Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is it ready to submit? by Terry Burns

Sitting here working through incoming submissions I have to shake my head as I wonder why some people thought they were ready to send it in. Competition is steep for the few slots for representation that I have, even steeper for the few publishing slots that acquisition editors have to fill, why would people waste an opportunity with anything less than their absolute best?

But they do.

I've said it many times, chances are an acquisition editor that takes on a book will then have the be the copy editor that works it up for publication. When they take the book they change hats. So if you wonder why it is important to have the formatting and the grammar and the punctuation right, why it isn't just all about the story, that hat change is the reason. If an acquisition editor keeps being pulled out of the story by noticing things they will have to fix and things they will have to change, then we have forced them into copy editor mode. Copy editors don't buy books. It's our job to give them a submission so clean and well edited that they don't get pulled out of the story by such things.

If the story is great either one of my assistants or I will try to work with the author to clean up these type problems. I do formatting and light editing as I read a submission if I have gotten to the point of asking for a full manuscript. But what if my workload is very heavy? I get several hundred submissions a month and I can't put that much work into all of them. One has to really catch my eye for me to do that.

Any author that is counting on someone on the other end to clean up and fix their work is taking a very low percentage shot. It could happen, but most of the time it is very unlikely. The professional writer makes sure it is as good as they can make it from the beginning.

Any person reading a submission is affected by early impressions as well. If they open something to see improper margins and formatting, if punctuation and editing problems start jumping out at them,, then they know they aren't dealing with a pro. They will still read until they reach the point where they know the submission is not right for them, but they do not have very high expectations. The little things DO matter, they matter very much.

We have a nifty page on our website entitled "Is it ready to submit?" that can help a writer take care of all these little details to create the most professional looking submission possible and to keep that editor from popping up in place of the acquisition person that is supposed to be reading it. The direct link to it is and you are welcome to make use of it.

Just remember, a poor submission is burning a bridge that a good submission on the same work might cross successfully. It is very difficult to get people to take a second look at a project that they have already rejected.

It's best to do it right the first time.

1 comment:

Ron Estrada said...

Good advice, Terry. I'm an engineer in my day job. I wouldn't dream of submitting a print to a customer if I haven't triple checked my dimensions and tolerances. If I'm going to call myself a professional writer, then I should give that part of my life the same scrutiny. Act like a professional and you'll be treated like a professional.