In Laura’s most recent post, she talked about the logic behind why we recommend that you research and then submit to individual editors whenever possible, rather than just addressing your submission to a generic title such as “Acquisitions Editor.” So I thought I’d share my real-life experience of what can happen to those manuscripts that are addressed generically.
I worked in publishing for sixteen years, for four different publishers. And I quickly discovered that the people who screen all those generically addressed manuscripts are not the trained editors who have learned to recognize talent at a quick glance—but the not-yet-trained newcomers! When I was still brand-new to the publishing business, I took home stacks of manuscripts, and I was allowed to be the final say on whether they were worth a second look by a more experienced colleague. Unpaid interns, some still college students, often acted as manuscript screeners. All of these individuals were enthusiastic and well-intentioned—but the point is, to a person, they were young and untrained!
The reality is, even when I worked for small publishers, we received thousands of manuscript submissions a year. The only way to possibly get through them all was to either throw them out, or to ask interns and the staffers who were paid the lowest salaries to search for the few that might hold promise.
On the other hand, if you use an actual editor’s name on your manuscript submission, the odds are it will be routed to that person’s inbox rather than the towering stack of unsolicited manuscripts. If the editor is high enough up the food chain, they may have an assistant who screens their mail. But there is at least a chance that a personally addressed envelope will reach the hands of someone who has a trained eye—and at least a chance that it won’t be instantly thrown away at those publishing houses that say they will no longer review unsolicited manuscripts.
For stories about off-the-beaten-path journeys to book publication, check out our Kindle ebook Getting Published: How to Access Editors.