Friday, September 20, 2019

Some Thoughts about Submitting Your Manuscript

My press, Terrapin Books, has been in operation now for four years with two submission periods each year. Thus far, we’ve held 8 open reading periods. So I’ve read quite a few manuscripts. While most of them arrive nicely prepared, I’ve seen a number of the same mistakes made repeatedly. In an effort to guide you away from such mistakes, I’ve put together some suggestions, most of which will apply to my press and others as well.

1) Before you submit your manuscript to any press, buy or borrow at least one title published by that press. There are several good reasons for doing so:

  • You need to be sure that your manuscript suits the mission of the press. Would your manuscript be a good fit? Would it fit and still offer something that the press doesn’t already have? Each submission period I get a few submissions of wildly experimental work. A review of what we publish should make it clear that we don’t publish experimental work. We don’t get it well enough to be able to offer much help to the poet. Is your work loaded with obscenities? An examination of what we publish should tell you that your manuscript is probably not for us. Are the poems in your collection all haiku, all prose poems, or any other single form? Again, not for us.
  • Would you be proud to have your book published by this press? Do you see lots of errors that slipped by the editor? Is the font appealing and readable? Is the physical quality of the sample book sloppy?
  • Your first purchase is one good way to support the press that you’d like to publish your work. But if you can’t afford to purchase, you can still get a sense of the quality of the work done by the press by perusing the website. You can also see the interior of many books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2) Before you hit the Submit button, be sure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. After you convert your Word doc into a pdf, open the pdf and make sure it all looks good. You want your manuscript to suggest that you know what you’re doing.

  • Be sure that each new poem begins on a new page. It’s distracting and confusing to get a manuscript in which a new poem begins on the same page as the preceding poem. Do not use the Return key to get to a new page; instead use a Page Break.
  • Don’t use larger than a 12 pt font (it will appear larger in the pdf anyhow). And use the same font throughout the text, though titles are fine in a different and larger font. Don’t use colors. Don’t use fancy fonts.
  • Use one-inch margins all around.

3) Read the Guidelines. Read the Guidelines. Read the Guidelines. I can’t say that enough. Each submission period I receive some manuscripts whose authors clearly did not read the guidelines. I ask for 40-55 poems, so if you send 28 poems, I can be pretty sure that you didn’t read the guidelines. You just wasted your submission fee as well as your time and mine. Also, I ask that previous publications be listed with each poem title and journal title put in a list, yet each submission period I get some that omit the poem titles and lump the journal titles together in one paragraph. Not a big deal and it won’t get you disqualified, but it will tell me that you didn’t read or heed the guidelines.

4) Do not place the copyright symbol anywhere on your manuscript. That implies that you are afraid that someone at the press will steal your work. Really, it’s the sign of an amateur. Don’t do it. A minor matter but it matters.

You want your manuscript to be treated with care. Be sure you also treat it with care.

Good luck!

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