There’s been a flurry of submissions this week from hopeful writers, which is always lovely to see and gives us a warm feeling that an author would entrust our little company with their pride and joy.

Here at Scorpius Books, we pride ourselves on our open submission policy – we’ll accept unsolicited manuscripts of all fiction genres, without the need for a synopsis (so many authors have thanked us for that one!).

Sadly, of course, we can’t accept every book that is sent our way, but I thought I’d give those thinking of submitting to us a little look into how we deal with submissions and why we try and do things differently…

When starting Scorpius Books, we understood the frustration many writers felt at the rather off-handed way publishers seem to treat submissions. The basic model was to send off your manuscript (waste of paper and not very environmentally friendly!), receive nothing in the way of confirmation of receipt, wait weeks or sometimes months (if they even received it in the first place), and then receive your submission back with no more than a compliment slip or basic ‘Thanks but no thanks’. There was no human essence behind the whole process and it left many authors questioning the usefulness of a publisher at all – after all, there was never any indication they’d even read the submission before returning it!

So, we rolled up our sleeves and decided to consider everything an author would want a publisher to do during the submission process, even if they were unsuccessful. We then turned that into a submission policy that we stick by, no matter how much our inbox may groan under the weight of the virtual post it receives.

We refuse to accept paper submissions – in this day and age of technology, there is absolutely no excuse for publishers or agents to still ask for printed copies. It’s a waste of paper, money and the author’s time. It’s been typed on a computer, so why does it need to be printed off when you can just attach it to an email?

We ask for the entire manuscript instead of a sample… why? We allow up to four weeks to read a submission, especially during busy periods. If we only received a sample of a manuscript, took four weeks to read it, and loved it, we’d then have to contact the author for the rest and wait for them to send it across. Then we’d have to find more time to read the rest, after possibly having to go back and read the first sample to get back in the mood of the story. If we did that, we’d possibly never get anything else done! So we ask for the entire manuscript so we can read the entire book and make a judgement there and then on whether we want to publish it. It saves everyone time!

We also have strict submission guidelines for all manuscripts, that include formatting and a standard of editing – it has to look and read like a book that is ready to go to print… typos and lack of paragraphs, etc, will not do you any favours!

Once someone sends their manuscript to us via email, they’ll receive a lovely little email in response to confirm its receipt:

Your manuscript has been received with great excitement – thank you for considering us to publish your book.
We appreciate that an author’s book is their baby – it’s taken you ages to write and perfect and now you’re handing it over to complete strangers… we understand the nail-biting terror that can generate – we’ve all been there ourselves.
That’s why we’ll give your manuscript every bit of care and attention it needs while it’s with us. We’ll consider every factor and read it with great interest.
We know the wait for news can be awful and we will try our absolute best to reply to your submission within four weeks. If we need more time we’ll tell you, rather than leave you hanging. It’s the least we can do.
Thank you so much for thinking of us here at Scorpius Books. We can’t wait to dive into your story!

We stick to our time limits, too. If we’re particularly busy and can’t stick to our four week deadline, we’ll email all those authors and let them know.

What if we can’t offer a publishing deal?

Well, we try and be just as helpful there, too. Rather than a basic ‘Thanks but no thanks’, which doesn’t help the author at all on any level, we send a detailed email that explains our process and the reasons why we didn’t take to the story – this could be anything from characterisation, plot, or anything in between. What matters is that we’re honest and open – our feedback is meant to help the author rather than disappoint them:

Thank you for taking the time to submit your manuscript to Scorpius Books.

The bad news, I’m sorry to say, is that we won’t be offering to publish your book. For many people, a letter like this is a big let-down, so it’s probably a good idea to explain something about how we make the decision to reject a book so that you realise that it isn’t necessarily a criticism of you or your writing.

Given that a submitted manuscript is inevitably an author’s pride and joy, it seems almost criminal that publishers get to accept or reject submissions with so little feedback or accountability. This was the reason we wanted to do things differently – we wanted to assure the author who has worked so hard on their story that we did spend the time considering it for publication, even if it was unsuccessful.

When setting up Scorpius Books, we didn’t like the idea that one department acquires new manuscripts but then hands them on to other departments to market or turn the manuscripts into finished books like an emotionless production line (which is the way most conventional publishers do things). Instead, we wanted the person who said ‘we should publish this’ to be the same person who followed the book all the way through to publication and beyond. Obviously, if someone knows they are going to be working on all aspects of a single book for at least six months, they’ll only champion books that they truly love. **On reading through your story, our reader found a number of issues with basic editing, such as punctuation, especially in dialogue, and sentence structure. Because of this, we would be unable to offer to publish your book at this time and would advise that you seek guidance from a professional editor before submitting to further agents and publishers.**

So please accept our apologies for replying with a rejection letter to a submission that must have taken months or maybe years of effort and energy to produce, and let us wish you better luck in the future.

Over all, we hope that our more personal approach to submissions will help authors, rather than hinder them. We want them to see our rejection as a positive form of constructive critism, rather than a dismissal of their life’s work.

What do you think about our process? Do you think it’s a little better than a generic ‘no thanks’?