Excuses…there aren’t any

Excuse: to try to remove blame from

Me (via email): As can be seen from our submission guidelines, we don’t accept authors who live outside the US.

Author (via email): I’m sorry, I missed that since it’s down at the bottom of your guidelines…

Me (what I wanted to say, but didn’t): Is there a reason you didn’t read all the way to the bottom? Do you have an inner stopping point that won’t allow you read past a certain point?

My point with this is that submission guidelines (or anything for that matter) aren’t written for giggles. They’re there for a reason, and the assumption is that those who wish to query will actually read them in their entirety in order to avoid bothering the wrong editor (or agent). Those who don’t read them will invariably make some blunder that tells me they didn’t read all of it, or bypassed them altogether – like the nice gent who sent me a query consisting of a 348,000 word count.

Yes, I stopped reading right there.

And look at it from a different perspective. If you ignore someone’s guidelines or decide, in all your magnificence, that they don’t apply to you, then what are the chances that agent or editor will want to work with you? Right off the bat, you’ve tarnished a potential relationship by wasting everyone’s time – including yours.

I know it sounds cranky, but remember that we know nothing about you and make snap decisions. And we tend to err on the side of safety because we know we’ll be working with you for a long time. If you can’t handle the most rudimentary of tasks, then I wonder what you’ll be like down the line.

Making excuses in the face of clear guidelines fools no one and comes off flat and lame. Of course, there are plenty of places for legit excuses. This is not one of those times.

So, should you decide to ignore or try to take a shortcut that results in your being called out, don’t offer excuses. Admit that you got caught and promise yourself that you’ll never be a ditz again because ve are vatching.

Or better yet…read the guidelines!

7 Responses to Excuses…there aren’t any

  1. Brian Clegg says:

    Reading the guidelines is excellent advice. It also helps to check that you are actually dealing with a publisher – I regularly get manuscripts offered to the Popular Science book review site and have to gently point out that this isn’t exactly what we do.

    Having said that, I am a bit wounded by your guidelines, Lynn. There are some very nice authors outside the US… some even happily published by US publishers.

  2. Aw, Brian, it’s not that I don’t lurve my British cousins. It has to do with promotion and foreign distribution.

  3. NinjaFingers says:

    Of course, nothing will save you from ditz moments…like carefully reformatting a file to an editor’s precise requirements…

    …then sending the wrong version. Ahem.

  4. catdownunder says:

    Isn’t it a good thing (for you) that I can both read AND live outside the US? You will never have to worry about reading Cat-in-translation! 🙂

  5. Pelotard says:

    Over-worked and Under-paid Editor: “Well, your MS is beautifully written, with engaging characters and a gripping, socially relevant story, but I’m turning it down since it doesn’t have a proper ending.”

    Would-be Author: “What? Body count of 1,000, fireballs everywhere, and the protagonist carrying the romantic interest off into the sunset to live happily ever after – whaddya mean ‘doesn’t have a proper ending’?”

    Over-worked and Under-paid Editor: “Oh? Well, I didn’t actually read it through all the way to the end.”

  6. Hah! Nice try, Pelo. Overworked and Underpaid Editor would NEVER claim a lousy ending if she hadn’t read it.

    What is this, talk in third person day?

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