In this month’s column, I thought I would offer some general tips about manuscript submissions.
From my personal experience as an editor and speaker at literary festivals, I have found that many hopeful writers and authors often don’t take the trouble to learn this side of the business. It’s actually something writers can easily research online and I wonder why they don’t. Here are some do’s and don’ts when submitting manuscripts and also, when approaching publishers/editors at events or in real life (yes, it happens).
Before you send your email, … instead of writing to an editor or publisher asking about submissions, check if your question can be answered online. I’ve just googled “submissions, Scholastic Malaysia”, for example, and the link to its submission guidelines is right at the top of the page.
If you have questions about the creative process, there are lots of websites offering excellent advice on this subject. As an editor, occasionally, I have the time to respond at length to such queries, but I’m often too busy to do so.
Follow the guidelines. Yes, they were written for a reason. For some strange reason, there are writers who ignore everything on the list. Or, they might deliver only one or two of what is requested.
Don’t harass the publisher/editor. Many publisher’s guidelines would say something like so, “If you do not hear from us in six weeks, you may assume that we feel that your manuscript is unsuitable for publication.” This means that from the date of submission, if you don’t receive a reply by the time six weeks have passed, you can assume that your manuscript has not been accepted. It sometimes does happen that you may receive an offer after the six- week window.
Once you’ve submitted your manuscript, all you can do is wait. Please do not bombard the publisher/editor with reminders and queries. I realise waiting for a reply can be nerve-wracking and most publishers would try to email everyone who sends in their submission, but sometimes, they may not have the time to do so. That is the reason a cut-off period is provided.
Keep your distance. If you meet an editor/publisher at a lit event, by all means, say hello and introduce yourself. However, unless they initiate a conversation, do not take up too much of their time. Remember, they are there to work and do consider how tiring it is to have to deal with a string of people asking them roughly the same questions, practically on a loop all day. In short, do not be a stalker. And do not give them hard copies of your manuscript – imagine how inconvenient it would be for them to have to carry around dozens of manuscripts. Sadly, book editors are not Anna Wintour and do not have personal assistants to help with the heavy lifting.
Next month, I will write about the do’s and don’ts of working with an editor once your manuscript has been accepted for publication. I am currently editing an anthology of Malaysian ghost stories and I hope that what I’ve learnt from the experience can help other editors and authors navigate the sometimes choppy seas of the editing process.
Daphne Lee is the editor of Scholastic Malaysia and is currently working on the final edits of Remang: A Ghostly Anthology, to be published by Terer Press.