Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Baen Books Mega Fail

So today I get this email from Baen Books:

January 7, 2009

Dear Author,

Thank you for showing us your novel, The Shattered Sky. Unfortunately it does not seem right for us.

Reader's comment: Very interesting premise. Well written,this one will find a home somewhere.

While due to the volume of submissions and the press of business it is impossible for us comment in greater depth,please do not take this rejection as being necessarily areflection on your work; we can accept fewer than one percent of the manuscripts submitted to us. Best of luck in another market.

Sincerely,

The Editors
Baen Books


- - -

No big deal, just a fairly standard rejection letter, something you have to expect often as a writer.

EXCEPT I sent them that manuscript in May, 2007!

Why the HELL did it take them 20 months to reply? What, they only have one old guy in the mountains reading the slush pile part time, and they send him the manuscripts by yearly mule train?

I have been working as a writer since the mid-90s, and have been published professionally dozens of times. I am a published novelist, abeit not a rich or famous one (yet). Its not like I don't know how things are supposed to work in this business. In publishing, 3 months (90 days) is considered the standard turnaround time for submissions. Six months is considered acceptable but unprofessional.

When I submitted the manuscript, Baen Books said their turnaround time was 9 months. Kind of lengthy, but at least they were up front with it, I thought. So what the heck, I sent the book in, and also I sent standard queries at the 9 months and 1 year mark. When I got no reply, I basically just wrote them off. Rude bastards, I thought, but oh well.

But somehow, this pisses me of even more than getting no reply, because this just smacks of complete incompetence. This was an e-mail submission. It basically means that my submission, along with probably hundreds if not thousands of others, were just sitting in a computer file for a year and a half until someone at Baen deigned to unseal their lips from the posterior of some celebrity author and finally look at them.

And worse yet, Baen has a 'no simultaneous submissions' policy, which means they don't want you to submit your novel to anyone else while they look at it. I hope no one actually took that seriously, because that means that a potential sale to a REAL publisher could be delayed for almost two years while editor Turtle McSlow of Slothdom at Baen apparently went into hibernation.

Imagine waiting 20 months for someone to reply to your job resume, or to your college application, or to let you know your grade for a class, because that's what this is like. A complete and total breakdown of professional respect and courtesy on the part of Baen toward any prospective writer.

If Baen thinks we're so disposable, then do the same with them. Avoid working with them if possible. Go to a publisher that respects you and your work, not one that lets it, and any potential opportunities it could earn you, rot in their computer files for over a year and a half.

6 comments:

Trevor said...

How about a plot synopsis?

Paul Lucas said...

Fair enough, a quick summary of The Shattered Sky that I use in the cover letter:

One hundred thousand years in the future, the solar system as we know it is gone. In its place, billions of slowly-failing fragments of a shattered Dyson Sphere haunt the sun, holding the last remnants of humanity and its daughter races.

Gossamyr is an apprentice shaman of a small transhuman tribe on one of the last functioning habitats, until contact with the advanced human society of the Known Nations changes everything she thought she knew about her world. Plunged into a perilous odyssey across the vast cosmic ruins of the Sphere, she is forced to choose between her greatest love and the ultimate destiny of the human race.


Meh, maybe I shouldn't have gone off so much on Baen, but 20 months is something I might expect from a know-nothing start-up, not a large professional publishing house. If they're going to accept unsolicited submissions, they should either do it right, or not at all.

ImTheDarkcyde said...

"20 months is something I might expect from a know-nothing start-up, not a large professional publishing house."

I would say the opposite, they are a large professional publishing house. They get more manuscripts than you can imagine from would-be stephen king. The start-up however, would have much more personal service.

So in the end sounds like you're just crying because they didn't publish your book.

Abercrombie said...

"I would say the opposite, they are a large professional publishing house. They get more manuscripts than you can imagine from would-be stephen king. The start-up however, would have much more personal service.

So in the end sounds like you're just crying because they didn't publish your book."

Are you serious? A large publishing house would get more manuscripts, but they would also have more people reading them. His point is that no other publishing company, large or small, would treat their customers this rudely.

Also: That story sounds good. I would buy and read that book if I saw it in a store.

Paul Lucas said...

Thanks Abercrombie, that is very much what I meant.

And I hope you do get to read The Shattered Sky someday soon, I do consider it probably the best thing I've ever put down on paper. Just have to find the right publisher, I guess... = )

Gabriel Darke said...

I too submitted a novel to Baen, and it took almost a year to receive a reply---the wording in it the exact same as yours.

I responded to their reply with a couple of emails expressing my deep disappointment, among other things, which I'm sure no one at Baen, and for sure not their submissions editor, bothered to read.

What is vital to know about the Baen unsolicited submission process is that it is a complete waste of time.

Check Baen's publishing schedule to as far forward ( or back ) as you wish and NOT ONE new writer appears in it. Baen's claim of publishing ( less than ) 1% of unsolicited submissions is total bullshit. They publish exactly 0% of them, which begs the question why do they bother soliciting new writers in the first place?

The only reason that makes sense to me is that it instils in the hopeful writer a sense of obligation either to buy Baen books or support the publisher in some other way or both.

My advice to anyone hoping to break into the market is seek to make your mark elsewhere. Submitting to Baen is an absolute dead end and waste of time ( unless you're an established writer or already published by them ).

Good luck in your future endeavors, Paul Lucas

I am Wes Reib, writing as Gabriel Darke.

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