[sung in my best Elvis voice against the beagle’s protestations because she’d rather I sang “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Houndog.” My neighborhood would prefer that I not open my mouth at all, but I digress…]
Over the past couple days I’ve had phone calls [yes, I rolled our office phones over to my cellie.I’m pathetic. I know this.] about authors who were afraid that I would steal their work, but they forgot to include a SASE (self addressed envelope), and would I please be sure to send their manuscripts back to them. Now, I’ll just gloss over the insulting implications of their request because it’s obvious they’re noobs. They didn’t mean to accuse me of probable theft, but, well, it was a stupid thing to say because theft simply does not happen.Instead I’ll concentrate on the issue of SASE.
I want to save paper by sending the manuscript out several times. First off, are you sure that it’s really necessary to have your work sent back to you? Pages get pretty beaten up. Transit isn’t always the sweetest mistress. I’ve had manuscripts arrive in ripped envelopes and pages hanging out like someone’s Vickie Secrets are showing. The pages are scuffed and bent. And that’s before I even get my paws on it. Then there’s my reading of it. I’m a wander-reader, meaning that I take my work around with me. This doesn’t always lend itself for pristine care. And I like to make notes. If I see there is a return envelope, I’ll try very hard to take good care and make my notes elsewhere – but I really hate doing that.
I can tell when a manuscript has been around the block a few times. There are those telltale scuff marks and bent corners, yet the envelope is pristine. Unless the author drove over their own pages before sending it to me, it’s a sign the manuscript is a member of the frequent flier club. It’s tacky. It says, “I’m too cheap to pay for a fresh xerox copy.” You should be saying, “Nuthin’s too good for you, baby.” Remember, this whole process is your job interview, so don’t wear holey jeans when a pair of Dockers and nice shirt will make a better impression.
I want my work sent back because I don’t want my work stolen. This is a noob request. If someone is really bent on ripping off your story, they can scan the pages. The idea that people will steal your idea is so remote that it’s not to worthy of firing up the brain cells. You can’t copyright an idea. Your work was protected the minute you wrote your story. If someone rips you off, you can take their butts to court. But story theft from publishers and angents simply doesn’t happen. We’re in the business to sell books, not write them.
What should I do? If you really want your pages back, include a SASE with your pages. Plain and simple. Publishers and agents will not assume your mailing costs and tell the beagle to stop bythe post office on her way back from the drive-thru dacquiri factory if you forget to include one.
If you forgot to include a SASE, don’t call the editor or agent and tell them you’ll send them a SASE so they can send it back. By that time, they’ve already dumped the pages in the recycle bin.
I had this happen a number of years ago. I’d read a full, made copious notes on the pages and ultimately rejected the work. Not only was the author unhappy with the rejection because he told me his work would put our company “on the map,” but I wouldn’t return his manuscript. No SASE, no sendie. He really blew a gasket when I told him I’d marked it up. This was noob behavior, and I would never read anything else from him.
Suggestions: Make sure that you have several hard copies if that floats your boat. Don’t send out your only copy. Most of us take e-queries these days, and this format really is more efficient because it costs nothing for you to send, it doesn’t clog up the mail system, and it’s obviously cost efficient in terms of saving paper and ink. If we reject the work, we hit the delete button. End of story.
If you forget the SASE, let it go. Don’t make a federal case over it. It’s just paper and ink, and there is more where that came from. It’s about you and making sure that you always present yourself in the most professional manner. And speaking of professional, I just wrote this in my bathing suit at poolside. How’s that for dedication?