Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pet Peeves

Every editor has pet peeves about what they do and don’t like, and as a publisher, I’m no different. There are things that come through the submissions inbox that make me cringe as if I’m hearing fingernails scraping down a chalkboard. For those of you who grew up with whiteboards instead of chalkboards, all I can say is; it’s painful.

The worst things that will catch my attention and generally lead to an untimely ‘delete’, or a rather terse rejection letter are some of the following.

1. Legibility—please don’t pretty your submission up by using fancy fonts, or fonts so tiny I need a magnifying glass. On the other hand, I don’t want to see something huge either. A nice simple 12 pt works great for me.

2. Mailed submissions—we don’t accept snail mailed submissions, so if any do come in, and they do, they’ll quickly get recycled. We work in the digital world, and that’s how we like to receive our files. Mind you, the editors do like to practice their origami from time to time. The scrap paper might come in handy.

3. Lack of professionalism—Unfortunately, this is extremely common in emails, and not just with submissions. Remember, you’re asking us if we would like to publish your work, so you have to set your best foot forward. Follow the same rules as you would for a snail mailed query. A professional query letter, with proper spelling (no texting shortcuts please) and grammar. And if you receive a rejection, for heaven’s sake don’t argue with the editor. Accept the criticism and either use it or ignore it. Keep in mind that the publishing community is a small one, and editors do talk amongst themselves. The last thing you want is to have a reputation for being difficult before you even get one book out of the gate.

4. Amateurishness—You may be brand new, but you do not have to advertise it in your query letter. Simply leave out the part about publishing credits. No need to talk about your creative writing course in grade eleven. I’m sure it was interesting, but hardly worthwhile at the professional author level.

5. Copyright 2009 Jane Doe. You do not need to do this as every editor knows that your work is copyrighted from the moment you put your fingers to the keyboard. What it does is show that you’re either mistrustful (and who wants to work with someone who doesn’t trust them?) or completely ignorant of publishing and copyrights.

6. Simultaneous submission errors—While we don’t mind simultaneous submissions as long as we’ve been made aware that it is so, it is in extremely poor form to send the wrong salutation to the wrong publisher! For example, I recently got a submission that was addressed to another publishing company. I’ve even gotten several that were addressed to agents, and the letter reflected that the author was looking for an agent, not a publisher. Hmm. Attention to detail, anyone? I tend to return them with a ‘are you sure this was meant for us?’, just to see what the author will say. I rather admire the ones that come back with the truth: ‘I’m sorry, I was just lazy and couldn’t be bothered to send you a proper letter.’ Do they get passed the initial submission phase? Rarely, but it does happen.

7. Inability to follow guidelines—We have our submission guidelines posted on our site. It clearly states what we want and how we want it. And it also states that submissions not adhering to the guidelines will be deleted unread. Sounds harsh? Maybe. But guidelines are there for a number of reasons. One being that it makes reviewing the submission that much easier if everything is there, and two, it also shows if the author can follow direction. If the author can’t be bothered to do as we ask in submission, what makes us think she/he will do so after contracting? So please, give us what we ask for and you’ll always get a response, even if it’s not the one you wanted.

I’m sure there are TONS of others that get under my skin from time to time, but this is probably the biggest list of submission pet peeves. I could go on about what irks the heck out of me when I’m reading those partials though—POV switches, tense issues, passive voice… (sigh)

Til next time,



  1. Great information. We appreciate you taking the time to share.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Well said. I remember chalkboards well.