Friday, August 22, 2014

Questions to Answer about Your Manuscript

Two years ago today, I'd be getting the news of the restructuring of my school and my job.  I was told of the lay-offs of members of my department, including my own lay off.  Unlike my department members, there was a full-time job in the new structure for which I could apply.  Even though I did apply, and I did get the job, it was still unsettling.  It continues to be unsettling.

I've already written extensively about this day, most lengthily in this post, so let me not rehash it all here.

This week at work we got one of those e-mails from one of the people at the top of our company, the kind of e-mail that raises more questions than it answers.  The fact that the e-mail comes two years almost to the day after the last company restructuring does not help allay fears of the workers.

Today I will try not to focus on any of these issues.  I just found out that one of my favorite small publishers, Phoenicia Publishing, has an open submission period that closes at the end of this month.  The press is looking for proposals for nonfiction and fiction manuscripts.  I'm most familiar with the work that the press does with poetry.  But when I saw the call for manuscripts, I thought of not only my memoir/collection of essays, but also my collection of linked short stories.

So today, instead of letting my brain think about the possible meanings of the nebulous e-mail from the executive, I'll work on answering these questions for my submission:

"Your query should include a concise description of your book, a few sentences describing how it fits within Phoenicia's publishing focus, a short bio, and a description of the existing and potential market for your book."

I will let my brain think about whether to submit a query about my collection of linked short stories or my memoir project.  Hmmm.

I'll think of the questions that Sandra Beasley is answering for her upcoming book.  She gives us all a glimpse of this process in this post.  She says, "I know so many folks who--after jumping the hoops to editorial acceptance--are ambushed by the additional hoops it takes to sell the book. The Author's Questionnaire is meant to help itemize your contacts, expand your market awareness, and rehearse answers to likely questions."

She posts the entire set of questions, and it's eye-opening.  For those of us who look them over and have a default response of having failed miserably at making contacts, she reminds us, "I suspect many writers see the heavy emphasis on contacts in the media and freeze up. But you know more people than you realize. Consider all 360 degrees of your life: your identities as a teacher, a community member, a volunteer, a parent, an alumna. Don't fixate on promoting your writing exclusively to other writers. If anything, those other audiences will be more excited at the novelty of you writing a book."

Those are the words I'll return to for inspiration.

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