Look, I’ve been in the publishing business for approximately 0 seconds, and I already have a great deal of sympathy for editors (except the ones who don’t pay…more on that next week, if she hasn’t coughed up) now I’m experiencing the other side of the submissions process.
I’m publishing book-length character-driven speculative fiction by Australian authors. We ask for a synopsis and the first three chapters. You can read all about Winterbourne Publishing on our site.
Though I’m beginning to think expecting people to read anything is a little optimistic.
I happen to think the submission instructions are pretty clear: Australian. Speculative Fiction. Novels. First three chapters. Synopsis. I also think I’m pretty lenient on the submission process and formatting requirements, especially compared to some other publishers, given you can send me just about any format or layout and if I can read it, I’ll review it; I don’t have strict requirements for cover letter and synopsis length; and I’ll even forgive a typo.
So why I am receiving poetry? And memoirs? And submissions from Americans? And non-SF (at least it’s fiction, so we’re getting closer). And submissions without synopsises (synopses? synopsi)? And incomplete manuscripts? And various combinations of.
Because it seems that quite a few would-be writers out there do not read the submission guidelines before submitting. Don’t even glance at them. And don’t look at the hundreds of writing and publishing advice sites that could give their submission a basic level of professionalism.
No wonder the slush pile is a thing of nightmare for publishers. It’s not the truly dreadful you have to fear — it’s the incompetent.
I am a writer myself and I know how hard the whole publishing process is. I started this game with idealistic notions of giving helpful feedback to every writer who submitted, and yet I’m already reduced to the form letter response because I’m running out of patience with people who don’t have the basic respect to read the plentiful information we provide on our website to help them. How long will it be before I too start kneejerk rejecting writers because I don’t like the first few words of their cover letter? (Never, I hope).
So, new writers. Here is your helpful writing tip for this week. Editors are people too. They give you instructions for submitting to help you. As a gesture of respect — to the publisher, to yourself, and to other writers — read and follow the instructions.
At the very least, think for three seconds about how your submission will be perceived if you don’t follow the instructions.