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Monday, 7 February 2011

Submitting a Manuscript - with Echelon Press

Sean Hayden is here to guide us through the submitting process. He is the Executive Acquisitions Editor for Echelon Press (indie press), and has some excellent advice for those at the submitting stage.

As well as an editor Sean is also a writer and his novel, Origins will be out later this month. His author-interview will also appear here to coincide with his books release - be sure to check it out!


Hi, Sean and thank you for allowing me to talk to you about "life as an editor" at Echelon Press. As both author and editor you have an inside knowledge of what a publisher is looking for in the dreaded query letter and synopsis. Is there a magic formula?

Click below for the answer, and more questions:
 

Absolutely NOT. I remember when I wrote my first query letters. The fear, the sweat, the nervousness. You have to describe your manuscript in one short page, try to entice a publisher to want to read it, and tell them everything you hope to accomplish with your manuscript. That's scary. Then I got my foot in the door and learned something very unbelievable. Publishers are people too! I know right? I didn't believe it either. If I had to give aspiring authors one bit of advice when it comes to querying publishers it would be: Take your nervousness, wad it up in a tight little ball, and throw it in that trashcan next to your desk. Make your query letter interesting, funny, or different. Don't use templates. There are a ton of them out there and read like stereo instructions. Be yourself, focus on your manuscript, and for the love of Pete, FOLLOW THE PUBLISHER'S SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! They differ from publisher to publisher, but the results are the same if you don't follow them. (DELETE)

Is there a best way to edit? I’ve heard that leaving the MS a couple of weeks before editing is one of the ways to successfully edit, but is there another?
Editing another person's manuscript is very different from editing your own. Editing your own work is nearly impossible. You always miss something because the story is so ingrained in your mind, you see words that should be there but aren't, misused words make sense, and even spelling errors get overlooked. When editing another person's you have to focus on the words instead of the sentence, you can't read like you normally would. Focus is essential. I try not to edit when my kids are around. That's like defusing a nuclear bomb in the middle of a rock concert. The harder part comes when you get the edits back from the author and have to go through it again. Sometimes things will be changed and not always correctly, but at this point you know the story and can fall into the same trap as editing your own work. It takes patience.

What is the prime difference between indie and traditional publishers?
Mostly in marketing and distribution. Indie publishers do market their author's works, but due to budgetary constraints, often rely on authors to do much of the legwork. It is essential for an author signing with an indie publisher to understand that their work will not sell itself. They need to get out there, schedule book signings, work to sell their product, and maintain a prominent social media presence. The other difference comes in the distribution of books. Traditional publishers will mass produce their authors books. Printing hundreds of thousands of copies and distributing them to large bookstores across the country. Indie publishers don't do this. They print smaller runs of titles, and make them available as needed to bookstores. Traditional publishers also print hardcover editions of works. Most indie publishers don't do this either because of the cost effectiveness of not doing so. Hardcovers are expensive to print, expensive to buy, and the returns on them often aren't worth it. How many times have you been in a bookstore and perused their clearance items? Nine times out of ten, they're full of hardcover books that have been marked down to cost just to get rid of them.

What’s stopping someone from starting up their own publishing company, and calling them an Indie Press?
Believe it or not, it doesn't happen quite often. It takes patience, capitol, experience, and a cast iron will that will keep you going throughout the hardships, difficulties, and stress. I've dealt with the owner of Echelon Press for a while. To say she is a strong woman would be one of the most embarrassing understatements of the century. She is one tough cookie and if were one iota less of a tough cookie, would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. She fights everyday for what she has made for herself. She is well known and well respected. For somebody to start up their own indie press, they would have to have contacts in the publishing industry, know authors they could bring into their house, and understand what does and doesn't work in the industry. Most people who have had negative experience would rather self publish in the future than deal with the headaches of starting their own independent publishing company.

How many submissions do you get on average a month?
We have several divisions at Echelon Press. We have the main Echelon Press, and we also have Quake which publishes YA material. We also have Explorations for scifi/fantasy genres, and Echelon Shorts which publish electronic short stories for Kindles, Nooks, and other eReaders. Each division gets quite a few submissions every month.

In your submission guidelines it says, “All queries MUST include a full Marketing Strategy.” Why is this? Do you not help with marketing? If not, then what is the point of using the company?
This is for the aforementioned reason. Echelon Press DOES help with marketing, but too often in the past authors have put everything on the company's shoulders to market their book. "I'm too busy writing the sequel to market myself," is the best excuse I've heard to date. The inclusion of a marketing strategy is to let us know what exactly the author is willing to do to help with promotion and sales.

What are the primary mistakes do you see writers make in the query process?
Make demands, not follow the submission guidelines, and compare themselves to other authors. Each story is unique and if you write a plausible query and follow the submission guidelines, chances are we will ask to see your story. If you don't, or make demands from the company before we even read your manuscript...


With submissions what makes you stop reading and start skimming—or stop reading altogether?
Horrible or unrealistic dialogue. To me that is the most important part of the story. Fascinating characters or even boring characters should be able to tell a story through their dialogue. If they don't, the story just falls apart. Watch dialogue tags. Having "he said" and "she said" every line is distracting and often takes away from the story. Just as having the person doing the speaking saying the persons name every time. "
"Hey, Jim. Do you want to go to a movie?"
"Sure, Paul," he replied
"That's great, Jim! Let's go!"
"Great, Paul! What do you want to see?"


Skim, skim, skim.

Will you be at any upcoming writers' conferences where people can meet/pitch you?
Definitely. Readercon and South Carolina Book Fair are on my schedule, but the owner of Echelon Press, Karen Syed, attends almost every conference known to man. She is often a key speaker, or even a sponsor, and is always on the lookout for new talent.

What's the best way to contact you?
Just go to our main website. www.echelonpress.com. All the submission emails for the various divisions of Echelon Press are there. I can always be reached at shayden.echelonpress@gmail.com

Best piece(s) of advice we haven't discussed?
Never under any circumstance give up. If you have a story to tell, there will be somebody who wants to hear it. If you submit to any indie publisher and are turned down, there is usually a reason given. Very seldom do publishers just say, "NO." If they do, ask them why. Don't be afraid. Listen to what they say and fix the problem. If you show that your willing to try to make your manuscript better, often they will read your revisions. Just never give up.

Join Echelon Press on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Echelon-Press-Shorts/100000163383263

Echelon Press being discussed on AbsoluteWrite: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=707

Follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/JFHilborne/echelon-press

4 comments:

  1. interesting interview.

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  2. Where are all these indie presses coming from? Sign of the times?

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  3. forgot to add, awesome advice though, and applies to ALL submissions!

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  4. Hi Jane,

    Thanks for the great comment. Actually, Echelon Press has been around for the better part of a decade already. As to the dawn of the age of Indi presses, it is a sign of the times. With the introduction of the eReader and the shift toward electronic publication, I'm sure you'll see more. In just the few short years I've been in the game, I've seen an increase as well. Not only is the publishing game changing, the book selling game is changing too. Just ask borders.

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