Recently I had cause to realize just how many people can do themselves & others a disservice when ignoring or not following directions in the world of publishing & submissions. When writers don't research the publisher they are submitting to and don't ensure their submission is a perfect match to the guidelines of what has been requested.
As you all know Naughty Nights Press has recently had several calls for submissions on several short story anthologies in addition to open calls for novels, novellas, novelettes and while a good percentage of writers will follow the specifications of the call to the letter, there are a few who don't.
What these people perhaps may not realize is that the few moments it takes to properly format the work and submit it according to the publisher's requested criteria, can be the make or break for them as to whether the submission even gets looked at or simply deleted.
Now, I can honestly say that on rare occasions, even recently, I've let a few minor things slip by in our submissions and luckily for the author they had gotten most of the other criteria correct or the work wouldn't even have been viewed.
A writer's attention to detail when submitting a work can tell a publisher so many things about them long before the work is ever opened.
I'd like to draw your attention to a few key points to consider when making your next submission.
SUBJECT LINE of the email: a publisher uses this to quickly define what anthology or call the submission is intended for. Failure to properly identify the subject line of your email can and will guarantee you a couple things: Either it gets sent to a folder called Unsolicited Submissions which already hold hundreds of other manuscripts that may or may not ever be seen or it gets outright sent to the trash.
BODY OF EMAIL: Different publishers will ask for different things here and these things can change frequently depending on the calls. Some want a detailed query of the submission, identifying info relating to the author, book/story synopsis, marketing plans, bio and other information.
Some publishers want this info only in the first page of the manuscript. Some, like NNP, want it in the body of the email AND on the first page of the manuscript.
Others may still ask for other variations of the info & where it should appear and really it all depends on the pub. Paying attention to this can also determine where your work ends up.
Without a clear synopsis and other info in the body, at NNP we likely won't even read the work as it's time consuming to download and open files. Time most pubs, like NNP, just can't afford.
PERSONAL INFO & BIO: Your one shot to sell yourself, not your book. Include all pertinent information requested & make sure the bio toots your horn. If you've accomplishments, whatever they may be, mention them. If you've self-published online at free sites, mention you've self-published online but leave off the free sites bit. It only brings you down.
A well thought out and well written Bio will make your confidence in yourself, your ability, shine through.
Oh and my advice, NEVER mention you are not published. Don't lie of course, just omit unless asked directly. Nothing screams insecurity and lack of confidence then a writer who whines about not being published. Putting your work on display at a few free sites shows you've tested the waters, likely received feedback, and are confident enough to feel your work ought to be out there and available to readers. Sometimes it's quite a good way to establish a reader base & followers as well. (a big plus to most potential publishers when you bring a client base with you)
Any good house is going to know pretty soon whether you are or published or not anyway. We DO research you.
And on that note, never claim you've published where you haven't or obtained some credit/award you've not. We will find out and I can't tell you how fast it will discredit you.
Not only with one pub either, editors share, owners talk and if you screw one pub over or embellish where you should not, you will get caught. Then you might as well pack up your pencils because finding a publisher to accept your work after you've lied...yeah good luck.
Publishers may run separate entities but what one knows, they all know or will know. Remember that. It's majorly important to your career as a writer.
LENGTH OF SYNOPSIS: A synopsis is a very important key to your book. It's likely the first thing any publisher sees that is going to speak for or against possible acceptance. A poorly written synopsis can make a great book look like it's not so great and the publisher won't waste their time continuing on to read the actual manuscript.
Don't do yourself a disservice, write a stunning synopsis, utilizing every possible word in the count or length requested to do so. Make sure it contains all the info it should. Character development points, conflicts & resolutions, plot outlines, etc, etc, etc. THIS is the first place you really sell your work. Make it count.
Most publishers will request a minimum of a half page, single spaced. They WANT details. Don't write a hundred words (except where requested) and call it a day or you'll be subbing to the next twenty publishers and getting the same results in no time flat.
FORMATTING THE WORK: Publishing houses generally have specific guidelines they've asked to have your submission follow for multiple reasons. The least of these is readability, but the highest is compatibility with programs they use or email browsers. Most houses will detail out what format the submission must be in, whether it be an attachment as a .doc, .rtf, and on very rare occasions .docx, and if you sub under a format not accepted/requested or (*gasps*) put your story in the body of the email, you take your chances if it will be read or not.
Additionally, with ebooks being the primary acceptances these days, there are specifications of format the editors & formatters must comply to. There are reasons behind what you are asked to do. We don't have time to copy & paste things or convert to correct formats.
If a work requires multiple changes to make it suitable for formatting & conversions etc, it can and probably will be rejected or deleted. It's to time consuming to entirely reformat an 80k book. Pay attention to the formatting request. You can save yourself an auto rejection on that basis at least.
We are a hard assed bunch, we know.
THE WORK: Most publishers want to see a perfectly spelled, perfectly punctuated, grammar compliant, flowing work with perfect sentence structure that has been formatted & edited so it's literally publish ready. Slap it with a wicked, equally perfect cover and up it goes. Yup, that IS what we want.
However, it's not usually what we are going to get. My advice, do the damn best you can to make it as close to perfect in every way before you send it to every publisher you intend to sub to. Have it read by a friend, beta readers, edited professionally (where possible), read it aloud in front of friends as you will note more potential areas of concern or error when you hear it with appropriate expression & passion. You'll know just how many intakes of breath should go into a paragraph and if you're turning blue and gasping between those periods, then break it up! Commas, two sentences instead of one. It can make all the difference.
Have an editing rule, my personal one is no less then three, and stick to it. Who cares if you have to edit it ten times to get it the way you want it. Isn't it worth it? No one can say their first draft is perfect. That's why it's called a FIRST DRAFT! Never submit a work you don't like, are not extremely happy with and proud of accomplishing or others won't like it either. If it's not as perfect as you think it can be, don't submit it until it is. There will always be other calls, more chances, different publishers looking for exactly what you've created.
So, now that I've gone my typical long-winded self, if you've ever submitted a work to a publisher but didn't hear anything back other then the auto-reply, one or more of the above is likely the reason.
However, if you're sure you've done everything as per the publishers request, then it could be possible that your submission never made it through the Internet Gremlins. Your work made a delicious breakfast I'm sure.
And that brings me to one more important point...
FOLLOW UP: Make a note of the specific publisher's criteria on waiting times. If you follow up too soon you look pushy or impatient and will not endear the pub to you. We are all busy. We expect respect.
Trust me when I say far too many people are already emailing us (with questions already answered on the publisher's webpages in the Q&A or FAQ section) to bother us with premature requests on your submission. We all know no one cares for premature right! *evil grin* (collective groans heard from the audience)
It takes time to respond to all these email inquiries and questions. Time that would be better spent actually reading your submission don't you think? You'd be amazed just how much time truly is wasted answering unnecessary emails.
Now, if the maximum waiting period since your submission has come & gone and you've still heard nothing, you're positive you've perfected all the other above criteria, and you seriously are worried the Internet Gremlins were chewing away, then by all means write a quick note, detailing the story name, intended submission call and the date it was sent, expressing your concerns. Don't be rude or demanding, be respectful & patient. Remember, a publisher may still hold your submission in hand and a nasty email could very well be the deciding factor between your submission and another on the table regardless of how good it may be. It DOES happen. Publishers don't like to work with individuals they believe won't represent the company with the utmost professionalism and a rude letter is perceived as a personality trait.
Yes, publishers are busy. We are human and we too can miss a deadline due to unforeseen events, illness or whatever. Most good houses will try to ensure everyone receives a response, even if it's only an update, but those too can get munched by those pesky Gremlins! Damn, and we thought snail mail was bad. Lol
My personal advice if it's not a specific call, wait two weeks over the consideration time noted on the website, then send your short note of inquiry.
If is a specific deadline, like for an anthology, write a note the next day but be prepared for the probability that the works for inclusion have already been chosen.
You might be surprised though as the publisher very well could come back with a note of apology and information on consideration in another anthology your story just happens to fit into.
Anyway, I'm very sure you're sick of hearing from this publisher by now so I'll leave you with the thoughts above and mastering the perfection of your own submissions.
Wishing you all the best of luck in everything you do. May the words flow freely from your mind to your fingertips & may your plot lines, sentence structure, conflict, resolution, characters, world building, HEA's & all forms of editing come out perfect the first time!
Post Note: (you'll notice this is not a new post, page or email)
I've made a few intentional errors in some places above just to make things fun. (cause it's what I live to do) So, to the brave soul who wants to take a stab & re-write my entire message in a clearer, better understood manner without an inkling of an error or a small hint of doubt in clarity as to my intended message, go for it. I might just have a sweet surprise for you at the end. But beware, things are not always as they seem and some invitations can leave you gasping for breath.
Have a truly marvelous week my friends. I am off to consider holiday themed submissions! *rubs hands together at the prospect of all the excitement so many naughty stories is sure to bring*