Thursday, March 20, 2008

Editor's Pet Peeve

Hello everyone.

I think the topic of tonight's Historical Chat is a good one. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it tonight as the chat conflicts with my church service. So, I thought I'd post a couple of my pet peeves here.

The first pet peeve--at least the first to catch my attention--is a poorly written query letter. I think the problem arises partly because of the animal that is email. When we have to print a letter, put it in an envelope, pay 42 cents to mail it, we tend to spend a little more time on what goes into it. We don't type out a hasty one or two line letter that is basically just a, "This is my book, can I send it to you please?"

In addition, most of the emails we write are informal and chatty, using abbeviations and internet/IM slang to save time. While this is OK in a general email, queries still need to be presented as professional. They should be (as opposed to s/b) written in full sentences, not abbeviations, and they should be well thought-out, professional, and typo-free.

Ideally, queries should be written like a back cover teaser. Introduce the title, target line and word length, and then give a brief, but enticing, one-to-two paragraph blurb about the story. If relevant, add writing credentials.

When I see a query that is professional, I know the author is serious about his/her career, which means the manuscript he or she is proposing to submit will be the best manuscript the individual can make it (some necessary editing notwithstanding).

My next pet peeve has to be sloppy grammar. I am not so much of a stickler that I cannot see the need for a sentence fragment, or ending a sentence in a preposition, here and there (or even using who instead of whom, if it reads better), but I don't expect to see stories so riddled with grammatical errors that I have to wonder what is the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. So, authors, please: if grammar is not your strong suit, have someone look over your manuscript before you send it in.

Within the "grammar" issue, I have to mention the use of semi-colons. I have nothing against them. In fact, I think they should be used when appropriate. But, I see far too many people using semi-colons incorrectly--and because they are not a common animal, when used incorrectly, they really stick out. If you're going to use semi-colons, make sure you use them correctly, please. (hint: A semi-colon is not used to join an independent clause [full sentence] to a dependent clause [fragment]) ;)

We have some wonderful articles and resources in the greenhouse section of our website, so if you need further information on any of these things, I encourage you to visit the greenhouse.

All that said, I have to say that I have been blessed to have had contact with some wonderful authors--both those whose work I've contracted, and those whose work I've had to reject for one reason or another. And to all you authors who are planning to submit something to either the English Tea Rose line or White Rose Line, I look forward to receiving your query in my email box very soon.

Happy Easter, Everyone.
Nicola Martinez, Senior Editor
English Tea Rose
White Rose

1 comment:

NicDarienzo said...

I love this, Nic. Great idea. I was late for the chat myself, and didn't get a chance to share mine, so allow me to dove tail on this one.

My #1 pet peeve? When author's say "I knew it wasn't my best work." Whether they tell me this in response to a rejection, or whether it's an established author to whom I've addressed concerns about an MS.

The cold hard truth here is when an author submits something she hasn't polished, looked at again and polished once more, had a trusted CP read over and polished once more... she's doing us both a disservice. Essentially, she's wasting both our time. Sounds harsh but it's true.

So potential authors, polish those manuscripts until they shine!! You and I will both be happier with the outcome.