In Appreciation (Submissions Guidelines)


Today I’m traveling to Toronto, so I won’t be working much on submissions for the rest of the week, but in the weeks since Carina has been open, I’ve been immersed in two things: submissions and getting editors to read those submissions, so I’ve had some time to reflect on submissions guidelines, why we have them and how much I appreciate the authors who take the time to read them carefully and follow them.

I think it must be somewhat confusing (and sometimes frustrating) to be an author, submitting to a variety of different houses, each with their own submissions guidelines and peculiar requirements. With that in mind, I tried to keep ours as straightforward as possible, while giving the information I thought most authors have questions about. So what I did ask for, I actually really meant I wanted. Heh.

When a submission comes in, I look for a few pertinent details that I use to input the submission into our log, and track details. These details are the very first thing listed under “How to Submit” and I’ve come to appreciate (oh, you have no idea how much) the authors who list all this information in the query letter (unfortunately, many authors submitting miss step #1) and appreciate even more the authors who don’t make me work for the information, but lay it out there up front. Into our submissions spreadsheet goes: author’s legal name and title of book. Those, along with date of submission, are the first three elements in the submissions spreadsheet, which we can then quickly and easily import into a larger system if the book is acquired. Along with this information, I also track pen name, genre, word count and if the book is a reissue. Sometimes (many times) I have to leave a question mark in my spreadsheet when this information isn’t accessible in the cover letter. Most people submitting include a combination of these things, but often forget to mention if they’re using a pen name or what their legal name is, and often they’ll mention genre, but not completed word count, or vice versa. What’s actually worst case scenario for me is when the query letter is a separate attachment (because that takes more time for me) and still doesn’t have all of the details.

Just as a recap of our guidelines, here’s what I’m looking for: Query letter in body of email (not attached). Author’s legal name, pen name, manuscript title, genre, and word count. Mention if it’s a reissue, tell me pertinent writing credits and a short blurb of the story.

Not only does having this information shared up front, via the query letter, in a concise manner help me input the submission into the log, but it also allows me to disseminate the information to anyone who might need it (the acquisitions team, the editor I’m passing the submission to, etc) and it allows that person to get a sense of what the submission is before they’ve ever opened it!

So this post is in appreciate of all the authors who take the time to research a publisher’s submissions guidelines and submit a manuscript following those guidelines. Thank you! You make my job easier, the data entry faster, and allow me to move on to the next item in my to-do list (of which there are many) more quickly.

10 thoughts on “In Appreciation (Submissions Guidelines)”

  1. Titchuba says:

    This is copied and pasted from your submissions page. I see no mention of the query needing to be in the body of the email…

    1. Brief, introductory query letter listing genre, word count and a short description of the book, as well as any pertinent information about the author, including both legal name and pen name and any writing credits.

  2. Justin says:

    it might not be there Titchuba, but for future reference if you query to anyone else in the future, most agents and publishes who accept electronic queries do not accept them attached to the email for virus reasons. i know this because i interned with an agent in Dallas for a little while through my university.

  3. Dear Angela,

    You’re welcome – and thanks for thanking us. :)

    By the way, I grabbed the pertinent bit of the BBC radio show (once I got my head round the technology) and put it on my site so you don’t have to skim through the whole show to get to my interview. She got my name wrong but I made a bit of good PR out of it: gave away Google Wave invites to people who tweeted my name was Woodhead not Woodward.

    Bizarre event: One of my followers works in the music industry in London and he overheard a friend at work talking about Twitter. The friend said he’d heard a radio show on BBC Oxford radio about Twitter and was very impressed with Rebecca Woodward. My follower jumped in and said ‘it’s Rebecca WoodHEAD’ and gave him my Twitter details so he could follow me. Small world eh?

    Rebecca (interview is vid on front page)

  4. That’s exactly right, Justin. I have, in my long career as an author, queried many agents and many editors and know for a fact they will not open emails with attachments unless it is “requested material”. I can’t imagine how one would send an email query any other way. (Dear editor, open the attachment and you’ll see what I’ve got???) LOL This is intended in a nice way,Titchuba,so don’t get mad, just chock it up to the old saying that you learn something new every day. And like Angela said, it’s hard to get it right every time. :}

    And I have to add, that I have also never been thanked by an editor for doing something right. I’m (almost) speechless! And, very impressed. Not many editors take the time out of their hetic schedules to do something so thoughtful.

    Off the soap box and back to writing.

  5. Titchuba says:

    I would imagine anyone who sent their query as an attachment put something along the lines of MANUSCRIPT TITLE_AUTHOR NAME_QUERY in the subject line and simply attached the query along with the synopsis and manuscript.

    And BTW – I’m not an author. See how easy it is to make assumptions when something is not clearly stated. :)

    1. Angela James says:

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to stay away from this conversation for so long. Titchuba, you’re right, it doesn’t say, but I guess I would expect (have expected) that most authors understand agents and editors want to know what they’re getting/opening in terms of submission. I’ve actually received a few queries in which the body of the email was completely blank except perhaps a name. It’s disconcerting and seems odd to me! But you make a good point and I’ll look at changing the wording on the submissions page, though I expect I’ll still get queries attached, just as I now get queries without synopsis :P

  6. Bernita says:

    While I’m barely post-Luddite and often dim, I understood the query to BE the e-mail, with the MS and Synopsis attatched thereto.

  7. Justin says:

    its all good. but for future reference it is never acceptable to attach anything in an email unless requested. If anything, this should help you make sure you have a better chance of being solicited

  8. Titchuba says:

    Thanks for the acknowledgement, Angela, it’s very much appreciated. And your point is well taken, sometimes it just doesn’t matter how plainly a request is made, you still get something else.

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