Last week, I had an interesting day at Andersen Press reading through the fiction slush pile. While it is a dream for me to spend the entire day reading, I also felt slightly guilty knowing that some of the submissions would have to be rejected. As a writer myself, I can understand that it can be disheartening to have your work rejected, especially when you’ve put a lot of work into not only writing but also summoning up the courage to send your work in at all. However, it can also be reassuring, at least, to know that this particular publisher wouldn’t be right for your work (or vice versa) and you can move on to submitting elsewhere or working on something new. I once met a writer who said they were aiming for forty rejection letters in one year and I found it strangely inspiring (I’ve only had a couple this year, but fingers crossed).
Andersen Press are one of the few larger publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts (as opposed to manuscripts from agents). The fiction submissions guidelines ask for a physical copy of the synopsis and the first three chapters of a manuscript to be sent in the post along with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). The last time we had a call for pamphlet submissions at the Emma Press, the guidelines asked for six pages of a manuscript to be emailed as a PDF or word document instead. I read through most of those submissions on my laptop but this time I found that reading through physical copies of a manuscript felt a bit easier, though part of me was slightly concerned for the environment. Fortunately, old envelopes and the manuscripts that authors didn’t want back are usually recycled.
The covering letter is important because this is a chance to tell the editor about your work and who you are, as well as being somewhat representative of your skill and style as a writer. Normally, the covering letter would focus on your writing experience and your work, such as influences on the work or what the work might be similar to. Some authors also include a synopsis of the work in the covering letter. I found that some authors also talked a lot about themselves outside of their writing, for instance, about their family history, their pets, and their other hobbies. While it can be useful to include a short biography, it might not be a good idea to focus your covering letter on what your childhood was like and who your favourite musicians are. The exception would be if it is something relevant to your work e.g. you are writing about someone growing up in Newcastle in the 1980s and you are someone who grew up in Newcastle in the 1980s.
It is also helpful for an author to read the submissions guidelines. This might sound incredibly obvious and maybe slightly patronising but unfortunately, during my experience at the Emma Press and Andersen Press, I have still received submissions that deviate from the guidelines and that can hurt the chances of the work being published. This was particularly the case for receiving genres that the press didn’t publish or weren’t right for a particular editor. For example, during the Emma Press’ call for submissions, each of the editors specified which genres they were interested in reading and even though I’d specified that I was interested in fiction, I still received a lot of poetry submissions. Although all of these submissions were still read by the whole team, it would have been much more straightforward for the editors and the authors if the submissions were directed to someone who specialised in that genre.
Andersen Press accept picture book and fiction submissions and their guidelines can be read here. The Emma Press are currently running a call for picture books, closing on the 20th April (this Saturday!) and their guidelines can be read here. You can also take a look at their current picture book list on the Emma Press website.