Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Only Take Exclusive Submissions. Exclusive of Squirrels.

Every once in a while I submit something to an editor who wants exclusive submissions. I usually say in my cover letter that it's an exclusive submission for 3 months. I've read that after the 3 months expire I should send another letter, notifying the editor that my submission is no longer exclusive.

I lean toward thinking this would be just another envelope to be opened by some underpaid assistant. Would any editor read my three-months-are-up letter and think, "How I regret missing this deadline! I must dig through my slush pile to find the unsolicited manuscript of this totally unpublished author, before someone else snaps it up!"?
You're probably right.
But suppose I don't send a letter. Six months later the editor picks up my submission. She looks at the cover letter and realizes it's no longer an exclusive submission. Have I committed some dreadful faux pas?
Not in that case. At the same time, there's no harm in sending such a letter on the off chance that the editor is reading your manuscript just now, or has read it and wants to ask for a rewrite (and is formulating her thoughts first).

And if she is in fact in the process of showing it to her colleagues in preparation for acquisition, she'll be damn glad you reminded her of the three-month mark.

Bottom line, yes, sometimes being courteous makes a difference, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes being discourteous makes a difference, and sometimes it doesn't.

But you never know which one it'll be until it happens. Which "makes a difference" situation do you want to be in?

8 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Squirrels are strictly non-exclusive. Ahem.

Kristi Holl said...

I do like the whole "exclusive for X months" idea though. It seems like a good, workable compromise while keeping your options open.
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid blog

ae said...

SInce I submit so rarely and only after careful consideration, I probably would not submit on exclusive policy unless revision was required and then with well defined limitations. 30 days.

It really is to no one's benefit except the editor who has to have that author.

And exclusives in a slush pile...that is an oxymoron civil war scenario.

Nancy D'Inzillo said...

I hadn't heard of the "exclusive for X period of time" idea before. It's a good one.
As for the rest, I think it's always best to be on the side of courtesy.

joelle said...

I have some cool postcards and I just send one of those (or I used to before I had an agent). My reasoning was that no one had to open it, just turn it over, and it usually did get responses, so I think it worked okay.

ABH said...

This is long after the fact, but I would like to say in my defense that I did not intend to ask whether being courteous was worthwhile. I meant to ask something more like: Would this kind of letter really be perceived as courteous, or as an annoying time-waster?

Editorial Anonymous said...

ABH--
I understood that, so my apologies if my response felt too pointed.

I try to use the questions to which I respond to teach as many wider lessons as possible, which is why I diverged from only answering what you were asking.
:)
EA

ABH said...

EA -- Thanks for your kind response. I did appreciate your answer to my question -- obviously, I hadn't considered the scenario you described. And I know pointed is part of the deal here. I was mostly distressed at having somehow come across as that much of a jerk.