A great deal of the past few weeks has been spent on trains and at events. Wonderful events such as the launch of Herbert Williams’s warm, witty and utterly engaging autobiography, Nice Work If You Can Get It, to a packed audience at Wales Millennium Centre last week. But it’s good to be home for the next five days and to have a day catching up on office work. The wonders of mobile phones mean I don’t return to thousands of unanswered emails so today I’ve done some admin – things like getting the accounts up to date, looking at the forward list and the next covers and of course keeping up with the emails that arrived today.
It was a normal day, which included a normal amount of emails – 72 to be precise. Around 20 were spam, instantly deleted, and another group were short replies to me that didn’t need any other follow up. A few need a bit of research or thinking and 34 were things I our deal with and reply to quickly – generally ongoing conversations with authors or queries about the current writing competitions.
The rest (9 emails) were a bumper crop of unsolicited submissions. Nine is more than usual, but five a day is not unusual. Something between 25 – 30 unsolicited submissions each week at a time when we are not taking any unsolicited submissions is about average – easily 1,500 people a year. Some start by telling me that I’m not currently taking submissions (in case that had slipped my memory, but that I will want to read their work anyway. Others – probably the majority – have not done even this modicum of research – it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that I might have a submission’s policy or current statement of what we are taking. Most of these people are not idiots or crackpots – they are people who have put a huge investment of themselves into their writing – many have already designed the cover (generally with unusable artwork) and the marketing materials and have decided on the expensive location for their launch and often the date of publication (rarely very far in the future). They’ve done all this work, but a lot of it is the wrong work, at least if they are serious about getting published.
I used to reply to every one, despite a portion becoming aggressive at being turned away without having had their work read. Of course I still discuss possible future books with Cinnamon authors and reply to queries about when we might next be open and queries about the kinds of work we are most interested in for the longer term, but I no longer reply to the several people a day who just send their manuscripts. I have trained myself to simply hit delete. I tell myself that the website clearly says no unsolicited submissions, and it does. I tell myself that I don’t have time to write to an extra five to ten people a day who didn’t have the courtesy to look up the submissions policy and are very unlikely to have read a Cinnamon Press book. Two of today’s submissions expressed the hope of commercial success and the expectation of making a living as writers, clear evidence that the hopeful writers had no acquaintance with any independent press.
Yet pressing delete saddens me – all that work and hope misplaced. And sometimes those who make a valiant attempt to interest me in their manuscripts do know how small presses work and do have excellent manuscripts, but I know it would be mad to start taking on work three or four years before there is any hope of publication. But I remain optimistic about the accessibility of independent publishing – somehow good manuscripts do find homes – eventually – and there are things people can do to help the process – write for small press magazines, maintain engaging blogs, enter competitions or anthology submissions, join the mailing lists and face book groups of small presses, read their books, go to their events and get to know their work. Keep writing, believing that one day one of them will be your home.