All right, as some of you know, I recently did some work for a publishing press. What I did was read unsolicited manuscripts (stories sent by authors with no agent) and decide if my boss should read it and publish it. During the weeks I spent doing this, I came to discover that authors really do have the worst habits.
Everything below is something an author has done and that I’ve read first hand. In order for you to do better, here’s my advice:
For god’s sake, put your name on your submission. Holy s***, why is this something I actually need to say?!
Write? Your? Name? With? Capital? Letters? You guys, this is a joke. It should be “John Smith”, not “John smith”.
If you are sending in more than one submission, do NOT change your name on each submission. I’ve seen authors go from “John Smith” to “J A Smith”. Please don’t. (Note that this does not include pseudonyms, which are entirely different.)
Additionally, if I have to learn your surname from your email address, you’re doing something wrong.
What to Include:
Never include character bios unless they are specifically asked for. It’s normal for publishers to want a synopsis with your story. This should NOT include bios. When you send in a submission with character bios, you are saying “I don’t think I’ve described my character well enough in the text, but the information isn’t important enough to be in the synopsis.”
Try not to go too overboard in your introductory email. What works differs from person to person, but I don’t like to see people comparing themselves to bestselling classic authors or being too informal. Aim to stay professional.
On a similar note, don’t use chat speak in your email. I feel I should repeat this because I just read it in an email.
Finally, go ahead and start that email with “Dear Mr. X” or “To Ms. Y”. Don’t just start rambling. (Once again, I shouldn’t need to say it, but some people don’t do this.)
Never send more than the submission asks for. If we want a 10,000 word excerpt from your novel then DO NOT send a word over. If you do, the person reading will simply stop at 10,000 words. I just opened a document that was 38,000 words over the word count. Don’t take the piss.
And don’t think you can avoid this by sending chapters in different files. I will add up the combined word count and I will stop after whatever it is I have asked for.
Please don’t send your proposed cover artwork. You may think you’re being confident, but it comes across as cocky. I didn’t ask for this; I don’t want it.
When we ask for contact info, that does not mean your Tumblr and Twitter URLs. Yes, I’m serious. People have sent this before.
Please mention the title of your piece (or pieces) either in the email you write to the PH or in the file name of the document.
Do not send a document with different colour typeface. If you use different colours to show different drafts in a document, make a copy, change all the typeface to black, and send that instead.
Additionally, do not send a manuscript with any typeface that has been struck through. It tells me you are not confident and that you are in a rush to send off your work before it’s ready.
There’s no general rule as to what you should title the file that you’re sending, but do not have the draft number anywhere in that title.
Make sure your files never have blank pages at the end.
Unless it’s asked for, don’t submit something written entirely in Italics. Write however suits you, but send off work that meets the publisher’s style sheet.
On that topic, indent your work! Either that or have a space between each paragraph.
Don’t send the same story more than once. Why do I need to tell you this? It’s not a raffle, and we aren’t more likely to pick you if we see your story more. On the contrary, I’m annoyed that this happened. Stop wasting my time.
If you’re an American writer using Americanisms and phrases, then maybe you shouldn’t be sending your manuscript to a British press? Because if I can’t work out what you mean, I’m sure my readership won’t be able to either.
For goodness sake, spell check is your friend. Use it (and don’t rely on it).
Ultimately, you want to make things easy for the stranger who will be reading your work. Do what you can to save time for them and they’ll look at your work more favorably. At the end of the day, we WANT to like your work.
Please note that different publishing houses and presses have different requirements, and you should always check their house style sheet and their submission information. The above is a guide that should apply to most companies.
Guest post contributed by Charmedward. Charmedward is a writer and an aspiring publisher. She is also a sub editor at The Writer’s Quibble and the treasurer of the Derby Uni Feminism Society, and she performs at Twisted Tongues. Check out her blog for more of her articles.
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