A Rule of Thumb for Submissions

Keep your packaging and presentation simple.

I am sharing this rule of thumb because Arthur received a submission yesterday in a 1' x 2' x 2' box. Boxes (larger than manuscript boxes) from people we don't know are always cause for concern, because if you're bribing us, we resent that, and if you're bombing us . . . well, we resent that too. Both Arthur and his assistant were out of the office, so I opened the package up just in case it was urgent, and it contained neither a bribe nor a bomb -- rather, six manuscripts, sample illustrations (from an illustrator the author chose) mounted on foamboard, a screenplay, a marketing plan with merchandising information, and approximately 1,537,832 Styrofoam packing peanuts.

I had to dig through the box, peanuts, and layers of tissue paper to find these materials. This annoyed me. The papers and foamboard pieces were each tied up in bundles with ribbons, so I had to spend time untying the packages to see them. This also annoyed me. The fact that illustrations exist annoyed me for reasons explained at your average first SCBWI conference, and the screenplay and merchandising plan annoyed me for reasons explained in points 10 and 13 of the Annotated Query Letter from Hell. It says specifically in the AALB submissions guidelines that writers should only send one manuscript at a time. And the peanuts went everywhere, so I'll let you imagine my feelings on that.

This does not mean that this submission is dead to us; it will get a fair reading, and if it's fantastic, hooray. But it's starting out with big strikes against it because the author is (1) wasting our time with the fancy packaging and (2) ignoring our guidelines, which makes its burden of proof to be fantastic higher, which does the author no favors. Please: Send one manuscript at a time, your best work, of the kind of material we publish (no screenplays), in an envelope, with a SASE, so we can read and respond to it promptly. Otherwise: annoyance.

(This still was not the strangest large submissions package we ever received; that prize goes to the person who sent us his or her manuscript in a used lobster trap. Thankfully empty. But still.)