Just put it on the table
We have a one-of-a-kind submission policy. It’s posted on our website for everybody who wants us to consider their work for publication. Here’s what it says: writers should call and talk to me on the phone and tell me about their proposed submission. If I like what I hear, I ask them to send me the first ten pages of their work by regular US mail. I want to see if the writing is good, and if I like what I see, then I will ask for the rest.
This came about because, as we got some years under our belt, we were getting an overwhelming number of unsolicited things in the mail from people who had no idea either who we were or what we did or what they were doing. It’s time-consuming work to read and thoughtfully consider manuscripts. I wanted instead to hear people’s voices, to talk to them, to see what they were about, to try to figure out if they are actually writers down in their souls, and if what they have to say is interesting to us and fits with the concerns of our press.
We probably get two or three submission calls every day, more than that when the economy is taking a downturn, because many people believe that getting published is a sure fire, bullet-proof, very fast way to become rich and famous.
Most callers are nervous. I get it, but I’m not that scary, really! (See photo). Considering that the object of their phone call is to get me to want to read what they’ve written, callers often say the strangest things, like this—
“I’ve never written anything before—until last week.”
“I wrote my first poem this morning.”
“You’ve never heard or read anything like what I’ve written.
“My ____________ (kids, husband, neighbors, best friends, students, mother, etcetera) cry when they read it.”
“I’m retired so I decided to write a novel.”
“I’ve written a book and I have an agent in in Hollywood already selling it.”
“I’ve got an idea for a great book, but I haven’t written it yet.”
“I’ve written a book and it’s not very good.” (NO!!!)
Sometimes I tell anxious authors the story about my husband Bobby. Back when we were first married, I used to make dinner and put it on the table with a list of things that made it not so great, like: I had the oven up too high or I had the oven down too low or I burned this. One day he said, “You don’t need to say anything. Just put it on the table.”
And that’s what I like to tell authors: I really do understand you are anxious to make a good impression, but just put it on the table.
So here are a few ways to do that.
First and foremost, read our guidelines carefully. You don’t need to tell me what they say because I wrote them.
Let me ask you questions instead of you trying to explain. I’ll want to know what the book is about, so give me your elevator speech. One minute should be enough. Two minutes is too much. I don’t need to know the whole plot.
How is this story yours? I’m always curious about where people’s stories come from.
Why did you choose Cinco Puntos Press? Do you know our books? Do you read our books? Better yet, have you bought our books? This last will go a long way toward getting my attention.
If I like what I hear, I’ll ask for ten pages of your manuscript. The first ten pages. By regular US mail. Don’t spend extra money on UPS or Fed Ex.
If I like those first ten pages, then I’ll ask for the rest so include your email address.
Be patient. Publishing a book costs us thousands of dollars and a year or more of our time and energy so we don’t make a decision to contract a book without many readers and lots of discussion.
Good luck to you. I remain, as always, waiting to hear your voice!