Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Following Directions Says About An Author

I have heard some authors complaining they felt the "submission guidelines" were nothing more than hoops authors had to jump through. Supposedly, these are a series of "trials and tribulations" the author must leap through just to get to the inner sanctum of the editors and agents. This could not be further from the truth. Editors and agents are not there to create a labyrinth of challenges just to mess up the author.

The submission guidelines and the way each of the agencies and editors establish those rules are based on how they process the submissions in their own offices. This may include how the information is logged into data bases to how the editors and agents prefer to read the submissions. Let me use Greyhaus as an example here.

The agency has two emails. One is used for general correspondence and the other is for submissions. This is done for one simple purpose. I do not answer submissions on a daily basis. By having the two different emails allows me the chance to get to the everyday business of the agency with the general email and then, when it is time to work through submissions, going to that inbox allows all of the material to be already sorted.

Should an author elect to use my submission form found on the website, there is a dedicated box for each item I am looking for. When the authors "submits" the form, it shows up in the submissions folder but the material is now in the appropriate order. I am now able to read all of the necessary material in the reading pane of my email without excessive scanning.

Now, should I request material, again, I have specific guidelines. Documents I want sent will be attachments, and will be titled a specific way. Even the subject line is written in a specific format. Why?

  • The subject line sorts the email as it comes in and routes it to a dedicated folder of requested material.
  • When I read manuscripts, I do so from my iPad. Therefore I transfer the files to the iPad and now when they are sorted in my reading app, they are in the order I need them. 
  • When authors embed the information into an email, or they don't label the material properly, getting a response becomes a bit of a chore.
So, why do I bring this up? What does this have to do with the title of the blog post today "What Following Directions Says About An Author". The answer is simple. If I see someone who cannot follow the directions, who feels that his or her situation might be special or different, this gives me a hint of what that person might be to work with.

  • Will this person need so much hand-holding through the revisions process?
  • Will this person challenge what the editors what in revisions?
  • Will this person even understand the revision notes from me or the editor?
For you as an author, you might not think this is important, but you should think so. When you get ready to send out a query letter, a synopsis, or sit down for a pitch, you have to ask yourself what the image is you are sending to the editor or agent. Is this someone they will want to work with?

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