Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Behind the Books: Submissions

Today you’re in for a treat. I’ve invited Erin Deedy of Peachtree Publishers to be a guest blogger. Here is her description of the submission process--the same one my book A Place for Butterflies went through in 2001--and some advice for aspiring authors.

Every day, aspiring writers mail their manuscripts to us. Many wonder where exactly the manuscripts go and why it takes months to hear a response. I'm here to tell you.

Step 1: USPS brings us big bins full of mail.

Step 2: The mail is sorted and manuscript submissions are set aside.

Step 3: Manuscripts are stamped with the date they were received and placed in a bin.

Step 4: All manuscripts are moved to the back of the office and filed with the other submissions.

Step 5: Oldest manuscripts are read first. Several months worth of submissions are in front of the newest arrivals.

Step 6: Promising manuscripts are passed on to a senior editor, while manuscripts that won't work for us are sent back with rejection letters. If a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) isn't included, we send a letter and hold the manuscript for 30 days. This gives the author a chance to send an SASE to get their manuscript back. If no envelope is received, the manuscript is recycled.

Step 7: Every manuscript is logged in once a letter has been sent with the author, address and title info.
It's important to keep in mind that getting a rejection letter from a publisher doesn't mean that you’re a bad writer or that your manuscript isn't any good. Sometimes a submission doesn't appeal to the editor that reads it. Or it may not be a good fit for a publisher’s list.

It’s important to look at a publisher’s catalog before submitting. Does your piece relate to others on their list? I often tell writers to look up publishers in Writers' Market and read submission guidelines before submitting. Knowing who you’re sending things to is very important. For example, we sometimes get submissions for Southern Fiction, because Peachtree originally published in that genre.

If writers had taken the extra step and read our guidelines, they would know that we now publish children's picture books, middle readers and young adult books. In the time it takes us to respond and mail your manuscript back, you could have sent it to a more appropriate publisher. A few more tips:
  • READ! How else will you learn what vocabulary is used for a certain age group, how many pages make up a typical picture book (it's 32, by the way, including copyright page, title page, etc.), or what books are popular right now.
  • If you're submitting a children's picture book, I don't recommend including illustrations, because in the event that a manuscript is acquired, the publisher retains the right to choose an illustrator.
  • If you're submitting a book for older children, don't forget a table of contents, a summery of the book, and at least three sample chapters. An editor wants to know where your story is going, but also get a sense of your writing style.
  • Do not call constantly to check on your manuscript. Give us about six months to respond, then you may call.
  • We know that when a manuscript is sent to us that it is important to the writer. We read every submission and give it the attention it deserves. Peachtree gets approximately 20,000 manuscripts a year, so please be patient.
  • Have someone edit your work before sending it. Be sure that when you mail something it is a complete and final draft.
  • When you include an SASE, make sure that you have enough postage on it and that the envelope is big enough for us to mail your manuscript back.
  • Keep writing. If you are a writer, you will do it no matter what whether you are published or not. The more you write, the better you will get.
  • Keep submitting. I am a firm believer in the idea that a good manuscript will always find a home.

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