#37: A Word on Old-School Submissions, by Timothy Wojcik
March 5, 2014
Like most literary journals and other publications in these technologically-driven days, our agency only accepts submissions via the internet. We have a very straightforward form on our website—hit submit, and it compiles all the information from the form into a handy email in our submissions inbox. Long gone are the days of shoeboxes filled with novel manuscripts arriving at our door, though, to be honest, I started working in publishing long after the physical submission era ended, circa years-and-years-ago. I can’t decide if mail carriers are happier or not.
Anyway, that said, we do still get the occasional physical submission amongst the smattering of magazines and contracts and J.Crew catalogs that come through our mail slot. As the person who distributes the mail around the office, it is my great privilege to be able to give these submissions a first glance.
What I love about our physical submissions is their incredible variety. Sometimes it will be a postcard with a fantastic Roald Dahl-esque illustration on the front and the artist’s contact information on the back. Sometimes it will be a few photocopied handwritten notebook pages. Sometimes it will be an actual bound paperback, covered with fantastic blurbs from friends, coworkers, professors, etc. All are read, though admittedly briefly. But my absolute favorite physical submissions are ones that go beyond their medium.
A few (less) cold winters ago, an agent received a medium, heavy-ish box, addressed specifically to them, from somebody they did not know. These things happen—especially during the holidays. In any case, the agent opened the box up, to reveal another box within, dark and wooden, complete with golden metallic hinges. Lovely, but also a bit terrifying to receive anonymously. A group had gathered to look at this thing, and we slowly lifted the top.
Inside were: a glossy hardcover adventure book, a compass, a magnifying glass, some rubber insects and a rubber snake, and other various trinkets; all related to the book. There was also a map in the inside of the lid. There was no note, so we can only presume it was a submission, but it was quite something: thoughtful, and, well, fun. Adventurous.
I’m not sure whatever happened to that project. Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, most physical submissions do have one thing in common. In the cases we do reach out, the authors rarely write us back!
Timothy Wojcik is an editorial and rights assistant at a literary agency, meaning he assists an agent and the rights manager. He also writes short stories and prose poetry, though that’s neither here nor there. You can find his work online at SCUD Magazine, Corium Magazine, Spork Press, and Jellyfish Magazine, among others. Before moving to New York, he lived in the south for most of his life. He does not have an accent, which often confuses people.