Category Archives: Publishing

The Origin of Species: 156th Anniversary

The Origin of Species: 156 Years of Controversy

The title page of the original 1859 edition of The Origin of Species

The title page of the original 1859 edition

On November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species (as it’s commonly known). Its publication marks an important point in the development of the biological sciences.

Despite all the decades of scientific discoveries that have occurred since The Origin of Species was published, Darwin’s work remains controversial. The scientific community and many laypeople accept evolution as a scientific theory, which is basically a collection of facts. Regardless, there are still those who criticize it as “just a theory.” The basis for this is often religious or philosophical.

Creationism, the belief that the universe and life were created by a divine being, is still dominant amongst some communities. What’s challenging about accepting evolution as fact is that it’s difficult (though not impossible) to see. The most astounding results of evolutionary change occurred over great periods—millions, if not billions, of years. It’s not easy for the human mind to register this concept, considering that most of us are limited to less than a hundred years of life.

Great Books Change Individuals and Societies Alike

Charles Darwin, circa 1854, author of The Origin of Species

Charles Darwin, circa 1854

Regardless of whether or not people accept evolution as fact, it’s difficult to deny the impact that Darwin’s Origin of Species had on the world. Controversial in his day, and controversial to this day, the book is responsible for generating many ideas and counterarguments. Darwin based his book on his reflections on what he observed in the natural world. He saw it as a means to share his knowledge with anyone willing to read it.

Even if you haven’t read The Origin of Species, you likely know at least a bit of what’s laid out in the text, if not a bit of what others have revealed about evolution since. The main contemporary controversy is that some think evolutionary theory should not be taught in schools. Others think creationism should be taught alongside it as an alternative theory. On the other hand, most scientific professionals know that evolution is an important aspect of modern biology and are unwilling to give creationism any scientific credence, as it’s basically a metaphysical concept. Despite this divide (or perhaps because of it), the controversies show no sign of settling down anytime soon.

All things considered, The Origin of Species is a prime example of a book whose publication changed the world.

Top 5 Ways to Avoid a Publisher’s Rejection Slip

Avoid Unnecessary Rejections from Publishers

I’ve read my share of manuscript submissions over the years. Many writers do a good job putting together query letters, proposals, and submission packages. Others, however, make serious mistakes that greatly increase their chance of rejection.

There is no foolproof way of getting a manuscript into the hands of an editor, but the following five tips are ways to avoid turning editors off unnecessarily.

  1. Follow the publisher’s submission guidelines to a T.
  2. Publishers list submission guidelines because they help editors handle submissions efficiently. Failing to follow these guidelines risks giving the impression that you have difficulty following instructions or that you are the kind of person who likes to break the rules. Neither of these will encourage a publisher or editor to work with you in what is essentially a professional relationship.

    Be sure to fulfill the publisher’s expectations before sending anything. Cutting corners in this case may do more harm than good.

  3. Ensure your submission is free from spelling and grammatical errors.
  4. Editors prefer to see manuscripts that won’t require more work than necessary. Spelling errors and rudimentary grammar problems are very discouraging. If an editor reviews pages containing these, he or she may become concerned about more serious problems throughout the rest of the manuscript.

    When you have only a few pages (and sometimes only one or two) to make a good first impression, make sure they’re immaculate. And don’t rely on software spell checkers and grammar checkers—they’re prone to errors. Instead, consider seeking help from others in polishing your manuscript before you send it in. A second set of eyes often does wonders.

  5. Write a professional query letter.
  6. Trying to be funny, cute, or unique in your query letter will usually backfire. Most editors will have seen it all before and are likely tired of it. Unless you have a knack for this sort of thing (i.e., you’re a brilliant comedic writer), avoid this. Trying to stand out by using any of these tactics will only distract from the purpose of your query: selling your manuscript.

    Keep it concise and to the point. Be persuasive, not pushy or flashy. Putting forth a professional attitude in your query letter will tell editors that you are serious about your aspirations as an author. A good resource on this subject (and much more) is the publishing guide Writer’s Market 2016.

  7. Submit one work at a time.
  8. Unless it’s encouraged, avoid submitting multiple works. Doing so can come across as desperation or laziness, as it may seem like you’re trying to dump as much of your work as you can into an editor’s lap. Also, it divides the focus of your query, which will dilute your persuasiveness in getting either of them accepted. Focus on one work for consideration, and give it your best shot.

  9. Submit your work only if it’s a good match with the publisher.

I’ve seen children’s books submitted to publishers who don’t publish children’s books. I’ve also seen submissions of fiction that simply don’t match the style or genre preferences of the publisher.

Submitting a manuscript that isn’t a good fit for the publisher indicates that you haven’t looked into the kinds of books they publish, and the odds of your manuscript being accepted may drop to zero. Research the publisher before submitting to them.

Artistic Merit Versus Professionalism

In a perfect world, the merits of your writing alone would sell your manuscript. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the real world. Book publishers often operate on minimal resources, in both finances and labour. As an author, it’s important for you to be professional and to look at your interactions with publishers as a form of doing business.