Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keeping to the Code: Do You Follow Submissions Guidelines?

There are nine aisles at the grocery store. One is open. It's the ten items or less aisle. My cart is overflowing.

The lady at the register says, "Come on, Honey. I'll take you on this one."

I unload my cart in record time, help bag my groceries, and apologize in a babbling manner to anyone with less than ten items who ends up behind me.

If there are rules or guidelines, I like to follow them.

In these days where most major publishing houses are closed to unagented submissions, I wonder how many writers play by the rules. Do you send unagented submissions or queries to editors that are closed to them? Or do you consider those publishing houses off limits until you find someone to represent you? Weigh in in the comment section.


  1. I'm like you. I follow the rules. If agents say they are not accepting, I don't send. I guess rules are made to be broken, but if everyone broke the rules, then what? And if I did break them, I would have to have very good reason to. For example, when I was in labor with my son I'm pretty sure my husband broke a few rules getting me to the hospital. I was doubled over in pain, sitting in the front street, screaming. Yeah, I'm pretty sure he did. But there was a good reason to. I guess I just hope to eventually find an agent who believes in me and my work the right way. But maybe I'm the fool. But I'm totally like you. If the grocery store check-out has a limit of 15 items, I would not feel right to get in that line with 20 items in the cart. That's just me. It does seem though, at times, that the rule breakers are the ones who get ahead. But I also have to live with myself and do what I think is right. Anyway.... good question. Have a super day!

  2. Tricky question. To send to a closed house might get your read or just might tick off the editor. However, if you don't send, maybe you're not secure in your submission? An editor told me that as a novelist, I should submit my entire ms even if the editor says 10 pages. His belief was that the editor would feel a tad guilty and would actually look beyond the first page. One thing to remember, tho, this editor only accepted in-house or already signed authors.

    i probably wouldn't send to a closed house.

  3. Buffy,
    I think doubled over in labor is an acceptable time to break rules. Thanks for sharing. My fingers are crossed for you to be matched up with an awesome agent soon.

    That's the first time I've heard that sort of advice from an editor. Most of the ones I follow stress following the guidelines carefully. Thanks for weighing in.

  4. Hmm, I'm a book reviewer, and several times during the year, I "close" to new requests. But even though I'm closed, if I receive a request for a book that I think I'd like to review, I still accept it.

    I like to follow the rules, and I mostly expect those who query for review to follow my own rules, but I break them, too.

    I expect this is a gray area for some editors.

    Alice Berger
    Bergers Book Reviews

  5. Alice,
    You bring us an interesting perspective. I know some editors will open unsolicited mail and some won't even see the envelope. I think that's why many writers figure they have nothing to lose.

  6. I know someone who sends to whomever she chooses...regardless of their stance on submissions.

    She's taken some chances, and she's had some great success.

    I think, however, following the rules is usually the best bet. I have broken MY OWN set of rules - but only because I felt like it was really time to change the rules.

    But I don't know that I've ever subbed to a closed house. I usually follow the rules of publishing houses pretty closely. That's not to say I won't ever challenge them. Maybe one day it will be time. I'll just have to wait and see. :)

  7. (That last post was mine, Laura - now you know my AOL handle!) :) :)

    Donna E.

  8. I am usually a rule follower too. I don't submit to closed houses unless I've been invited to. However, many houses that are closed to unsolicited manuscripts are not closed to queries and so I hope my query will intice an invitation. Luckily, it often does. If they are closed to both, I don't send unless I have that "in" of meeting at a conference or a recommendation from another editor. We really need to get agents so we won't have to worry about closed houses anymore!

  9. Thanks, Laura, for dropping in at the Tide Pool.