Tuesday, May 26, 2015

before you submit

Previous posts on what you should do with your manuscript prior to submitting have covered: editing and formatting. This post will cover submissions Dos and Don'ts.

Megan and I have been managing acquisitions at Less Than Three Press for six years now. The following covers a range of missteps and errors that we have observed in that time.

Don't submit content that the publisher does not publish.
LT3 regularly receives submissions for collections of poetry. We also occasionally receive submissions for cishet romance. This despite the fact that both of these things are clearly mentioned in the "what we do no accept" portion of our content guidelines.

We don't reply to those emails, by the way. The auto-reply will let you know that the email was received in the inbox, but I don't email each author who sends us poetry to tell them we don't accept it. It gets moved to an archive folder, submission unread.

If you're going to submit your work to a publisher, verify that your content aligns with what they publish. Don't waste their time or clutter their inbox with your manuscript if it doesn't meet their requirements. And if you're not sure, ask.

My email and Twitter name are at the bottom of every submission call. 
Read the formatting guidelines.
I cannot stress enough how important the formatting guidelines are. They are not arbitrary. We do not ask that the paragraphs be spaced a specific way or that you leave the headers empty of text/formatting just to be contrary or to fuck with you. We ask it because we need it to be a certain way; when we go through the manuscript to prepare it for editing or production of the various ebook formats, it saves us time if we don't first have to strip our and fix your formatting.

I have spent entire afternoons going through manuscripts to fix margins, paragraph spacing, quotation marks, em dashes, ellipses, headers/footers, and a multitude of other, tedious formatting things - all of which are clearly detailed in our submissions guidelines.

And yes, a lot of these are simple find-replace fixes. But it's a lot less simple when you're having to fix it for 10+ documents at a time.
Address us by name.
Do not address your submission email "to whom it may concern". Our names can be found on the site. My name is listed at the bottom of submission calls.

Also be sure that you're using the right name and addressing the right person. People are not interchangeable, even if they're sisters, and nobody likes to constantly be called a name that isn't theirs.

Most people know that I go by Sam. If you're not comfortable with that, Samantha or Ms. Derr are also perfectly acceptable. 
Make sure the email you provide is one you check often.
I have sent acceptance emails to authors only to never hear back from them until weeks later because: "I only check this one once a week, and forgot the past couple". There are deadlines that have to be kept, emails that we need responses to in a timely manner so that we can keep production moving. We can't do that if the email you provide isn't one you check regularly/consistently.

I have sent certified letters to authors who were not answering their emails. This is not a position you want to find yourself in. Check your email, check your spam folders.
Don't apologize for your book's flaws in your email.
I see this a lot, and quite frankly, I don't get it because it doesn't speak well for you as an author. When you write up your submission email, and get to the part where you're meant to summarize the story, do not offer an apology or any other acknowledgment for the editing (or in some cases: terrible editing) or other flaws.

  •  if you have to apologize for the editing, then your manuscript is not in a submittable state, and you should not have sent it
  •  it does not endear us to you, nor inspire our confidence in the manuscript we will be reviewing

You need to put your best foot forward. You need to put the best possible product forward. No submission will be flawless and without error, but do not make this obvious fact your selling point. You need to engage us in your product and what it can offer.

You also need to engage us in you. When our first impression of you is that you didn't edit or aren't confident in your work, you are not engaging us. You're making us question whether or not you'd be able to put forth an effort to work with us and our editors.
Do not summarize your book by bashing others.
I do not care whether or not your vampires sparkle. If the only method you have of selling us on your book is by mocking or otherwise dismissing another author's work, you are not doing a particularly good job of selling us on your book. Your book should speak for itself, without needing to malign another. Tell us what your book is, not what it isn't.
Tell us what your book is about.
When you summarize your book, do not just give us a check list of what's in the story. Tell us what the story is about, tell us about the characters. We need to know there's an actual narrative and plot. A laundry list of character types & tropes that make an appearance tells us nothing.

Again: you need to engage us and sell us on your product. Give us a reason to read your manuscript. 
Disclaimer: Adherence to these guidelines should not be taken as a guarantee that you're manuscript will be accepted.

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