Thank God It’s Friday: First Impressions

Hello, friends, it’s Friday! By which I mean both the day of the week and myself. I wear many hats and thus I have many names: Editrix Sarah, Gal Friday, The Commanatrix. I also answer to “Help!” and “Augh!”

The Mastermind set me loose on the blog to start a hopefully-weekly series in which I can answer questions or give advice about all things related to C&G. Because despite the long list of things that are confusing or can go wrong, we want you to succeed. We truly, honestly, do.  You’ve written a great story, right? What a coincidence! We want to read great stories. We want to publish great stories. We want to help great stories succeed out in the big scary world. We could be great together!

This week: First Impressions.

While The Mastermind is busy running the company, I try to keep the daily workflow, well, flowing. Some days there are absolute gems among the slush and the people I correspond with are lovely and I love my job.

Other days it seems like everyone’s throwing spanners into the very works I am attempting to maintain, possibly because they had a poor grip or possibly because they like the loud clanging with cussing at the end (my end).

Agents* and authors: when you are submitting a manuscript for our consideration, for the love of all you hold dear, Follow. The. Directions. First impressions are everything in this business. Please don’t make my first impression of you be that you are sending spanners clanging down into the C&G works with no regard for the aforementioned works or for my time. Our directions are clearly laid out on the Submissions page and when you ignore them, your submission gets put into the “People Who Cannot Follow Directions” folder to be dealt with after we’ve cleared the slush pile.

Here’s an incomplete list of reasons folks have ended up in that folder lately:

Sending your submission to an address that is not the “submissions@” address. I am sure that some of you feel more secure sending your manuscript to a “real human being.” Unfortunately, the real human beings who monitor the submissions email address do not have access to one another’s personal email addresses. We will generally forward wayward submissions to the correct address once it has been discovered and we have the time.

  • Protip: The Mastermind is busy running the company and thus has next to no time—submitting to her directly is a particularly poor choice if you want a timely response.
  • Protip: The Editors are just as busy actually editing.

Sending your manuscript as any file extension that is not .RTF. We chose that particular extension for a reason. Some of the slush monitors will take pity on you, convert your file, and add it to the “to-read” pile. Most of us will not.

  • Protip: Open a new document, paste in your first fifty pages, and save as .rtf (a/k/a Rich Text Format).

Sending well over fifty pages of your manuscript. “But Friday,” you say, “The Submissions page says ‘the first 50 pages or so’!”

  • Protip: The “or so” clause is in there so your manuscript doesn’t end on an incomplete sentence, or if a section break is coming in another paragraph, or if there’s only another two pages in the chapter. Sending in the first 150-200-250 pages of your manuscript will get a cranky all-caps note on your submissions file along the lines of, “SENT WAY TOO MANY PAGES. POSSIBLY SELF-IMPORTANT OR ILLITERATE.”
  • Protip: If we want your entire manucript, we will ask you for it.
  • Protip: Sending non-consecutive pages gets you put into the OH HELL NO file. Yes, we have one.

Not the droids we’re looking for. We are looking for sci-fi, fantasy, and every overlap or subgenre you can create. But there are caveats.

Sherlock research gif

  • Protip: We do not publish erotica. If that ever changes, we’ll let you know. But we do not currently publish erotica. Not even yours.
  • Protip: C&G is not explicitly a feminist press. However, if you think that the house that published The Other Half of the Sky is a great home for your story about a stunningly beautiful, chainmail-bikini-wearing, submissive woman who is just waiting for the dashing white male hero to come save her from circumstances beyond her control that she probably could have handled herself given any common sense whatsoever, I am going to seriously question your judgement.** I am then going to try to think up a polite way to express “WTF were you thinking?!” in your rejection letter.
  • Protip: Don’t further marginalize your minority characters. Just … don’t.

A final, gentler criticism that nonetheless fits this general theme: know your genre. We’ve had to reject a few stories recently that had the wrong tone, one that kept throwing us out of an otherwise engaging story. Every genre has a tone, and, as in music, some tones can go together but others come out jarring and discordant when combined. A galaxy-spanning sci-fi spy thriller cannot be written in the same tone as literary fiction; the result sounds dreadfully flat when it ought to be sharp. Trying new genres is a good thing, but keep in mind that you may want to find critique partners or beta readers in your new genre who can offer guidance in the chords your prose ought to be striking.


Questions for Friday? Ask away in the comments.


* Agents, your agent-hood is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. You also need to follow the directions or risk your client’s manuscript getting pushed aside or, worse, lost.

** However, if you have a spot-on parody of the same, feel free to send it along.

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8 Responses to “Thank God It’s Friday: First Impressions”

  1. M. Fenn June 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    No questions. Just wanted to say “Hi!” Lovely first post. 🙂 I’m always surprised when I read about writers who don’t follow directions for submissions. It’s just… how hard can that be?

  2. Katie the Editor June 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    That used to drive me nuts when I had a job that involved the slush pile. I worked for a nonfiction house. We got more fiction subs than you could shake a red pen at. (Or a rejection letter.)

  3. Editrix Sarah June 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Hello and thank you! Surprisingly enough, over half of the folks currently in the “People Who Can’t Follow Directions” folder are agents. It’s got us a bit boggled.

  4. Editrix Sarah June 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    All of ours (thus far) have at least been in an overarching genre that we accept–I can’t imagine getting a biography or something instead.

  5. M. Fenn June 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Wow. That’s quite stunning.

  6. Candlemark & Gleam June 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    And the thing is? Our submissions requirements are bullet-pointed, pretty darn easy to follow, and not that hard to find in the first place.

    It’s a filter system at this point. Can’t follow directions? Editrix Sarah will roundfile you before I can even blink!

  7. Justin Sloan February 19, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Thank you for the great post!


  1. Pressing Matters: June 21, 2013, Edition | Candlemark & Gleam - June 22, 2013

    […] Yes, Pressing Matters is appearing on Saturday now – that’s because Editrix Sarah, everyone’s favourite Gal Friday, has staked a claim on the Friday blog post slot. Did you catch her post on first impressions? […]

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