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Old 8th November 2009, 08:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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A common mistake when submitting work

I don't know if this will be useful, but as an editor of a small press, I can tell you about one kind of mistake people make when sending us work, and therefore what to avoid! It might seem like mind-numbingly silly things to do, but I'd estimate that at least a third, or maybe a half, of all the writers that submit to us make this mistake. Unbelievable, but true.

Anyway, the mistake is simple: they don't read the guidelines.

Okay, not all publishing companies have submission guidelines, but as a small, specialised press, we actually have a very simple but very clear set of guidelines. Anyone who sends work in must have seen them, as the only place, pretty much, where we publish our contact details, is on these same guidelines. And a lot of people ignore them and send in inappropriate work.

This will be things such as sending us poetry for a series where we're not accepting poetry, material that's off-topic, material that's over the word limit (we even had one author tell us that we 'had' to consider his work at the full length, even thought it was twice our word limit), etcetera. Needless to say, all this work gets rejected without being read. I'm sure no one on this forum would make these kinds of mistakes, but nevertheless, it's hardly surprising that some writers receive a lot of rejections if they don't even follow the publisher's guidelines.

Another thing that I and the other editors found irksome is when people send in work for a new series very shortly after we publish new guidelines. When we publish these, we publicise the fact on twitter, our mailing list, forums, etcetera, and usually start to receive submissions very quickly. The problem is that all our submissions are for specific topics, and whilst we don't insist that authors write new pieces to submit to us, it's disheartening to see authors send in work that they obviously had sitting around on file because it might kind of fit with the topic (it usually doesn't) and they might as well give it a shot (although it's not really a good idea, as it puts us off them in future).

And lastly, one thing that bothers me and our other editors (although it may not bother editors from other publishers) is covering letters that list other places where the author has been published (we even got one that listed us as one of his previous publications, even before we'd published his work). The thing is here, we really only care about the quality of the work that the author is sending us -- other publications are a bit irrelevant, and it often comes across as boastful. But that's maybe more of a personal thing.

Anyway, I hope at least some of that was useful!

thanks
Rob
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Old 10th November 2009, 09:53 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

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And lastly, one thing that bothers me and our other editors (although it may not bother editors from other publishers) is covering letters that list other places where the author has been published (we even got one that listed us as one of his previous publications, even before we'd published his work). The thing is here, we really only care about the quality of the work that the author is sending us -- other publications are a bit irrelevant, and it often comes across as boastful. But that's maybe more of a personal thing.

Anyway, I hope at least some of that was useful!

thanks
Rob
I take it you mention that in your guidelines? My default setting would be to list publications in a covering letter unless the GL stated otherwise.

But as for failing to read guidelines, I totally agree. It's the equivalent of turning up to a job interview in jogging bottoms.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 11:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

Rob,

I like this thread; you come across as human, almost thoughtful. And there was I thinking...

In all seriousness, I found it very helpful. I think if we place publishers and such on a pedestal so high we can't actually see them, how can we possibly hope to represent a true reflection of who we are where we are coming from.

So thanks for your well-chosen words.

Steve
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Old 24th November 2009, 04:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

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Originally Posted by cyberpunkdreams View Post
Anyway, the mistake is simple: they don't read the guidelines.
Absolutely agree - I publish a number of news sites, and provide a clearly linked page for "Press/Media", where I invite PR agencies to send their press releases via email.

However, every Monday morning I can expect a string of calls from needy PR people asking if I got the email, do I need more information - or even, "Can I send you a press release?".

Hng...

I remember when submitting a MS to agents, I'd ring each to see if they were accepting. Nowadays, I would absolutely not do that because it can only annoy them unnecessarily - if they are not taking submissions, I'll get my MS posted back and I'd try elsewhere.

I know people invest a lot of emotional energy in fiction writing, but you absolutely have to try and divorce yourself from that to some degree and replace it with a business head - not hard, angry, demanding - but instead, patient, considered, with careful but prepared decision planning.

After all, if it took a few years to write your work, you should certainly not be in a huge hurry to expect to get published. Writing is only part of the journey - being published is longer yet.
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Old 24th November 2009, 04:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

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I know people invest a lot of emotional energy in fiction writing, but you absolutely have to try and divorce yourself from that to some degree and replace it with a business head - not hard, angry, demanding - but instead, patient, considered, with careful but prepared decision planning.
This is absolutely the key point, I think. It's important to realise that the work is not you, and its rejection is not a comment upon you, the person.

Work is work. If it isn't accepted (for which there could be any number of reasons), you work harder, you try again elsewhere, and/or you work on something else.



And Rob, it was interesting to read your perspective on submissions.
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Old 1st December 2009, 11:11 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

Thanks Rob, well i'm glad i dont fall into this category. When i'm sending work off to a publisher, i ALWAYS look up the submission guidelines, and follow them TO THE LETTER. Its the first thing i look up on a publishers website, or try to find out if there isnt one.

After all, those that dont follow them, quite often won't get published. And when you've spent years working on a piece, you just don't want to take that chance.
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Old 1st December 2009, 11:26 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

My brother's girlfriend's maiden Aunt refers to porridge as stirabout.

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Old 5th December 2009, 02:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

Sorry, having started this thread, I've realised that I've completely neglected it. I forgot to switch email notifications on, doh! Interestingly enough, shortly after writing this post I got a submission that was over ten times the length of our maximum word limit...

@J-WO -- no, we don't mention that aspect, as it's more of a personal taste thing. If we like an author's work, we won't let the covering letter effect our decision to publish either way (within reason). Having said that, I do see it as a little bit of a test for people...

@2ndchance -- <I like this thread; you come across as human, almost thoughtful. And there was I thinking...> Thanks! We're actually a tiny press started by frustrated writers, so perhaps that explains something...

And, without replying to everyone individually, I pretty much agree with all the other sentiments posted here.

I'm not allowed to post links yet (sob), but if anyone's interested, we are accepting submissions of short cyberpunk and mundane SF work at the moment: DM me if you're interested. Thanks!
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Old 6th December 2009, 08:56 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

Good to know that a mag editor feels that way, because my covering letters are pretty darn spartan. I'm never comfortable writing them, I haven't got all that much to brag about anyway and--as you say--its about the work.
Good luck with your endeavors, cyber!
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Old 8th December 2009, 11:35 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

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Originally Posted by J-WO View Post
But as for failing to read guidelines, I totally agree. It's the equivalent of turning up to a job interview in jogging bottoms.
To quote Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness when asked about a hypothetical man getting a job after showing up to a job interview shirtless:
He must have had on some really nice pants.

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Old 8th December 2009, 01:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

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To quote Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness when asked about a hypothetical man getting a job after showing up to a job interview shirtless:
He must have had on some really nice pants.

LOL. I love that logic.
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Old 20th November 2011, 01:53 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: A common mistake when submitting work

Your information is certainly helpful.
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