Hello, young lovers. As the sole proprietor of our submissions email, there are certain things that occur with sufficient frequency that I thought it might be helpful to address them in one place, and for all time! Do not fear that you, a beloved (and paid!) author for our site, are being subtweeted; dozens of people do these things, or don’t do them, and I forget about it immediately and hold no grudges, unless you are the subtweeted and disgraced writer mentioned below in #5.
Here are some thoughts on best possible practices:
1. Although I generally write back very quickly, and never consciously allow an email to be unanswered for more than three days, dear God, please do not poke me after 24 hours and ask if I got your email. I got it! I will be responding. If it’s been a week, please do feel free to check in, sometimes things do happen! In late January, a Gmail glitch disappeared a handful of my emails, and it has been helpful to receive queries on those.
Sometimes I confer with Mallory on pieces, and then it will be a little longer so we can discuss them together. I am never mad at writers when they get antsy and check in after three hours, especially first-timers, but it does really gum up the works. I think authors are sometimes just twitchy because we’ll have had a rapid-fire exchange of emails during the pitching process, but then when I receive the actual 1200 word submission, I set aside time two days later to sit and read it very carefully, and they worry I have forgotten them. I have days in which I receive literally fifty pitches, same-day turnaround is not to be expected, though it is often received.
1a. (This is Mallory.) I do not write back very quickly. I forget to check my email and then I’m ashamed of how much email there is and then I start to see follow-up emails from people whose first emails I still haven’t read and the subject lines are all things like “Just checking in…” or “Following up…” or “Wanted to make sure you got my first email…” I just wanted to take this opportunity to apologize. I have no plans to get better at this. I have no suggestions on how to fix this. (End Mallory transmission.)
1b. Mallory is not lying about this, and she never responds to my emails either, and we are like wyrd freakish sisters, so don’t be offended.
1c. (This is Mallory.) YOU SAID I WAS GETTING BETTER AT THAT
1d. You accepted praise and then backslid.
2. We have a marvelously healthy submissions folder! New, non-topical pieces are being scheduled into April/May, which is GREAT! It’s WILD. Yay, wonderful submissions. As a result, do not worry if your piece doesn’t run right away, or in a few weeks; I’ve just started telling new writers that they can expect it’ll be at least two months before it goes up. It is no commentary on the quality of your piece, it’s just, you know, if it’s about Jane Austen, she’s been dead a really long time and I’m gonna run that thing on the Olympics first. I am always happy to tell you the exact date your piece will run once it’s on the schedule (though sometimes things get pushed out), please just ask nicely. Also, if you would like your piece to tie in to a certain event (your book launch, a sporting event, your birthday, etc.) I am almost always able to accommodate such requests if they are given to me in a timely fashion.
3. (This one is obviously unreasonable.) In keeping with streamlining the process, normal pitching is best if you have not written the piece yet, because then I can tell you if it’s the sort of thing that interests me and if I already have a similar piece in the queue and provide suggestions on what I’d really like to see. If you HAVE written the piece, you just don’t know if we’ll be interested in the idea, go ahead and attach it or share the Google doc with me. It just adds unnecessary steps to the process if we have this sort of exchange:
Author: Any interest in a piece on [this cool idea?]
Me: Yes! That would be interesting.
Author: (immediately sends piece they have already written)
Me: I like it!
Author: Any interest in a piece on [this cool idea?] If so, I’ve attached it. If not, please have a lovely day.
Me: Thank you, I like it!
It sounds like this is a tiny thing, but it really makes a huge difference in my workload when it happens A BUNCH of times, and I would appreciate it.
3a. (ENTER MALLORY, STAGE RIGHT.) Don’t ask me what my email address is. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t email me asking what kind of pieces we’re looking for. You tell me, dirtbag. Don’t ask me questions that we answer on the submissions page. It’s a very nice submissions page. We worked very hard on it. Don’t send me a promotional email about your book and then ask if we’d “like to run anything about it.” That’s not a pitch. If you would like to be interviewed about your book, you can ask us and we will say yes or no, depending on whether or not we like your book. If you’d like to pitch us a piece about your book, fling it along. Don’t just say “my book exists, do you feel like giving me a writeup,” because the answer is no, I do not, I would rather write jokes about teens and make Matt Lubchansky draw them for me. (I still love you. And I’m very excited and proud that you wrote a book. Exit Mallory, pursued by a bear.)
4. If you are pitching and have NOT written the piece yet, I’d love to see a clear, well-outlined paragraph about what you want to write your piece about, and either links to your previous writing, or a few paragraphs of the proposed piece. This is because it’s super awkward for me to have to say “I like your idea, but I literally have no idea if you’re a good writer, not everyone is, and I don’t want to waste your time spending 3 days writing something I won’t run.”
5. We recently had a dustup with an author who had signed her contract, written the piece, checked in to see when the piece would run, and then I saw a version of the same piece on another website that very week (I had said: “Hey, I like THIS part of the story, focus on that part and the other part can be an aside” and the other website ran her story the exact opposite way). Do not do that, you will not be appearing on The Toast (or on the other website, again, because they do not like being part of such a thing). Ask, always, if you have a question about that sort of thing, and I’ll be so happy to work with you.
5a. (Mallory lumbers out of the inchoate darkness) Related: we do not accept simultaneous submissions. Remember that submissions page I told you about? It says we don’t accept simultaneous submissions. Don’t send them to us. Don’t write emails to us that address us as “Dear Bustle” or “Dear Hairpin editors.” I’ll make fun of you on Twitter, which is the worst thing that can happen to a person.
6. If I have turned down three poetry submissions of yours in a row, there is no point in sending more. It may be that I think your poetry is good, it’s just clearly not working for our site in particular.
7. If you wrote me a “Gal Science” column, and your name is Molly, and you waived your fee (THANK YOU), can you email me? Yours was one of the emails lost in the late January glitch, and I have a mysterious note in my schedule that says: Gal Science – Molly (free) and literally no trace of it in my system.
8. You know how Mallory writes those amazing Texts From, now available in bookstores near you? Don’t send me Texts From submissions. That’s her series. Generally, when I get pieces that say “I was inspired by Mallory’s…”, they almost never work, because we all want to be Mallory, but only Mallory is Mallory, and she is sufficient unto herself. You have so many beautiful ideas of your own, go with those instead!
8a. Sometimes I tell white men to stop pitching us for a while, because I can. You may approach when I grant you permission, but do not make eye contact. Bring a gift. Retreat quietly, with your head bowed, without turning your back to me. I can smell fear. I can also smell false bravado, and I will tear you to elegant shreds. (Mallory wrote this part and forgot to say it was her, so, um, don’t worry, white men, Nicole still loves you as unique individuals and tolerates you as a group.)
9. Here are a brief list of things we will almost never accept:
- Pieces about why you think a particular actress is overrated. We do not care.
- Pieces about Miley Cyrus.
- Pieces about Girls.
- Pieces from white people about people of colour.
- Pieces from straight people about queer people.
- Pieces about nostalgia for childhood books: we have Jaya Catches Up, and Mallory writes about it, and there are just so many many many of them, we’re not taking on more, and I get more pitches to write about YA than about anything else.
- Pieces that are about your child: Mallory and I have privacy concerns about it, and even if you change your kid’s name, they’re still immediately identifiable because….
10. We will only let authors use pseudonyms if they are survivors of abuse, or face danger if their identity was known. If you just feel embarrassed that your job will know you’re writing about Glee fanfiction, we ain’t going to help you hide that. Embrace your truth. Oh, but trans people can use whatever name they feel like.
11. We don’t do formal trigger warnings, we will instead make sure the subject matter is apparent in the title so that people can choose to read or not accordingly.
12. The words “problematic,” “privileged,” and “-shaming” are on Mallory’s banned list. Which is not to say that we’re uninterested in posts about problems or shame or undeserved material/cultural comforts, we just want better, more specific words for these ideas.
13. If you’ve got questions about contract wording, or want permission to republish, or you’re wondering where your money is, email our managing editor (also named Nicole, to make things as easy as possible for you!) at email@example.com.
14. If your piece has been published elsewhere (again, even on your Tumblr), we cannot pay you for it. However, if you wish to waive payment, we are happy to consider publishing it, though we republish pieces only rarely!
15. There is only one space after a period.
16. Don’t pitch us on Twitter, that’s where I say weird shit about how Daniel Craig’s face would fit perfectly into your vulva like Pangea.
17. This piece will be linked from our submissions page so you can always find it.
18. Mallory also wants to see more pitches about your moms.
I’m glad we’ve had such a lovely chat. I will be in the comments to answer any additional questions!
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.