Follow Instructions, Iconoclast!
Happy Monday, Parvus People! This week’s blog post is straightforward and aimed squarely at writers submitting their work to publishers. The rest of you can check out and come back later in the week for a super important announcement that I’m not allowed to talk about right now or the Hive Mind will reduce my brain to a nutrient paste. So – submitters, read on!
Writers, read submission guidelines and follow them. Yes, there are some industry standard practices that are a good idea (Word count on title page, page numbers in manuscript, and so forth), but these practices are not as important as following the publisher’s submission guidelines.
Follow all the guidelines the publisher is giving you. If you’re going to deviate, it’s best to offer an explanation.
Let’s look specifically at our guidelines. We ask for a some specific info in your submission email. Firstly, your full contact info. This lets us get in touch with you if we want to buy your book. It’s important. But what if you aren’t comfortable sharing your phone number (There are a world of valid reasons for this other than paranoia)? Say so, with an apology.
Why do we want your phone number? A few weeks back, I was reading a manuscript and was having a hard time getting in the right headspace to properly evaluate it. This happens a LOT when you read a half dozen manuscripts in a sitting. The author had provided their phone number and I was able to make a quick call, clarify the discord between the author’s writing and my reading, and give the manuscript a fair read. Without that phone number, I may have made a note to look into the issue later, set the manuscript aside, and forgotten everything except that I didn’t enjoy reading it.
How about the word count of the novel? We’re a digital first publisher – why should we care about how long a book is? It’s not like it impacts our costs, right?
Again, this is mainly about giving your manuscript a proper read. Without word count, I’m left floating a bit on what to expect from the pacing of your novel. A 60,000 word and a 120,000 word novel develop at a VERY different pace. Give me the word count so that I can properly calibrate. Also, knowing I’m about to dive into a longer novel will warn me not to start reading it twenty minutes before I have to walk into a meeting. It’s a notice to the reader that they need to set aside more time to evaluate the book.
Most importantly – following the publisher’s guidelines sends two important signals. One: You’ve taken the minimum amount of time to understand who you are submitting the novel to. If you aren’t doing this, there’s a good chance the following are true:
A) You have no idea who we are, so your novel is probably not a good fit for us.
B) You can’t pay attention to detail. When I notice an error early in your manuscript it’s not because you overlooked one small thing in the insanity of writing a novel; it’s because you can’t pay attention to detail and I should stop reading.
C) See “B” above. Because this is the SUPER important point. If you telegraph an inability to focus on detail in your submission, the publisher will see this same flaw in your writing, rather than a simple slip.
Two: You’re indicating to the publisher that you may be difficult to work with after the book is sold. At the minimum, you’re showing that you won’t pay careful attention to what the publisher and editor ask of you throughout the process and you may need extra hand-holding. This could very well be the difference between “Buy this manuscript now” and “I like it, but…”
tl;dr Follow the publisher’s guidelines carefully when submitting a manuscript. There’s not a single good reason on planet earth not to do so.
Thanks for sharing some time with us. Got something to say? Tweet at us!