Last week I wrote a blog explaining our policies regarding submissions. I didn’t cover our policies regarding simultaneous submission and previously published manuscripts. A submission we received this week suggested I should have…
The submission contained a brief query letter and a synopsis. Upon reading the synopsis we liked the overall story and requested the full manuscript. The response we received back from the author read something like:
I must admit that I’ve only just read your submission guidelines. I have already submitted this manuscript to other publishers and have heard back from several editors. If this is a problem I will wait to send the manuscript to you until I have decisions from the other editors.
I must admit what really floored me wasn’t that the author had failed to follow our guidelines regarding simultaneous submissions, but rather that the author had not bothered to read the submission guidelines before sending her query. I then did a search on the author and found that the manuscript she had submitted had already recently been published by another small press, which most likely meant the author does not own the rights. We sent an email back to the author thanking her for her submission but stating that we did not accept simultaneous submissions and that we were no longer interested in her manuscript. We even took the time to explain why. The response we got back was:
I know it takes “a good deal of time to review a manuscript properly”. But it would take an eternity to find a publisher unless the author submits to various publishing houses and agencies. Most publishers understand that. But I respect your decision.
“Most publishers understand that.” If the author’s admission that she hadn’t read our submissions guidelines didn’t make me pause, that statement did. I guess I could comment that in fact most publishers won’t accept submissions directly from authors. Instead I want to explain our policy. The reason for the policy is quite simple:
We’re a small company.
The staff at Divertir Publishing currently consists of myself (as Publisher), Elizabeth Harvey (my business partner and our Acquisitions Editor), and two editors that work for us part time. As you could probably guess, because we are open to author submissions we get quite a few queries each day. This is why we require an initial query and synopsis – so we can review work from authors as quickly as possible. We can read several synopses in the same time it takes to read the first three chapters of a manuscript. If we do request a manuscript, it takes up to two weeks to thoroughly review the manuscript and to make useful comments for an author – unlike most publishers, if we don’t move forward with a manuscript after requesting it we like to tell an author why.
The amount of time we spend reviewing manuscripts means that, when we decide to review one author’s manuscript, we have in effect decided not to review another author’s manuscript. Reviewing manuscripts which we are not likely to publish, either because the author is already working with another publisher or because the work has already been published and the author does not own the rights, means that other authors won’t have the opportunity to have their work reviewed and possibly published. This is not fair to those other authors, especially if they have taken the time to read and follow our submissions guidelines.