Editors who 'sit' on manuscripts; contests and copyright
Published: July 25, 2002
|An editor who gave me the go-ahead to submit my novel manuscript, which I sent with a SASE, has now had it for more than a year. She does not answer my follow-up queries. I finally spoke with an assistant, who confirmed that my manuscript was there but explained that "agented" material was given priority. Should I give up and send the manuscript elsewhere?|
Yes, it's time to move on, unless you receive a clear indication that your manuscript is still under consideration. Simply send the editor a letter stating that you are withdrawing your work. You may, however, want to consider sending a query letter, rather than your entire novel, to the next editor or agent.
A query letter "remains one of the most common and successful ways to match novels with publishers," writes Elizabeth Lyon in The Sell Your Novel Toolkit (Blue Heron Publishing). However, it's essential, she adds, to write a well-crafted query. A query letter works better for you, too, because you can send queries to several publishers simultaneously, and generally, publishers respond more quickly to queries. If you get a positive response to a nonfiction query, the publisher will probably ask you for a longer, more detailed proposal.
Many contests ask you to submit your poems with no personal information on the page. I know my work is copyrighted from the moment I write it, but how do I protect my work from plagiarism in this situation?
"You're wise to feel concern when you submit your work to a contest," says Tad Crawford, co-author of The Writer's Legal Guide: An Authors Guild Desk Reference and Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers (Allworth Press). "While you do have copyright from the moment you write a poem or any text, people can still infringe your work. If your name and copyright notice are omitted from your work, it makes infringement more likely. Once an infringement occurs, even if you're in the right, the costs of going to court can be overwhelming. On the other hand, the contest presumably is asking to receive the poem this way so its judging can be unbiased. In this sense, their request is reasonable.
"Of course, if the contest asks for rights in your work (other than the nonexclusive right to publish the work if you are a winner), you should not enter. If the contest is reputable and has fair entry rules, the fact your name is not on the submitted poems should not stop you from entering if you want to."
I've been asked to submit a poem to a contest that requires me to purchase any books in which the poem is printed. Is this legitimate?
In general, it's not a good idea to enter contests that require you to buy something. Many contests will give prize winners at least one copy of the publication in which the poems are published. Most contests, however, charge a small entry fee, usually $10 (up to $20 for longer work), which helps cover the costs of running the contests. The fee should be reasonable and in proportion to the prize. #