FAQ: "Requested" material

Let’s talk about what constitutes “requested” material. I’ve had it happen numerous times where someone will send me an email here and ask a question about a submission. I try to answer most of those questions on this blog in a general way that will benefit a number of readers, and I think it’s worth it to get these questions out to a wider audience to leave that email address up there. I hope this also helps the person asking the question.

Sometimes, though, I’ll get an email that says, “Can I send you something?” giving me the details that really constitute a query, and I point the person to the submission guidelines. (Though sometimes I wonder how they found the email address right under my bio saying “Go here for our submission guidelines” and didn’t seem to see that link.) And sometimes we’ll get snail mail queries with just the query letter, so we do the same thing–send a standard “here are the submission guidelines” letter, pointing out that if they don’t include a writing sample, we can’t consider the submission.

In either case, the response pointing the writer to the submission guidelines is not a “request” for their material. “Requested material” means that I’ve specifically said to the writer, “I liked your sample. Please send the full manuscript.” Anything else before that point is politely asking the person to follow the directions for submitting.

I don’t request so much material that I don’t remember what I’ve requested, so writing “requested” on an envelope of material I didn’t request just makes me question if you know how to find our submission guidelines and follow the directions.

I understand that some publishers ask for just a query, and some for samples, and some for full manuscripts, and it can get confusing.  

But the directions are out there on how each publisher prefers to receive submissions, and they’re for the writer’s benefit–if I don’t have a writing sample, no synopsis is going to make me know whether I want to say yes or no. So if I said I’d take just queries for unagented submissions I’d have added a burdensome step for my submissions reading. That’s just how we prefer it.

By following the guidelines a publisher provides, you make sure your writing will stand out, and that’s what’s most important.

And for good measure, our submission guidelines are here.