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Monday, November 7, 2011

Submissions Etiquette

Being a member of SCBWI, I have access to a wealth of information about writing and handling submissions. SCBWI suggests that a writer always adhere to the publisher's guidelines regarding submissions. If they say they do not want multiple submissions, then don't do them. So as a writer, I should then follow the proper etiquette as outlined by the publisher. But what about the publisher? What would Miss Manners or Emily Post suggest their side of the correspondance should be? Or being a publisher are they exempt from showing good manners?

Let me give you two cases in point from my own experience.Awhile back I read a story in Publishers Weekly about a senior editor acquiring two best selling authors who would head up a line of their newly expanded imprint for the company. This was a publishing house that I hoped would also represent me. I did a little research and got a direct email for that acquisitions editor. Armed with that information, I was now able to send her an email to compliment her on her achievement and also pitch a couple of book ideas that might fit into two of their book series that they had been publishing for children by various authors.

I did not hear back from her; however I did get a return email the same day from the editor who handled those book series. After a few more emails over the next couple of days, it appeared that for now they wanted to put a hold on the series until the batch in process were released. This editor then agreed that I could send her two picture book stories for her review. I did another edit on the stories and then sent them to her.

After 60 days I got a decline via email on my stories as they "weren't a match for their needs." I was also told that I could feel free to send other stories for review in the future. All that occured without a direct in-person contact.

Now let's take a similar scenario with a direct contact. I went to a writer's conference and had lunch with a children's book agent. I had researched her in advance and could see she respresented the type of books I was writing. I had even listened to her break-out talk earlier and felt more assured that this would be a good contact for me. Once we finished our lunch the agent took a few minute to chat with the five us at the table. She gave people suggestions for improving their work and listened to each of us and our story pitches.

When I gave my pitch, I explained why I thought my stories would have broad appeal and gave her a short synopsis. She said she liked the ideas and gave me her card with her email address to send her my manuscript. She gave her card to each of us at the table.

Once back home, I re-edited my stories and had some additional critiques of it from other published children's authors. Once they gave me the go, I emailed the stories out to the agent. In my email I recounted how we had met at the conference; why these titles would have broad appeal; and Amazon book stats for similar titles and how mine added a little different twist. I even included a short blurb about both books with a teaser end to picque her interest. The manuscripts were included as attachements - double spaced and properly formatted.

Three months went by and no response. I resent my mail with a note mentioning that perhaps my previous email had gotten deleted or misdirected. I also noted that she had suggested that I send these stories to her when she had first heard the details. Three more months later and still no reply.

Those are the results of both a "warm" contact and a "cold" contact in sales terms. In both cases I didn't sell my stories to either the publisher or agent. However, the publisher treated me with respect whereas the agent just ignored me. Who would I suggest others to contact to promote their writings? It would definitely be the publisher. It's the old adage "what goes around comes around." If you don't treat others with respect, then you won't be respected either. That's why many writers are doing multiple submissions without declaring that info in their introductory letters.

Is it really too much to ask to at least acknowldge the receipt of a manuscript? It could be done with an auto reply or one click of a cut and paste form email. That shouldn't be too hard to do as publishers already have form letters that they just drop in a name and send out.

Where do you stand in respecting others with correspondance? Who do you like to do business with in your work?


  1. I have faced this same dilemma when applying for jobs as a pastor. Many churches don't even acknowledge any contact was made. I called a church recently to offer my services as an interim preacher and have heard nothing, not even a simple no-thanks.

    My theory is that people are generally conflict averse and they see rejection as a form of conflict. It's easier on the person making the decision to just ignore the people being rejected. They don't stop to consider the fact that ignoring people is far more insulting than a polite rejection.

  2. The idea of people being conflict adverse is interesting. I never thought of it that way. Not giving someone a response is easy and takes off the pressure of saying no or even not now. We just need more people who will be honest and polite.