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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Manuscript Submission Process, Pt. 2

We received a submission yesterday that, sadly, is not atypical. A large submission envelope arrived (priority) offering several graphic novels for publication. Now, I have nothing against graphic novels, and thought the movie "300," which was based on a graphic novel, was intriguingly well done.

But even a cursory examination of our list of titles makes it vibrantly evident Savas Beatie does not publish graphic novels. This particular author spent time (30 minutes) and money (say $10 for the postage, certified return receipt, interior binding, paper, ink, etc.) to submit three manuscripts to a company that does not even publish (or dabble in) their genre. If this author makes $15.00 an hour, he wasted some $25.00 of his own money--and my time.

Which leads me to one (two, actually) of my head-scratching pet peeves. Let's spend a minute discussing the first one, and I will follow up with the second in a later post. Authors pay too little attention to both of them when submitting manuscripts. A few minutes well spent will save you copious amounts of time and energy, and keep acquisition editors from pulling their hair out.

As obvious as it seems, make sure the books produced by the publishing house and the manuscript you are submitting actually have something in common. A completely unrelated query communicates a lot of information, none of it flattering for the submitter. It tells me the author (or agent) did not research our company and list of titles. It also means that almost certainly the "shotgun" approach to getting publishing is the preferred flavor of the day--i.e., send out as many queries to as many publishers as possible in the hope that one will stick.

Would you interview for a job with a company you know nothing about? Would you tell your interviewer you are knocking on every door in every building and up and down the street, ready to take the first offer someone makes? Of course not. But that is exactly what an unsolicited submission in a genre we don't publish tells us.

Credible publishing houses receive a slew of manuscripts and queries (we get at least one query each day). The first ones tossed into the round file are those that do not match what we publish.

There is a reason for a submission process. Ignore it at your peril.

1 comment:

Colt Foutz said...

Ignore it at your peril, indeed. Truer words could not be said on this topic.

What's the common thread connecting publishing houses and agents and literary journals and just about anyplace else you'd dream of submitting writing that will get out to a legitimate audience: Read our past issues/books/list before submitting. The folks who open the big doors care about the biz as much as we writers do: they wouldn't last long if they didn't. But their poor, tired eyes need a break from the constant strain they're put to -- that means doing your homework and knowing what writing they look for before knocking on the door.

It seems like a big "duh"; but if everyone followed this advice, why the common thread? "Read our past issues/books/list before submitting."



Colt Foutz, author
Don Warren and Sixty Years with the World Champion Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps

December 2007 from Savas Beatie