Editing Rant: Per My Last Email

Image courtesy of the internet Hivemind

What … again?

Breathe Erin, breathe. This person is a new person and doesn’t know the emails you sent out to the other dozen people contacting the publisher.

You know what, I’m going to put the response on my blog under editing rants so at least y’all don’t write this email or a variation thereof. My blood pressure needs to have less wide-eyed innocents hoping to jump to the end without doing the work.

I was really nice in this response and went overboard on the explanation because of the writer’s age. The adults, especially those who mention degrees in Fine Arts or teaching English for decades, grind my gears. How did they get to the age they are without learning the basics of networking and doing background research in an industry you want to enter?


Cold Contact: I am working on a book series. I was wondering if you could tell me what I would have to do in order to have my book published. I am fifteen and plan on having 1,500 pages. I think it will need to be published in two books. Please, I would be grateful for any tips you may have.  (Note: specifics identifying the contact, such as phone number, have been removed.)


Hello (fill in the blank),

My name is Erin Penn, and I am one of the editors at Falstaff Publishing.

The first step of getting published is exactly what you are doing – writing. So many adults skip that step and just try to sell us an idea. Publishers need a finished product, not an assembly kit from Ikea.

Second is introducing yourself to the community of writers and publishing, like you are doing right now. Networking is important on every job, whether trying to break into McDonalds or Penguin Random House Publishing.

Most of us started really connecting at conventions. I see by your area code you are somewhere in TX. I used to live in Waco Texas myself. One of my favorite writers’ convention in that area was ConDFW which happens in Fort Worth TX. This year’s guests of honor for this science-fiction and fantasy writing convention are Charlaine Harris and Yoon Ha Lee. The URL is here: (NOTE as of 4/26/2024: ConDFW is no more – 2019 was the last year, they were not able to recover from the 2020 cancelation.)

The convention is scheduled for February, so you don’t have a long wait if you want to go. Attend as many of the writing panels as you have interest in.

Also of interest is finding a good critique group. In every art, creative people need feedback to get better. Sure you can do it on your own, but if someone has already walked that path can give you a road map, it makes the trip much faster. The challenge is finding the right people to give you the map. Someone giving you a map on how to write the next Great Gatsby novel when you want to write Twilight Zone episode screenplays isn’t going to be helpful. Listen to their feedback and see if they are providing directions to where YOU want to go with your writing. Personally I’ve gone through several groups as my needs have changed, with the first one being a bad fit.

Once you have people you trust to give your feedback, real feedback, that won’t hurt you too much (it will hurt some no matter what), start sharing your work and listening.

Do not submit to a publisher until you have at least three people who are not related to you and are the age range you are aiming the book at – if YA, teenagers, if adults, then adults – and given you feedback, and you have make the changes they have recommended IF THEY MAKE SENSE. Don’t change something from green eyes to brown eyes just because one of the readers liked brown eyes; do change it if you had every female character have green eyes (which recently happened with an adult book under contract I edited).

After getting things looked over, now it is time to do a proofread. This is where a good English teacher can come in handy. If you got one in your school, have him or her help you go over things. You will learn about things like sentence splices, independent clauses, the Oxford comma, and conjunctions. Again, do what makes sense. Sometimes writing is about breaking the rules. Break them. Bend them. Make them sing.

Now you have something a publisher can look at. And that convention you went to, whether condfw or a different one, you might have rubbed elbows with some publishers. Take their cards and now send in your work as they instruct on their webpage. Follow the submission guidelines, all of them. It’s like a job interview; if you can’t follow the directions on a website, the publisher can be confident you won’t be able to follow editing directions on your work. Don’t fail the job interview. If you attend a panel on editing, that will be the most common theme: follow submission guidelines.

So to sum up: write, network, feedback, self-editing your draft, then use your networking to send to a publisher.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Good luck,

Erin Penn