Saturday, September 30, 2006

Rules To Win

Miss Snark recently had a would-be Harlequin writer ask her about whether she should listen to friends or follow Harlequin guidelines.

I wrote a comment there, but I figured I'd expound on it here.

Rules. Everybody has rules. Nobody seems to like 'em.

But they are there for a reason. It keeps the system running more efficiently. Take for instance, your car. It's designed to run on a certain type of fuel. If that's gasoline, think what sort of havoc you'd create if you decided, "Hmmm ... off-road diesel's 30 cents cheaper. I'll use that instead."

Uh, well. That "savings" will turn into a huge expenditure by the end of the deal, now won't it?

Same thing with publishing submissions. Follow the rules, and you'll stand out from all of those folks who thought that NOT following the rules would result in a savings -- in the publishing world, that's usually a savings of time.

Sure, we all hear about the exceptions to the rule. There's got to be at least one person who got pubbed even though they subbed it written in marker on college-ruled paper, front and back and sent it to a publishing house without a SASE.

But why stack the odds against you? Show them that you are easy to work with. Show them you respect their rules, their system. They'll reward you for that -- if it's only their internal, silent, "Wow. Just what I asked for -- now that's an oddity."

The flip side is this: what rules have you broken and still come out ahead? And were they REAL rules (codified in some way by The Powers That Be?) or just the "rules" that people create out of superstition and anecdotal research?


Anonymous said...

I'm not really a rule breaker. I'm a terrible people pleaser and want to make everybody happy. Usually, that ends up in too many rules and lots of stress - but I think that in the writing industry, you're not going to get anywhere by pissing people off or making bad impressions.

Stephanie Bose said...

Hey Cynthia :)

Oh, the rules... I chucked them out a while ago and am following my gut. OK, so I still subconsciously follow the write-a-clean-query-letter-with-an-SASE-enclosed rule, but other than that, anything goes... if it's done well.

Glad to see you've got time to blog (and breathe) now : )