Is is ok to ask for help in regards to the competition?

I opened an email today marked “query,” and was expecting to read an author’s pitch on their book. Well, turned out I was mistaken. Very much so, actually.
This letter had nothing to do with a query to our house, but rather an author asking for advice on submitting to another publisher.

…the letter is provided below:


I would be very grateful if you could answer a question that may (or may not be) stupid…

I recently won a place in a new writing anthology that is going to be published early next year and distributed among agents and publishers. Two editors from the judging panel (both of whom represent internationally well-known and respected publishers) have now asked to see the full manuscript. Is it necessary to send them a synopsis with the submission? (Although the manuscript is now complete and the initial edits now done, I have not yet written a synopsis. [What can I say? I work backwards].) I am anxious to send it to them while they can still remember their enthusiasm (and my name!) but don’t want to commit a publishing faux pas by not including the basic requirements. Although I am familiar with what I should do when trying to gain a publisher’s interest, I am not at all knowledgeable as to what to do when it comes unsolicited!

Also, I do not have an agent. The first editor who called said ‘Good luck with choosing your representation’ as if it was a given I would be offered it. I am not so confident and so am waiting to see what happens before making any further attempts to get an agent – I’m being realistic aren’t I? The second publisher has already said she’d like me to come in and ‘meet the team’ soon after I send my m/s in. Is this unusual? I would have thought she’d like to make sure the rest of the manuscript didn’t make her want to throw it in the bin before talking about meetings…it’s all exciting of course but does make me wonder how far I’ve got to fall once they’ve read the full text…Anyway, any advice or comments would be very gratefully received.

Many thanks,


Not really sure what to say to that. If it had been comment posted on the blog, then perhaps I might be a little more open to respond. But seeing as this was sent to our submissions, marked as a novel query, and doesn’t really give any indication that this writer is interested in “publishers in general” but rather in a particular two, I’m not sure where to go with this.

First off, I would like to say thank you for thinking of our press; it makes us feel important, and well…smart, that someone would come to us for advice.

Second, I’d like to chastise any writer who ever does this or has thought of doing this. It’s like going to Macy’s and saying “I’m not going to buy anything from your store, but I’d like to know if you could measure me and help me gather gift ideas from this JC Penny brochure so that while I’m shopping there I spend less time in the crowded lines….” I’ll tell you right now that Macy’s clerk will tell you to take a hike.

If you want to ask a question in general about publishing or editors, as far as preferences, industry standards, etc., then go right ahead and post on an editor/publisher blog, or email their information department. But don’t – and I mean a strong don’t – email an editor, to ask about submitting your story to another particular editor so that you don’t have to ask your target editor in order to save face or seem more professional/knowledgable, etc. It’s a waste of the first editor’s – and in this case, my – time and efforts.

But just because it is the holiday season (god, I almost choked on that one) and I’m in a giving mood, I’ll do a short and clipped answer to the question.

1. Always include a full cover letter, synopsis, and any other front material when submitting a manuscript for the first time. It helps refresh the editor’s memory, and you’re better off going overboard then sinking.

2. “Good luck with finding representation” does NOT mean it’s a given you’ve been offered it. That is a polite way of saying “find an agent elsewhere, we’re not taking you on.”

3. I don’t know of any editor or agent that would invite an off-the-street writer to come in to the office and “meet the team.” Personally, I – and, probably many other editors – hate dealing with new writers face to face right off the bat and would prefer it to be completely by email or phone until a relationsip is made. Especially since the editor has not even seen the full manuscript – it does seem a little odd, and it’s possible this agent isn’t very credible, or you just wrote a ****ing damn good anthology piece. Sorry, but chances are I’d be skeptical of the agent. Even a novel with an excellent begining has been rejected after the editor reaches chapter four, and the majority of publishers will not commit to anything until they’ve gotten the full submission packet.

Hope that nicely sums everything up….


2 Responses

  1. “But just because it is the holiday season (god, I almost choked on that one) and I’m in a giving mood”

    : )

    You must be a hoot in person…

  2. You have no idea Will

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