Tuesday, June 05, 2007

When Your Submission Arrives

This is the process used at Noneuclidean Cafe. It has elements common to many publications, particularly those that accept email submissions. The Key Things to Remember inserts are therefore written to be as generally applicable as possible to any publication you submit to. Of course, where there are differences, the publication's own guidelines should always take precedence.

1. Auto-Responder
Your email reaches our Auto-Responder, which sends a response email saying we've received your submission.

Key Things to Remember
- Make sure to set any filters on your side so that you can receive email from the publication.

2. Filter
Your email reaches our filter. If the Subject line contains the word "Submission" it is forwarded to our Submissions folder. If it contains the word "Query" it is forwarded to our Queries folder. If it doesn't contain either word, it is deleted. Spelling counts. (Like everyone else, we receive tons of spam, so filtering is a necessity.)

Key Things to Remember
- Make sure to follow a publication's guidelines for what needs to go in the Subject Line. If you don't, there's a good chance it will be deleted without an editor ever seeing it.

3. Manuscript Check In
At Noneuclidean Cafe, this is our first manual process. Manuscripts in our Submissions folder are checked into a spreadsheet (recording writer's name, submission type, title and date received), and the attached file is saved. From this point forward, we use the spreadsheet to see which manuscript is next in queue (we read submissions in the order received), and we access the file containing that manuscript directly--we don't look at your email again until it's time to send a response.

Key Things to Remember
- Since manuscript files may be saved separately from your email, make sure your name, whatever contact info the publication requires and the title of your work is included in both your cover email and in the file containing your work. This allows the publication to check in your submission without opening your file, and then allows them to track your manuscript without searching for your original email.

- In the case of poems or other submissions including multiple pieces, follow the publication's guidelines as to whether they should be in separate files or all in the same file. At Noneuclidean Cafe, include them all in one file.

- Follow the publication's guidelines in terms of naming your file, or use something as helpful as possible (say your name and the title) if there are no specific guidelines. Don't name a file the title of the publication--all the files we receive are for our publication, that doesn't help us.

4. Reading Your Submission
Someone (it will be me at least 90% of the time) reads your submission in the order received. At this point, we will either pass on the submission (step 5), or it will be shortlisted (step 6).

Key Things to Remember
- Use the manuscript format given in the publication's guidelines. If none is given, William Shunn's resource giving the Standard Short Story Format is probably the best bet, certainly for a hard copy submission.

5. Rejection
If we don't take your story or poem, we respond to your email to let you know. When time permits, and we have something helpful to say, we give a reason, or make a suggestion on how we think you might improve your piece. After responding, your manuscript and your email are deleted. We keep the record of your submission on our spreadsheet.

Key Things to Remember
- If an editor gives feedback on your work, it is just one editor's opinion, usually given quickly after one reading of your piece. It is meant to be helpful--either in making your piece better, or helping you understand his/her market so that your next submission will be better suited to the publication. Since editors read a lot of work, and know what they accept, it is usually worth thinking about any feedback they offer. However, editors make mistakes--the story or poem is still yours, and you can decide whether or not you agree with the advice.

- Don't argue with an editor's feedback, send explanations of how they misread something, blast them for the feedback they gave. It doesn't look professional. And the editor is simply trying to be helpful--if you think they are wrong, perhaps they are. You don't have to take their advice. And they won't enter into correspondence with you regarding a rejection.

- Don't read things into not receiving feedback on a submission. Trying to read the tea leaves on every rejection is a path to madness. Factors irrelevant to the quality of your work (how many submissions the slushpile reader has to get through that day, whether he/she can think of something helpful to offer you off the top of their head, whether he/she is preoccupied with the cost of getting a plumber in to fix that leak in the basement, the one that looks like it might have been secretly rotting the foundation for months) weigh heavily in whether or not the editor can offer anything specific.

6. Shortlist
If we like your story or poem, or if we want to think about it further, it is shortlisted. Your story is then reread. And at this point, possibly one or two new people read your story, and we discuss. Based on those repeated readings and discussions, we either decide to pass on the story (back to step 5), request a rewrite (step 7) or accept the story (step 8).

Key Things to Remember
- This is why acceptances usually take longer than rejections.

7. Rewrite Request
If we like the story or poems you submitted, but think there are one or two specific problems, we sometimes send a rewrite request. This doesn't commit either side--you don't have to resubmit to us, and we're not saying that if you do we will accept it. However, our acceptance rate for rewrite requests is up over 50%. So, if you agree with the suggestions, it does increase your odds of placing your story or poems. After responding, your manuscript and your email are deleted. We note on our spreadsheet that we requested a rewrite for your story, poem or article.

Key Things to Remember
- Rewrite requests are the next best thing to acceptances. And they're a great opportunity to break into a new market.

8. Acceptance
We respond to your email saying we want to publish your story, and forward a second email with our publication agreement. We make sure we have your bio, any books you've written for our "Books by Contributors" page, your preferred payment method and all those admin details. And then, about a week before the publication date for the issue containing your work, we send you a link to a pre-publication webpage so you can see how it will look. There is much rejoicing.

Key Things to Remember
- How professionally you are deal with the editor after your work is accepted makes a great advertisement for working with you again in the future.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Peter said...

I seldom read Musings on slushpiles, but this one had some excellent points.

I wanted to let you know that "kill your darlings" is from On the Art of Writing. 1916, XII. On Style by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944), http://www.bartleby.com/190/12.html

the exact quote is: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it whole-heartedly, and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’

March 04, 2008 10:52 AM  

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