A recent email asks a question that has come up several times in the past:
I sent you two manuscripts/books, one to consider as a sample for work-for-hire possibilities, and one to consider as an original work. I got one rejection letter. Was it for one, the other, or both?
Often these questions come because someone has sent a multi-purpose package, wherein they’ve got a full manuscript (not the first three chapters of a manuscript as outlined in our submission guidelines) plus several other items for consideration, then say “please consider this for both work-for-hire and as an original.” Then they include one SASE for the whole huge package (if they include an SASE at all, which is another subject that our associate editor has asked me to cover and which I’ll do in a separate post).
The confusion of “which was it??” then arises because you get one rejection letter, saying nothing about which was rejected.
The simplest way around this confusion is that if you’re going to send several items, be sure to send them in separate packages with a separate SASE, noting on the envelope which project the envelope was related to. That way there won’t be any question about whether one part was passed on to another editor while the other part was rejected. That’s good advice even if you only send one project to each publisher at a time.
However, still make sure that the submission follows the submission guidelines. If a writer sends a whole huge package including a full manuscript, it indicates at least on the surface that they probably haven’t read our submission guidelines (or they think they don’t have to follow the rules), and it’s much more likely that if one part is rejected, the package as a whole is rejected.
Really, the editor reading submissions doesn’t have time to parse out huge packages. She’s screening for potential at that point, which is why we specifically ask that writers only submit the first three chapters and a synopsis. It’s an avalanche of paper to get unsolicit
ed submissions at any time, but when writers send one or several full unsolicited manuscripts at once, that gets overwhelming. We’ll ask for more if we want to read more.
The next simplest solution is to be sure to only send one project at a time. It will really reduce both your headache and ours. If we like your work, you can mention, “hey, I’ve got this other project too. Would you be interested in seeing it?” and then we can decide at that time. If we reject it, you’ll be ready with a newly polished next project that might work out better.
Now, if you’ve followed all those directions and have just noted on your cover letter that you’d like your original sample to also be considered for our shared-world series, great! You’re doing well. But you’ll still only get one rejection letter if we don’t feel like your work is a good fit for us at the time.
Here’s how it works if we think someone fits an existing shared-world series: If we decide from your sample that your writing style works for a particular series, and the timing is right and we’re looking for authors at that time, then an editor will note in the letter that while the sample isn’t something we’d be interested in acquiring, we like your style enough that we’ll keep your sample on file for shared-world possibilities. I’ll announce right now, though, that our soon-to-be-updated submissions guidelines state that we are not currently looking widely for new shared-world authors at this time, and I’m not keeping too many submissions like that on file right now.
Otherwise, I’m afraid that a no is a no. If you don’t hear anything besides no, keep writing, keep improving, and keep looking for other venues to place that work.
And just to reiterate:
Due to the number of submissions we receive, there’s simply no way to give personal feedback on every submission as to reasons we might not be interested . It could be any number of things, but what it boils down to is that it wasn’t the right fit for us at this time (see my 8-post series starting with this one about the relationship between an author and editor for more on that subject).