agent or editor, they’ll work around the rules. Great post.

  5. Corina Mallory

    July 9, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with Jennifer; rules make writers feel safe. Unpublished writers especially are desperately looking for a rule book to follow because they just can’t (and probably shouldn’t) trust their gut yet about what works and what doesn’t.

    As for the lack of response to submissions, this isn’t a problem unique to writers. Job seekers everywhere will tell you that these days big employers have gotten so used to hundreds of resumes for each open position that they often don’t even bother acknowledging receipt, let alone issuing a formal rejection or notice that the position is closed. Really, it’s an employers’ market right now in *lots* of fields. It doesn’t make it feel any better of course. If you want to look on the bright side, writing has at least become a profession where there is the option to go it alone.

    • Judith Keim

      July 9, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      True, Corina! I guess there’s a part of me that hates that publishing is just a business now when it used to be a place for creative encouragement and interest…

  6. maryvine

    July 10, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Good discussion, Judith. Things are certainly changing and seems nigh impossible to get the attention of the big six or however many are left. Also, it depends on the editors interests. I was lucky that I found a small publisher that was into what I was writing about and where it was located.

  7. Judith Keim

    July 10, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Yes, Mary, it’s wonderful when that connection is made. So glad it happened for you! Keep the stories coming!!

  8. Peggy Staggs

    July 10, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    With the e-submissions theses days it doesn’t seem that hard to have a few canned replies that can be cut and pasted into a reply. After all, these people all have assistants. I know they have a lot to read, but we as authors have spent a lot of time and effort to write a book. Short “No thanks,” isn’t that hard.

  9. Judith Keim

    July 10, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    Peggy, I totally agree. I’m totally respectful of the number of submissions agents and editors have to deal with but this electronic age makes it possible to do this… \

  10. Lynn Mapp

    July 12, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    Judy…this was an interesting post. We often see rules broken, but we aren’t the ones doing the breaking. I am a rule follower, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

  11. Judith Keim

    July 12, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    Lynn, I laughed when I saw your post. It’s good to be a rule follower very often, but sometimes you have to sit back and say, my gut is telling me this…Does it bring results? I have to think that sometimes it does…


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