Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rules vs Guidelines

I was thinking about that line from Pirates of the Caribbean when they are talking about "The Pirate's Code". As said in the movie, these aren't necessarily rules, more like guidelines. I find that the same thing holds true when it comes to submission guidelines.

Every editor I work with has a different approach to what they want when it comes to a submission from me. Some are pretty casual. One, in particular will get on my case (jokingly) if I fail to put all of my contact information not only on the email, but on the first page of the synopsis and manuscript. I should also note, when I say all, it means everything - IM name, Twitter name, address, phone numbers shirt size... - O.K. maybe not that much but you get the idea.

For writers, you have many of these same "rules" and I use this in quotes. There are obviously a few things you do have to do when submitting. These are not so much rules but standards that we work with. These include:

- Double spaced
- Typed
- Standard font

That's about it.

Now, with that said, each agency and publisher may have a few other things they would like to see in their submissions. Those may include:

- A specific lenght synopsis
- Sending only certain items in the query
- Headings with titles and author name
- E-queries with .rtf or .pdf formats

I can go on and on with this list, but I think you get the idea.

The point of all this is simple. Before you submit to anyone, whether it is in person, via snail mail, or electronically, take the time to really read the guidelines and do what the person is asking.

Some authors have asked if an author fails to do exactly what was required, does it mean the manuscript will be rejected? Not necessarily, but remember what I have said about "never getting a second chance to make a first impression." If an agent is already grumbling about your manuscript before he or she even reads the story, this is not a good sign.

Simply put... don't give me a reason to not like your story.

For those of you getting ready to head off to major conferences, do your research. Please...


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