Welcome back to another installment of “Publishing Ins and Outs.” Please keep the questions coming, at publishing@lambdaliterary.org.

As a gender fluid non binary person, I don’t want to make assumptions about the gender of the people reading my queries. What’s a good gender neutral option?

Thank you for your gender sensitivity! There’s nothing like starting off a query on the wrong foot to bias an editor against your submission.

I’m a fan of “Dear Editor/Dear Editors.” A first name is too informal if it’s someone you haven’t met, and some people feel that “to whom it may concern” implies that you don’t actually know who you’re trying to reach. Editor is a professional title; with “Dear Editor,” you’re safe from gender because you’re addressing the position instead of the person, while making it clear that you know where your query should be directed. Vary this to “submissions editor” or “acquisitions editor” if that sort of specific title is mentioned in the submissions guidelines.

I’m a debut author and my first book is coming out in the spring. While I was home over the holidays, my family asked me for updates and I told them…but then everyone had a different excuse for why my novel probably isn’t their thing. I get that, but can’t they be proud of me regardless? Please help me. What can I say to my family? They’re well-meaning and I love them, and I know they don’t mean to crush my feelings, they just don’t know how much it hurts to hear nothing but “I don’t care.”  

Oh, author, I am so sorry. That IS soul-crushing. I think the best way to respond to a family that means well and doesn’t realize the impact of their words, is to be straightforward with them. You can give them the words they’re missing, and in a gentle way so that they don’t feel called-out or criticized.

One suggestion: The next time a book milestone happens for you (cover image release, or Amazon preorder page comes up, or the first pre-publication review comes in), drop them a line to let them know. When you do, tell them that you know it’s not the kind of novel they’d normally read and that’s okay. It’s okay if they don’t want to read it, but you hope they’ll be excited for YOU, all the same. If you don’t care if they ever open it, you can tell them that, and add that you’re still looking forward to signing their copy.

Try guiding them to make it about you and your accomplishment, not about the content. If all else fails, you can always go for the unsubtle: “Congratulations! Your [insert type of relation here] is a published author! Book available at the following locations. They make great gifts!”

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One Response to “Publishing Ins and Outs: Advice on Writing for Publication and Getting Published”

  1. 17 January 2016 at 1:40 PM #

    Regarding the writer whose family was not supportive of his or her getting a book published: no one in my family has read my books as they can’t get beyond the fact there are gay characters of which they do not “approve” (just as they did not “approve” of the real life character of myself and my abominable “life style”!) and they are repulsed by the possibility there may even be gay sex (horrors!), which there is (Ha!) within the context of the stories being told. At the risk of sounding disillusioned I also have found that one cannot even expect anyone beyond one’s truest and best friends to read one’s book(s); we rely upon the kindness of strangers for the most part. Gay men in particular seem curiously blase about other gay men who write or are otherwise creative either because artistic expression and aspirations are so common within our ranks or because they have similar aspirations and may secretly harbor a touch of envy. Indeed some small souls may deflate your excitement with a deliberate blank expression, the pin-prick of an apathetic yawn, and a resounding reminder that your accomplishment might only impress them if you are on the New York Times best seller list or raking in Steven King-ly royalties. Ignore it all and don’t let their lack of interest or support cause you fifty shades of dismay. Keep writing, do it for yourself. I was surprised to discover that some of the most genuine support for my creative efforts came not as much from other gay men as lesbians and straight people. Don’t bother expecting a cheer leading squad indisposed to the struggles of art; all but your best friends will likely keep your ego in check. Chirping about your accomplishment with even those you would think might toast you may just as possibly be misinterpreted as bragging. Just enjoy and savor your accomplishment and hope you find fans and readers; they are the ones who will really cheer you on and allow you the luxury of a minor Hemingway high or Armistead Maupin moment. Let your writing speak for itself. You are a writer; skip the accolades and let that be its own private glory.

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