A Wordy Wednesdays post.
Once upon a time I took a lengthy career assessment test and met with a counselor to discuss it afterwards. I only remember one thing about the test itself, which is that every time “paid vacation” came up as an option in questions about my preferred priorities for the workplace, I selected that one. I also only remember one thing about the time with the counselor afterwards, and that was that in spite of the results of the test, this man was convinced I needed to be in a research job because secretly I loved research. He thought I was resistant to admitting this because my mother really does love research and I had issues with my mother. (At one time in my youth I did have issues with my mother, but I’m pretty sure I was basically over them by the time of this interaction. This is Exhibit G of why, though hypothetically I see the value of counseling as a profession, in reality I am very skeptical about it. At the time I was studying to go into that field, and this was one of a multitude of reasons why I quit.)
I hate research.
I am not lying–to you, to myself, to anyone. I tried to have an open mind about this counselor’s assessment and went into my then research projects with optimism, only to discover at the end that . . . I really hate research. I don’t mind writing up or acting on the results of the research (although sometimes I still drag my heels over that, too). I just don’t like conducting the research. If I could afford to hire research assistants for . . . everything . . . I would.
Unhappily for me, getting published requires research. Never mind the research I might have to do for any given story–if I want the story even to make it to the corner of the public eye, I have to search out likely publishers (someone who publishes only nonfiction books about, say, the workings of elevator shafts, is probably not going to look twice–or even once–at Favored One). Then I have to find out how they want to be approached. Some publishers don’t want to be approached by authors at all, but will only consider you if you’re mediated by an agent. Some publishers will accept query letters and/or proposals. You just don’t know until you research it.
In spite of my love/hate relationship with modern technology, I have to say this is one area where things have improved for the wanting-to-be-published Research Hater. It used to be that you would either have to fork over biggish bucks, or head over to the library, to find a copy of Fiction Writer’s Market or something like that. This is an enormous hardbound book with the approximate shelf-life of an Encyclopedia Britannica (What? You don’t know what that is either? Stop making me feel old!), and you’d have to wade through pages of super-tiny print and copy down the publishers’ details that interested you. Or you could use the photocopier, but I never had change on me. Sometimes the submission details were sketchy, so then you’d have to write to the publisher and request a catalogue so you could see what kinds of books they published in order to discern the likelihood of their publishing yours. Sometimes you also had to request submission details yourself.
Now, thanks to the ubiquitous Internet, publishing companies all have websites. Prominently on the website will be a listing of all their books, and descriptions thereof. Less prominently, but still somewhere if you’re willing to do a little digging, there will be a page that delineates their submission guidelines. I haven’t, um, researched this, but I suspect the less prominent the submission guidelines, the less friendly the publisher is to unagented work, but . . . I have nothing to back up this hypothesis.
The thing is, you have to carefully peruse the guidelines–of both agents and publishers. Some of them just want a query letter. Some want a query letter and the first three chapters of your manuscript. Some want a full-on proposal, complete with a book summary and then a summary of each individual chapter and some individual chapters. Some refuse hardcopy submissions, only wishing to be contacted by email. Some refuse emailed submissions, only wishing to be contacted by paper.
I prefer the email submissions. It ensures I actually submit, because it’s quick, my files are already right here on my computer, ready to attach, and besides, emailing doesn’t require a trip to Staples for a big manila envelope, or to the post office for stamps. Besides, my printer and my computer are not on speaking terms right now. Reworking the network connexion is a complicated and annoying hassle. Kind of like research.