by Raelene Gorlinsky
I just spent a chunk of time working through unsolicited submissions ("the slush pile"). Doing so many in a short time really reinforces the difficulties of this task. For every diamond in the rough, you have to dig through tons of coal.
Every author hears the same advice over and over. Why do people ignore it?
~ Submit your work ONLY to publishers where it would fit. Research publishers, find out who publishes what, and read what they put out so you know if your work fits. Tailor your submission to each publisher.
~ READ AND FOLLOW EACH PUBLISHER'S SPECIFIC SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
Okay, I know the answer to my rhetorical question above. I'm preaching to the choir - knowledgable aspiring authors do follow this advice already. If you are reading this blog, you are probably "the choir" because you actually are looking for information about writing and publishing, you are trying to be professional about being an author.
The rest of the "aspiring authors" - who constitute the bulk of the slush pile - don't know a damn thing about the publishing industry or the skill of writing. They don't belong to writer organizations, haven't tried to learn about about writing and submitting, and have never acquired the basic information on submitting and getting published.
Some of this week's submission horrors:
1. The paper submissions. Never send paper to a publisher whose guidelines very clearly state "electronic submission only, no paper". And vice versa. Your paper submission will be dropped in the trash can. If you included an SASE, you may get a form letter instructing you to read the submissions guidelines.
2. A higher level of "wrong" in paper: the paper submission with the writer's letter asking that the submission be returned - but no SASE included. Sorry, no publisher pays to mail your mistake back to you - especially for the ones from another country.
3. The emailed submission with a whole string of editor addresses in the "To" field. Was the sender so uncaring or lazy that they couldn't send individual emails? Or did the submitter believe any of us would think "Oh, I must read this right away, before someone else beats me to it?" Nope - what we all thought was "Unprofessional. Uninformed. Either stupid or manipulative. Don't waste my time." (By the way, I know some of those other editors in the To box - they don't take electronic submissions. Now we really think poorly of this submitter.)
4. The poetry. I used to wonder why these people targeted us, when we do not publish poetry. Then I heard from editors from many houses that they all get poetry, which their house does not publish. There is a very limited market for poetry and limited publishers who do it, so I guess aspiring poets get desperate and waste their time and money sending to every publisher in existence.
5. The artwork. Err, no, a publisher does not want your depiction of what you want on your cover accompanying your submission. Nor clip art accompanying that poetry we don't want either. Nor photos of you or your family and pets.
6. The submission in another language. Don't bother sending a cover letter in bad English - no, a publisher is not going to pay someone to translate your submission they never requested and aren't going to accept. Publishers deal directly with agents and publishers in other countries to acquire English-language rights to books that they already know they want. Submit your neophyte work to a publisher in that publisher's language.
No, I didn't make any of this up, these were actual submissions this month. And this is before I even read the manuscripts!
So how did you handle your very first submission? Do you feel you knew what you were doing? (And if you haven't submitted that finished story yet, get up your courage and DO IT. Just do it right.)