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I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel (karma: 2)
By Legwarmermember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 5734, member since Mon Sep 26, 2005
On Tue Jul 03, 2007 06:28 AM
Edited by Legwarmer (141868) on 2007-07-03 06:29:28
Made sticky by Theresa (28613) on 2007-07-31 19:00:00

www.caroclarke.com . . .

by Caro Clarke

I have been in publishing for over ten years, mostly as an editor. I am the person who accepts or rejects your manuscript. Here is how I make my decisions.

I start at the top of the slush pile. I look at each envelope I am opening as I work my way down the slush pile. Sloppy presentation is not a good sign. Neat, clearly labelled give me hope. I haven't even seen what's inside, and already I'm making judgements about the author and, by extension, the work.

Out come the manuscripts. I check each one for a self-addressed return envelope with sufficient postage attached or with enough international postal reply coupons (if it comes from overseas). Is the SASE big enough to hold the whole MS? Or is there a letter-size SASE for my reply? Good. I keep this submission on my desk. No SASE? I put the MS to one side. Maybe I'll read it. Probably I won't. I've had writers who've said: "You won't find an SASE here because you won't be rejecting this novel," Yes, I will. He just won't be seeing his MS again, because I won't be paying to mail it back. I say goodbye to submissions without return addresses and submissions from overseas with their local postage attached. If the writer makes it too difficult or costly for me to contact him, believe me, I won't.

The submissions with proper SASEs are sorted again. Most rejections happen right then and, yes, I still haven't read a word of the text. Why do I reject them?

First, because the genre was not right. I've received children's picture books when I was working for a publisher of true crime. Didn't the writer check out our product? I've worked for a feminist press and received MSS from men. What did they expect? I've had science fiction when I was publishing poetry, poetry when I was editing short stories. What a waste of time, paper and postage. Specialist publishers do not publish outside their speciality. You won't be the exception.

Second, the submission was not in publishable form. I have received one poem. What's that about? Did the poet expect me to do, write back saying "Gosh, such was the brilliance of this single poem that I ask, no, I beg, you to send me anything else you may have," That doesn't happen. I laugh and put aside. It's not even a rejection. I have received MSS written in white ink on black paper. I have received photocopied MSS so faint I could hardly read the words. I didn't try. Do these writers think that their genius removes them from having to follow submission guidelines? That I'll be charmed by their funky individuality? Sorry, I'm a busy editor. My eyesight is precious to me. Writers who don't make it very, very easy for me to understand what they're offering are begging to be rejected.

What makes it easy for me? First, a cover letter that tells me succinctly what the author is sending me. Something like this would do: "Please find enclosed my novel entitled BLOWING IN THE WIND. It follows the struggles of a young actor to fight his cocaine addiction in order to win the heart of the scriptwriter he loves. It is a romantic comedy and will appeal to readers of "Postcards from the Edge." It is 70,000 words." This pleases me. I know what I've got. Why would I reject at this stage? Usually because the genre is wrong, or we have too many of that kind of novel already. A pity, but that's life.

Those still on my desk get their cover letter read in full. There's still time for an author to head towards the rejection pile when I turn the page and look for a synopsis. None? I won't reject it—yet—but it's probably going to be. Also bad is the overly-long synopsis. I've been sent a fifty-page synopsis on a 200 page MS. It's a synopsis for pity's sake. Two pages should be plenty. One page is even better. Or the synopsis might try to excite me with a cliff-hanger: "Ricky and Sandra are trapped in the car as it plummets in the ravine ... and if you want to read the rest, you'll have to read the whole book!" No, Mr Author, I'll have to reject you, mostly because anyone who tries to pique my interest this crudely will write this crudely. Goodbye.

I also enjoy the breathy cover letter that explains the psychology of the characters, the themes of the book, and the spiritual depths of the author: "This is a sensitive, brilliant, yet deep-felt novel exploring what it means to open yourself to the love that flows through the universe. The author is a reincarnated Hopi wisewoman and offers deep mystical insights as the heroine becomes wife, mother, and shaman." Hey, who's the editor here? It's my job to decide if the novel is sensitive and brilliant. The author proposes, the editor disposes.

Now I have a much reduced pile of not-yet-rejected MSS. The cover letters on these are to the point, telling me what the submission is, what it is about, how long it, what niche it fits into, and what its rivals are. Now I want to see what else the writer has done. I want to see a list of relevant other things he's written. I'm all too familiar with the tricks writers use to disguise a thin portfolio, but having even one professional sale is important. They have a track record. It's not just my opinion against the world. I hate being a pioneer. What happens if there is no track record? MS rejected? Not if I've been impressed with the writer's professional submission, but it does make me cautious.

My good opinion can still be lost at this stage if the submission has one or more of the following: (1) a letter from the writer's pastor/mother/best friend/teacher/parole officer telling me how much they enjoyed the enclosed book and recommending it to me (2) a photo of the author [when I want it, the publicity department will ask for it] (3) a photo of the author's family, dog, pastor, favourite car, vacation (4) anything cute that's supposed to catch my eye and make me love the writer, such as felt animals stuck to the cover letter, cookies, hand-made bookmarks, a prayer card, and so on (5) the MS itself tied together with a pretty ribbon, bound in any way [comb, spiral, glued into covers], decorated with bunnies and flowers [unless those are the illustrations]. What kind of serious, self-respecting author would include such stuff? You think Toni Morrison sticks toy animals to her manuscripts? Please.

The submissions that have passed through my first tests will include, besides a good cover letter and a polished synopsis, a MS clearly typed, double-spaced on one side only on standard white paper, with one-inch margins, pages numbered and with a running header that contains the author's name. The MS might be in a folder or a box or, better still, be the first three chapters clipped at the top left corner with a paper clip. I feel enmity towards any MS in a plastic folder or binder: they slither and can't be stacked. Editors hate these. If I have a nice pile of cleanly typed pages, I am happy. It is at this point, and only at this point, that I start reading.

Scary, isn't it?

What do I read? Not cover to cover; I haven't the time. I read the first five pages. Does it grab me? Do I have any desire to read further? If so, I dip into the MS two or three places further in. Prose still of the same quality? Story seem to be moving along? Is the text clean, i.e. no typos or spelling mistakes, no clumsy re-typing? I might even skip to the last five pages and read those. Does the story seem to match the synopsis? Does it seem any good? Would our customers want to read this book? Can I imagine it having market out there?

I can't? Too Bad. I reject it. If I'm not sure, I put it away to look at in my spare time, with a three-month deadline. I suspect I'll probably reject it then. I usually do. So no news is not always good news for a writer.

But hey, I've found one I love! I can't stop reading! I've read the first five pages, then fifty. I'm excited. I'll bring it to the editorial meeting, I'll fight for it, I might even get to publish it, if my boss and the budget and forecast allow.

Your job, as a writer who seriously wants to be published, is to make a no-gimmick, no-hassle submission that gets me to that crucial moment when I start reading. Why give me an excuse to say goodbye?

##

14 Replies to I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel

re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By MelleLuvsDancemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 391, member since Tue Jun 07, 2005
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 02:46 PM
That was harsh...

I guess it's totally mandatory to go through that process. I mean, the publisher's opinion is a mirror of the publics opinion. But it makes me wonder about all the stories that are rejected. Perhaps one of them could have been a brilliant piece of work with an author who didn't seem to meet the requirements of being worthy to read. It's sad, but that's life.

Thanks for that.
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11321, member since Sun Nov 23, 2003
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 03:02 PM
I really don't think it was harsh, because people who don't have the reading comprehension to give the publisher / agent EXACTLY WHAT THEY ASK FOR is probably not a good writer. I mean, honestly--if you want to be treated like a professional, BE PROFESSIONAL in your submission. It only makes sense.

Dani
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By musiclover1991member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 264, member since Fri Mar 30, 2007
On Thu Jul 12, 2007 07:50 PM
I actually kind of laughed at the stuff listed in there! I can't even imagine sending in a book that doesn't met the obvious submission standards. In fact, I would read the submission guidelines over fifteen times and have several people edit it before I send it. I mean, sending your writing to an editor is a big step - it means you're done with your novel (for the most part). It shouldn't need any pampering. If it's good enough as it is, then that's why you send it. Not what other people think of it, or if other people think it's good. If you think it's good and you think it's edited and the editor agrees with you, then that's all that really matters.
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By Celebrianmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 7921, member since Thu Mar 31, 2005
On Tue Jul 17, 2007 12:04 PM
My good opinion can still be lost at this stage if the submission has one or more of the following: (1) a letter from the writer's pastor/mother/best friend/teacher/parole officer telling me how much they enjoyed the enclosed book and recommending it to me (2) a photo of the author [when I want it, the publicity department will ask for it] (3) a photo of the author's family, dog, pastor, favourite car, vacation (4) anything cute that's supposed to catch my eye and make me love the writer, such as felt animals stuck to the cover letter, cookies, hand-made bookmarks, a prayer card, and so on (5) the MS itself tied together with a pretty ribbon, bound in any way [comb, spiral, glued into covers], decorated with bunnies and flowers [unless those are the illustrations]. What kind of serious, self-respecting author would include such stuff? You think Toni Morrison sticks toy animals to her manuscripts? Please.


When I read this, I couldn't stop laughing. And then I stopped laughing because it hit home. People have actually done this! Oh man, that's pretty bad.
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By myessence_dancer Comments: 10, member since Fri Jul 06, 2007
On Sun Jul 22, 2007 09:55 PM
That scared me and made a lot of sense at the same time... just let's me know how hard I am going to have to work to get published!
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By lexilane1 Comments: 184, member since Sun Oct 15, 2006
On Tue Oct 02, 2007 05:52 PM
I am in the middle of writing a story,and my mom said maybe if its good enough she will try to get it published!

Its called:

Books,Boys,Ballet.OH MY!



its about a girl who is accepted to a ballet school and she meets a girl on the train they take to get there and maybe in the of middle book she finds out that the girl leads a totally different life than her!OH!I all most forgot she meets up with one of her friends that was accepted to the school last year and she has a problem during the book.I don't know what yet but something!

characters:

main-Annie Summer

friend from train-Sara Slutz

other friend-Laura Pred



thats all I have so far!
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By markese91 Comments: 32, member since Mon Aug 20, 2007
On Fri Oct 05, 2007 02:55 PM
This helps me alot seeing as I've been writing a couple of books for a while, and haven't finished any of them. Once I do though, I know what I won't do when I send it to you guys.LOL
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By EchoDancermember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 941, member since Tue Apr 10, 2007
On Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:26 AM
Do you work for a publishing company? If so, who?
Thanks
Sierra
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By Krystalmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 8458, member since Tue Sep 02, 2003
On Thu Nov 01, 2007 05:41 PM
I loved reading this. It was harsh at times...but it really opens a novelist's eyes up to see what the editing and publishing world is like. You've got to be ready for all kinds of critique. It's like being a model - if you don't fit the criteria you're out.

I've submitted one novel to be published, and I was rejected solely from the sake of being too young. I'm about old enough now, so I'll have to try it again. ;)

Thanks for taking the time to do this, Leggie!
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By SilverInsanity Comments: 334, member since Sun Dec 23, 2007
On Fri Jan 16, 2009 11:43 PM
Very interesting. Not harsh at all, in my opinion. I like harsh; it's blunt and to the point. :D

Um, yeah, thanks. :D I'll take this to heart whenever I write anything.
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By dancegal2002 Comments: 924, member since Tue Feb 11, 2003
On Wed Apr 22, 2009 09:16 PM
very intresting, i suppose you have to be harsh and selective in the editoring industry, its suppose to be hard for a reason. Good advice, it gives me some tips in the process of writing a book :)
re: I am Your Editor: Submitting Your Novel
By ayyyshugamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1425, member since Wed Aug 02, 2006
On Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:13 AM
lexilane1 wrote:

I am in the middle of writing a story,and my mom said maybe if its good enough she will try to get it published!

Its called:

Books,Boys,Ballet.OH MY!



its about a girl who is accepted to a ballet school and she meets a girl on the train they take to get there and maybe in the of middle book she finds out that the girl leads a totally different life than her!OH!I all most forgot she meets up with one of her friends that was accepted to the school last year and she has a problem during the book.I don't know what yet but something!

characters:

main-Annie Summer

friend from train-Sara Slutz

other friend-Laura Pred



thats all I have so far!



Sara Slutz???

lmao.
re:
By raalph Comments: 11, member since Thu Jul 14, 2011
On Fri Sep 23, 2011 09:50 PM
That scared me and made a lot of sense at the same time... just let's me know how hard I am going to have to work to get published!
re:
By raalph Comments: 11, member since Thu Jul 14, 2011
On Fri Sep 23, 2011 09:52 PM
I've submitted one novel to be published, and I was rejected solely from the sake of being too young. I'm about old enough now, so I'll have to try it again. ;)

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