There are a few common mis-steps that I see on a regular basis, so here’s some ideas of how to avoid them, and make your submission process as easy (and as positive) as possible.
1. Not treating your relationship with a publisher professionally enough. This includes
- unprofessional email salutations – No: ‘hey girl!’. Yes: ‘Dear Editor (double-plus bonus if you know his/her name)’
- inappropriate forums for professional questions – if it’s about your career or the imprint, email is your best bet. Save twitter/facebook/pintrest for casual conversations.
- professional vs personal contact. It doesn’t matter how close you are (or feel you are) to a publisher; you should always treat communications within a professional context with a professional manner.
- affecting unwarranted familiarity. Even if you and your potential publisher are friends, you should still stick to a professional manner in communication. If you aren’t friends, treating your potential publisher as a friend will cause not only confusion, but potential awkwardness.
2. Not behaving in a professional manner. This includes:
- pretty much all social media. What you do with your own account is, of course, up to your discretion. However, be aware that potential publishers often check out twitter/facebook/blogs of potential authors before making the final decision to accept. Being able to conduct yourself online in a positive, professional manner can only ever be a bonus.
- letting your emotions get the better of you. This includes the way that you conduct yourself after a bad review/a rejection/a disappointment. Yes: take it offline and have a whine-and-cheese session with your friends. No: send snarky tweets to the editor who rejected your manuscript. Not only will you put the editor offside, you will also be demonstrating that you can’t be trusted to behave in a professional manner. It’s unlikely that a publisher or editor will take on an author who behaves badly – especially if the writer is, as yet, unpublished.
3.Submission issues. This includes
- Not following submission guidelines. Guidelines are set up for a reason, namely to allow editors and manuscript assessors to be able to read as many manuscripts as possible, in as short a time as possible. That is, to make it easier for them to get to your manuscript in a timely manner.
- Sending a full manuscript instead of a partial. This adds to an editor’s workload, and most editors are already overloaded. Concentrate on making life easier, not harder, for your potential publisher.
- Sending an email before the elapsed time is up, ‘just in case’. If a publisher advises a turnaround, it’s not a good idea to send an email before that time is up, unless you are advising a change of situation (that is, you have an offer, you’ve acquired an agent, you’ve decided to pull the submission, etc).
- ‘I know you asked for three chapters, but I sent you six, because the story doesn’t really get started until then.’ Two problems with this one: first, your manuscript has an issue, and you’ve informed the editor of the issue before s/he has even started reading. Second, you’re ignoring guidelines.
- Arguing with feedback. If an editor/publisher offers you feedback on your manuscript, consider it a bonus to the submission process. Don’t treat it as an invitation to argue about your manuscript. If you don’t believe their feedback is accurate, that’s okay. Remember that every editor brings in their own experience, likes, and dislikes to their reading. Recognising this, and the potential fact that this may not be an editor who is going to ‘get’ your manuscript, can turn a rejection into a learning opportunity.