Monday, April 27, 2020
Helping Your Manuscript Submission Make a Good First Impression
First, it should go without saying that you need to read and follow the Guidelines. But it’s quite clear that some people really don’t bother reading the guidelines. Guidelines vary from press to press, so you must read them each time you submit. My press wants your identifying information on the manuscript, but some presses specify that you should not include it. Be sure you know what each press wants and then provide it. Include everything that the guidelines ask for. I ask for a 4-6 sentence description of what the manuscript is about. Each submission period I receive a number of submissions that omit this information. Don’t be that person.
Most guidelines ask for a cover letter. Yours should be written in first person, friendly but not overly familiar. Be sure you correctly name the press you’re submitting to. When I read a cover letter in which the writer says she’s happy to submit her manuscript to Red Hen Press, well, I get a bit of a laugh, but I think the writer would be happier not making that mistake. Make sure your letter is accurate and directed to the publisher you are submitting to. Be sure to spell the publisher’s name correctly. I wish I had a dollar for each time I’m addressed as Diane Lockwood instead of Lockward. I don’t hold that against anyone. There’s no penalty, but it does suggest that you’re careless when you get the publisher’s name wrong. Do not include your age. I’m amazed by how many poets include this information—and it’s always from an older poet who seems to be apologizing for having grown old or bragging about the advanced years. Just omit that detail. Let it be your little secret.
Most guidelines also ask for a bio. If you are adding the bio after the cover letter, it should be in third person. Keep it brief, maybe one healthy paragraph. Include titles of books you’ve previously published. Be sure to include the name of the press for each title. If you omit that information, you may give the impression that you don’t want to reveal who published your previous collections. (If you’ve published many books, include the most recent 2 or 3.) Include the names of 3-4 journals that have published your work. Do not include an extensive list. Select the best journals, the ones you’re most proud of. And please, I’m begging you, do not brag about or even mention how many publications you’ve had in journals. This kind of bragging is just unattractive and unnecessary. Please also be sure not to say that you have been “widely” or “extensively” published. Do not refer the publisher to your website for additional information. And most especially don’t tell the publisher that she can find your bio at your website. The publisher isn’t going to go in search of your bio. Provide it with your submission.
Regarding the manuscript itself, do not put a copyright symbol anywhere on your manuscript. This implies that you fear the publisher/editor might steal your work. Your manuscript is automatically copyrighted once your name is on it. Don’t offend the publisher! And don’t look like an amateur.
Do not include any decorative flourishes such as clipart or photos. Use one consistent font throughout the manuscript. Do not use a script font! Poem titles may be larger but poems should all be the same size font. Use black ink, no colors. The publisher isn’t interested in fancy formatting.
Put one space after a period. If you persist in inserting two spaces, you will make yourself look outdated. Since the invention of the computer, one space has been the convention. Two spaces is just wrong as well as outdated.
Once you have prepared your submission according to the publisher’s guidelines, check and double check. Then kiss your manuscript goodbye and wish it luck as you press that Submit button.
Terrapin Books will be open for submissions of full-length poetry collections from August 1 thru August 31. Please be sure to read the Guidelines (of course!) and the FAQs.