Miss Manners Says Be Nice To Your Publisher

The average publisher these days is inundated with manuscripts from a variety of levels of expertise. Being polite, minding your manners, is a good way to impress the publisher, even if they don’t publish the book/story you’re pitching.

So what constitutes “good manners”? There are a lot of things that should be self-evident, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t consider proper etiquette as a necessity.

First point – Make sure your manuscript is edited properly and thoroughly. No publisher – or editor, for that matter – is interested in going through a story that is riddled with spelling errors, lousy grammar and uneven formatting. If you don’t care to make your story presentable, why should someone else care to publish it?

Second point – Make sure your manuscript is properly formatted. Some publishers like double-spaced manuscripts, some prefer single-spacing. Some like an empty line between paragraphs and no indentation, others prefer no empty lines and a single indent. How do you know which format to use? If it’s not published in the guidelines, ask the publisher which format they prefer. I didn’t think it was rocket science, but apparently it is. It also helps keep your story from making it to the slush pile without being read.

Third point – Rejection. Say thank you. Not every publisher/editor will take the time to do more than send you a form rejection letter. If they’ve taken the time to write to you, heed what they say and above all, say thank you. And, believe it or not, say ‘thank you for your time’ even with an outright form rejection. Editors and publishers remember people who are professional.

Fourth point – If the publisher likes your story, they may suggest changes to improve the marketability of your work. Do the changes, even if it means cutting a leg off your ‘baby,’ metaphorically speaking, of course. It may not be as drastic as that but even the smallest of things can make your review rating go from five stars down to one. Publishers know a great deal more about marketability, on the whole, than the writers do, especially first time writers. Say thank you and make the changes. It only hurts once. It’s usually permissible to ask why the story should be written according to the publisher/editor. Just remember to add please when you ask for an explanation for a change. Most publishers/editors are more than willing to add a bit of a lesson to a fledgling writer if it sounds like the writer is both interested in the answer and willing to remember it for the next time.

Final point – Manners never hurt anyone. You’d be surprised at how far a please or thank you goes when it comes to being remembered by a publisher or editor. You may not have the story that they need to publish now, but it’s entirely possible that they’ll need your story to round out an omnibus or collection of stories on just the subject on which you’ve written a few months down the line. Never close your doors by being rude and unwilling to work with a publisher.

No one likes to work with a ‘cranky old git’ so, even if you’re feeling that way, take a deep breath and use politeness to get you through the tough spots. After a while, it’ll become second nature to you and you’ll have the reputation of being a treasure to work with. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t like to find treasure.

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