Thursday, February 21, 2008

Things that make you go hmmm ...

This afternoon I sent aside some time to go through submissions, because they've been neglected for a while. Generally this is a 'nice' job because I can read different types of manuscripts and sometimes I'll find something I want to read more of. Every now and again I'll come across a submission that violates one of my What Not to Do When Submitting rules. Today is was No 2 that was flagrantly flouted - specifically, the writer in question not only declined to follow the submission rules but decided to tell me that I was an idiot for imposing them because they were clearly in existence just to make life difficult for him and easy for me. So what do you think happened to his submission? If you guessed 'auto-reject', you would be correct.

I understand that submission rules can be frustrating but they are there to help give agents and publishers points of comparison between writers. They are also there to gauge the professionalism of the writer - if you cannot write a cogent letter in support of your manuscript, how are you going to be able to survive the editing process, when you may be required to explain or defend your writing choices so that someone other than you can understand them? Instead of using his cover letter to tell me what I needed to know about his manuscript, this writer used the space to lambast me for having submission rules. So my initial impression wasn't good, and it would have cast a pall over his manuscript if I had had the inclination to read it - which, strangely, I didn't.

So in case you're tempted to not follow submission rules and then tell the agent that you're not following them just because they make the agent's job easier, please remember this: being an agent is not easy. The hours are long, the personalities involved often challenging - and that's just our clients. On top of that there are thousands of people a year wanting to be new clients and all asking why we haven't read their submission in two days. We do this job because we believe in books, we believe in writers, we believe in writing and, usually, we get to work with lovely people, and that's what keeps us going on the days when we want to hide in a cupboard because it seems like we'll never, ever get through our manuscript pile. So when someone has a go at me for trying to make life easier by imposing submission rules - well, I guess I write a rant. It's one of the many uses of the Internets.

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