I’m discovering that publishing houses can be sticklers for their own brand of requirements for manuscript submissions. One hardline publisher states the following: “…we take guidelines seriously. Every submission that fails to adhere to our guidelines will be followed up with a ‘we threw yours in the trash’ email, to inform you that you have failed our test. We also desire to amplify our concern for your apparent inability to follow the most fundamental of instructions.”

Wow: talk about fanatical dogma. It’s like suffering through high school English Grammar all over again. I mean, for crying out loud, even prison guards affect discipline with more compassion.

Getting published is tough. Knowing the rules and guidelines for a particular publisher is essential. I believe that’s why so many writers are doing the indie thing these days. Rules and guidelines remain, but at least you’re somewhat assured that your book will soon be available on Amazon without undue hindrance. That’s how I got Boyhood Adventures published. I used my own rules and guidelines – up to a point. But – in the end – I did get snagged by a few Xlibris rules and guidelines I had overlooked. Oh well, live ‘n’ learn, I guess.

For me, I’m done with indie publishing. The problem for me is my lack of skill when it comes to marketing. By the time you pay an indie publisher a marketing service charge, you’ve pretty much assured yourself that you will be paying for the privilege of being a published writer. At least, a traditional publication house has a vested interest in getting my work out there. I’m not greedy. They make money, and I make money, and I don’t have to concern myself with the complexities of marketing. Working with indie publishers, they make money, and they make money. When I published with Xlibris, I lost over $1,000.00. So, lesson learned. Traditional publishing or nothing. At least, that way, marketing is in the hands of folks who know how best to get my work out there and selling. I can’t seem to get people to show interest in my blog, much less my books. So, I’m very much reliant on folks with marketing skills that far exceed my own.

I’ve come to realize that there is a hard and fast distinction between the two worlds of Rules, and Guidelines. An error here can prove discomfiting. Failing to understand the difference between A-B-C Publishing House rules, as opposed to their guidelines, can be surprisingly perilous. It’s even more difficult to discern the difference when a rule is so buried within stated guidelines, that the rule itself is almost imperceptible.

So, what I’ve learned to do, the hard way, is to take things one step at a time. I work along the path slowly, deliberately, and cautiously. I study submission rules and guidelines like I’m preparing for a college exam. Only then, being satisfied that I have complied with every facet of the agent / publisher’s requirements, I take a deep breath, and ship the manuscript. At least, following that painstaking protocol, if my manuscript is refused, it will be based on the merit of my work and not a misstep in the mine field of rules and guidelines.