Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why do I insist on email submissions by Terry Burns

The quick answer is that I do almost all of my work online and very seldom have a need for a hard copy print out these days. A hard copy manuscript is practically useless to me. Besides that I tend to lose them. I toss them in the inbox in the study along with a bunch of junk mail, and they can get away from me. I seldom work there, mostly I work wherever my computer is, so I don't get in there to dig them out and deal with them often. I don't feel all that bad about it because our submission guidelines say I don't take hard copy submissions at all. Authors should NEVER submit without checking submission guidelines, so if I get one, I figure I'm dealing with someone that doesn't follow instructions anyway.

Most editors I'm working with prefer to work electronically, so I need clients that will work with me in that manner. A person that tells me they don't know how to do attachments or they seldom email might as well be telling me they deliver handwritten manuscripts. I need people who are keeping up with the changing technology of the industry. A contract for one of my clients calls for delivery of a hard copy manuscript. That client is ready to send the final manuscript but when I checked with the editor to be sure, she said even though the contract calls for hard copy, she'd rather have it electronically. Exactly what I'm talking about, I want to see how well a submitting client handles the technology.

A lot of editors and agents don't want any attachments to an email. Some want electronic submissions but want it all in the body of the email, no attachments. Others, like me, don't want hard copy submissions and do want them as an attachment, not in the body of the email. Some will take hard copy submissions and some, like me, don't.

These differences point up why it is so important to check the submission guidelines before we send to anybody. Those who don't want attachments probably are concerned about them containing viruses. I understand that. I have massive virus protection and several layers of backups, but understand at some point that I will have a problem. It's a cost of doing business.

A proposal in the body of an email is not a virus threat either, but I prefer them attached as a single word or .rtf file because I like to see if the writing is properly formatted, and if it's a project I like it is easier for me to use it as a base to build an agency proposal on. I actually am evaluating the proposal, whether it provides what we ask for in our submission guidelines at and whether we can see how well it would give us what we need to market the project as much as we are looking at the writing itself.

So often at conferences I hear people say "I don't see why they ask me to submit like this, or any reason a proposal needs to contain that, or some other facet called for in guidelines." We ask for a little more in a proposal than some others but we would rather have something and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Other Hartline agents (and other agents in general) may accept things differently. I can't say it enough, we should never submit to anyone without checking their submission guidelines to see if we are sending what they would like to have in the manner they would like to see it.


Linda Glaz said...

Amen. And genres as well. I feel horrible having to write back, please no profanity or graphic sexuality. Why would someone suppose that a mostly inspirational agent would be handling erotica? I don't get it. But then, you hit it on the head. They aren't reading the guidelines. Great post, Terry!

Steven Hutson said...

After 2.5 years as an agent, I now understand why agents and eds are so picky. At least 75% of my submissions don't even pretend to follow my guidelines. Like Terry, I try to be as paperless as possible so I won't lose anything.

Andrea Cox said...

From the writer's perspective, my question to fellow writers would be this: Why would you NOT check (and triple check) the submission guidelines, knowing that if you send something the agent doesn't want to see, you will have less of a chance of receiving a yes from them?

Thanks for another great article, Terry!