Saturday, 24 January 2015

Adhere to submission guidelines don't interpret

It is part of the journey...
Last night I was at a party celebrating the second year of the Golden Egg Academy. I can't believe it is two years since Imogen started and how it has grown and what an amazing organisation it has become. It is incredible to be part of and hugely satisfying.

I had some wonderful conversations with various agents and publishers and we were all talking about one of our biggest bug bears and that is not just the inability to adhere to submission guidelines but it is the interpretation of them.

I apologise if I come across as stroppy in this post but we do all get very tired at times. We spend a long time creating submission guidelines. They are not just numbers we pick out of the air. The number of pages or chapters we suggest have been decided because we believe they give us a fair indication of the story. It is standard that most organisations ask for three chapters. When we are doing feedback for editorial surgeries we ask for 30 pages because that is all we can read in the time allocated for preparation. It takes a long time to read and give detailed feedback.

The standard way to present this work is double spaced with reasonable margins. There is a reason for that too. It allows us to be able to see the words and write feedback on it. It is important to be able to see the white space on a page too.

Yet talking to agents, and in our own experience, people seem to find it appropriate to interpret these submission guidelines in their own way. Obviously assuming we won't notice. Three chapters suddenly becomes five because the story doesn't really get going until the fifth chapter. Or it is formatted in single line spacing with the smallest margins you can ever possibly imagine so they can get as many words in and that we can't actually read . Don't worry we re format so that it is set out properly and read only the appropriate number. Or they might slip in a few extra pages because it doesn't end in the right place - those extra pages might equate to half the number again. Some even send the whole novel just in case you have time. We would love to have time but am afraid we don't.

I was talking to Hannah Sheppard of DHH Literary Agency as she was telling me how she gently sends an email to an author who doesn't meet the submission guidelines suggesting that they check out the website. Very generous of her. However if they resubmit and are still ignoring them (it happens!) they have lost their chance. It is really not that difficult.

Please this is your novel. You have worked hard on it. Why stumble at that last hurdle by not bothering to pay attention to those little details. The impression it gives is that you are going to be quite difficult to work with because you just don't listen and can't be bothered to pay attention.

For all those who attended the Big Honk last night here's Andrew Wright's Book Map anthem

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