I read your guidelines…but…
One of the popular ways this phrase comes in is by telling me you don’t need to go to the work of writing a proposal. After all, if I’ll just read your manuscript, it will speak for itself. This, of course, in spite of the fact that the guidelines say we don’t want a full manuscript unless we ask for it. You might figure I’m just being cranky.
Maybe I am.
Actually I don’t skip the proposal step, because there’s a strong chance I won’t ever get one if I don’t get it up front. Second, the things I ask for in the proposal help me evaluate whether the project is even a fit for us. I don’t need to spend a lot of time reading things that I don’t have a market for.
Besides, I want to know if it’s something I can work with before I read because I may really like it, and the last thing I want to do is fall in love with some project that I can’t do anything with. Because if I loved it, I’d have to try, and I’d spend an inordinate amount of time trying to force something instead of working with the markets I’m presently familiar with, where I have carefully forged contacts.
Third, I get the best proposal from writers when they are trying to catch my attention, not when they already know I like the writing and don’t feel like they have to work so hard. And I can do a much better job of writing an agency proposal if I have a good client proposal to draw on, and I’ll never know as much about a project as an author.
I’m sure others look at it differently, and that’s okay too. One thing most people in the industry agree on is to check the submission guidelines where you wish to submit and to comply with them. And if you feel compelled to say, “I read your submission guidelines, but…” then you should just save the postage and find some submission guidelines that ask for it the way you want to send it.