The State Of The Art

Right now I have two main projects that I am working on, Eisenstrasse, which is going well, and The Worms Of Heaven, which isn’t. To be honest, I haven’t done any significant work on Worms in a while.

I realize that I am still upset–really upset–about the response that I got from the publisher that I queried way back when.

My plan for The Book Of Lost Doors was to find a publisher to re-issue Catskinner’s Book and Cannibal Hearts, and to publish Worms Of Heaven when I complete it.  The idea was to offer a publisher a series that was already begun and had something of a following.

When I first sent off Catskinner’s Book, I explained this and included the first several chapters (I think it was 20 pages, which would have been all of the first two and part of chapter three.) I received back a gushing reply within two hours–“I love it, please send the full manuscript!”

Then I got an e-mail saying that they had a large backlog and not to expect anything back for 4 to 6 weeks.  Fair enough, I waited 8 weeks, then sent a follow up.

I got a reply, “I can’t take on this project, but I gave it to our new editor who is really excited, so you’ll hear something in a week or so.”

I waited two more weeks and sent in another follow-up.

“Your manuscript is an unreadable mess, and you MUST rewrite it entirely, changing this, that, and the other thing before we could even consider looking at it.”

Huh?  What happened between the time I sent you the sample and now?  The part that I got back, full of notations about what I need to change, was the original sample I sent in all those months ago.  So if it’s an unreadable mess, why on Earth did you ask for the full manuscript?  Did you think that the first 20 pages were terrible, but maybe page 21-240 would be so good that they’d make up for it?

Seriously.  What. The. Fuck?

Honestly, I don’t want to even try sending out the manuscript again.  Because this is not the first time I’ve had correspondence with a publisher that has followed this pattern.  It’s been pretty much the same drill from every publisher I’ve talked to.

We LOVE it!



Follow-up letter, then:

This is TERRIBLE, don’t waste our time!

It’s gotten to the point where I’m scared to send out any queries. And it’s clear that self-publishing is not ever going to make enough money to pay for the editing that these books need.

So my feeling with Worms Of Heaven is why bother?  Why spend my time writing a book that I know in advance I’ll lose money on?  I’d rather spend my evenings watching TV and relaxing.

I did, however, get a response from a short story collection that I submitted a story to back in February.  I had forgotten all about it–I had to did through my documents file to find the story I had sent in and reread it, because I couldn’t remember what it was.

It’s a good story, actually.  It’s a horror story, and it gave me chills to read it again.  I’m glad it’s going to get some exposure, but it’s a collection that doesn’t pay.  Still and all, getting an actual acceptance from a publisher was nice.

So what am I going to do?  I’ll finish Worms, I do have people that want to read it.  I’ll edit it myself, and no doubt do a horrible job just like I did on the others, and self-publish it.  A couple of dozen people will read it and like it, and tell me that.  And I guess that will be enough to keep me going.


About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, Worms Of Heaven and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to The State Of The Art

  1. LindaGHill says:

    Stay … away … from the … TV…
    But seriously, I don’t understand how publishers can do that. Having never sent even a query off – yet – I’ve never had the whole rejection experience, so I can’t imagine what it’s like. Discouraging probably doesn’t even begin to describe. You read about how often many of the great authors were rejected and it gives some level of hope. I suppose how many you’re ready to deal with depends on so many factors.
    I really do hope you hang in there though. Your writing may not fit into the picture of perfection that every publisher out there seems to be looking for, but what it does have going for is it’s extremely readable, it flows beautifully and it’s consistent. Hell, we had to learn a new language in order to read “A Clockwork Orange,” and look how many people loved that!
    I can’t stress enough – hang in there, Misha! You’ve got a great thing going. Don’t let ’em get you down!

    • MishaBurnett says:

      It’s not rejection, per se, that gets me down–it’s being strung along that pisses me off. If you don’t like it, just say that from the beginning so I can send it off to someone else.

      • LindaGHill says:

        All that time wasted – I can see that. Is it not advisable to send queries off to different publishers simultaneously? I’ve never been quite clear on the protocol/etiquette.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        I do send out multiple simultaneous submissions, but the initial response from this one had been so positive that I didn’t want to query anyone else until I had a firm answer.

        Now that I think about it, that could be why the first contact was so positive. The publisher may not have even read it, just wanted me to think that I had a real chance with them to keep me from offering it around, just in case it turned out to be something they wanted.

        That would explain the pattern I’ve been seeing. Publishers respond with great enthusiasm to buy time to actually read the submission.

      • LindaGHill says:

        That makes sense. Have you considered looking for an agent?

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Oh, my experience with agents is even worse.

    • Misha, my heart goes out to you for your frustration. But it sounds normal for even some of the great writers when they first started out.

      Here was the first telling statement for me: Honestly, I don’t want to even try sending out the manuscript again. Because this is not the first time I’ve had correspondence with a publisher that has followed this pattern. It’s been pretty much the same drill from every publisher I’ve talked to.

      The comments were consistent!

      Here was the second telling statement for me: I’ll edit it myself, and no doubt do a horrible job just like I did on the others, and self-publish it.

      Did you have your work professionally edited?

      From what I read – and as you explained it – it honestly sounds to me like whatever you sent was liked! It was the presentation that was the problem. And it sounded like they said if you fixed it, they would consider it.

      Now, this is only my assumption based on how you’ve explained things.

      But I say: keep on writing, and keep perfecting, because it sounds like that’s all that’s needed.

      Good luck and God bless!

  2. kingmidget says:

    You are struggling with the same thing I am struggling with. I’ve spent over ten years writing. I’ve self-published two short story collections and two novels and I have earnings of about $1,500 to show for it. It’s a lot of work to put into something with such little payoff. But, here’s the thing — are we doing this for a payoff? Or are we doing it because we like to write? I’m trying to remember that the right direction is to focus on the latter — that we like to write. And we write the stories that move us. And, if somewhere along the line we make a little money self-publishing, or an agent or publisher picks up one of our books, all the better. But, don’t give up on the stories that move you. Keep writing, Misha. Keep writing.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Thank you. Writing I like–it’s the publishing part that gets me down. I don’t need to make money, but I can’t afford to keep losing money.

      • kingmidget says:

        Completely agree. And unfortunately, your experiences with publishers just confirms how horrible that route is. I don’t mind self-publishing. It’s the promotion that I suck at.

  3. paws4puzzles says:

    Oy, my guess is that the first guy really did like Catskinner and the person he’s passed it onto did not. It happens. But whatever you do Misha – keep writing – we want to know what happens!
    (Oh and I’ve read (or at least to read) some terribly edited self-pubbed books – yours is not one of them. There might be a few typos here and there, but nothing that sticks out, and I DO notice this stuff.)

  4. Tannera Kane says:

    What you described, is that common? Have you spoken to other writers who experience the same thing?

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Yes, I have heard other writers describe much the same experience.

      • Tannera Kane says:

        Misha, I find this situation troublesome. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why writers avoid traditional publishing.

      • Brenda Coxe says:

        I think perhaps sometimes what happens is when writers get a request for a certain number of pages, they get excited and want to do their best, so they either hire a professional editor or they self-edit the heck out of those pages. Then when the publisher/agent asks for the rest of the manuscript, they have gained so much unfounded self-confidence that they just send whatever they have. Another possibility is like someone else said, the first person liked the first pages, but the second one didn’t. With some publishers the initial pages are not reviewed by the acquisitions editor but quite often just an intern.

        Is this why so many turn to self-publishing? Perhaps so, but for many it’s an ego thing. I just read someone say on Linked In the other day that they self-published after they got 20-30 rejections. Really? I know someone who had over 100 rejections before he received a contract! On the other hand, I do know many people who have self-published only after receiving hundreds of rejections and giving up, but the key is making sure your manuscript is in excellent shape and has been professionally edited. The problem is many authors today choose to self-publish because they can’t stand being told their “perfect baby” needs work.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Brenda, my novels are already self-published. I have sold quite a few, and have gathered a number of positive reviews. That is what I am looking to sell to a publisher–a series of books that are published and have a fan base.

        It may be that they aren’t good enough to interest a publisher. So be it, I’ll keep publishing them directly for my readers.

      • Do not let the publishing industry get you down. Go self-publishing thru CreateSpace & KDP, both free. Get yourself on Twitter & other social media and link up with lots of wonderful, encouraging fellow writers out there. I’m still struggling with my first 2 books, but am learning how to beat the ‘Big Boys’. Best of luck to you. If I can help in any way, please email me at

  5. Kev says:

    I’m as baffled as you are…why would they ask for the whole thing if the first 21 pages were so terrible? Arseholes! No wonder more and more people are self-publishing… even some that began the traditional route.

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