Alright, Mr DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up.

So the big publishing news of this week has been the announcement from Harper Voyager that they are going to open their doors – for two weeks only – to direct submissions. The current version of the FAQ is here.

Great news for aspiring authors like myself? Great news indeed. It’s always nice to see another door opening. That’s not to say that other doors aren’t still available – Gollancz were quick to point out on Twitter that they read direct submissions and always have – and I think it would be remiss of anyone considering the open door not to ponder for a moment on whether they are ready.

I was browsing a few forum threads about this, and there’s a real sensation of panic about it. Which of my projects should I do? Will it be ready in time? What about a synopsis? Blurb? What genre am I really?

Personally, I don’t think panic should be the trigger response. If your MS is ready, you should feel confident. Give your pitch and your synopsis a quick look-over, a polish if needs be, and relax until the two-week window opens. Work on something else in the meantime.

If your work is almost ready, as in you think you could have it ready by next Friday* ready, then be just as confident as the above. Get to work and get it done for the deadline, and feel proud that your MS is going out the door all shiny and good to go.

If your work isn’t quite there yet but you think you could be close if you don’t sleep until the 15th of October, I’m going to offer up a suggestion. Not as a professional. Not as an expert. As one of you. As someone who is right there with you.

Maybe, if it’s not done yet, you should take a pass.

OK. Let’s think about this. I know that opportunities do not roll round every day. There is a school of aspirational thought that says if you see a chance, you should take it. Let me offer a corollary to that. In order to take the chances, you need to set yourself up to succeed when they come. You need to work your ass off so that when the chances comes, you’re in the best possible position to make them pay off.

As an example, in January I started putting together a fantasy novel. On the 25th of January, Angry Robot announce their Open Door for April. A whole month during which a successful, popular, and rapidly growing publisher are open to submissions. On top of that, they are specifically looking for Epic Fantasy. In spite of the sudden quickening of my tiny writer heart, I told myself that I was going to pass on the Open Door. Sure, I could get a draft finished by the end of April, but it would be one hammered out in the spaces between work and life, and considering work commitments had crushed my free time for the previous ten months I knew that if I rushed it, the work would not meet my own standards, let alone that of a publisher.

I finished the novel in July. It’s been through beta readers, some major revisions in part (including an entire rework of the end). While I’ve been working on it I’ve planned a follow up novel and started writing a second, unrelated tale. I’ve also contributed two stories to anthologies. I’ve had an enormous amount of fun doing all of it, which is how I reckon it should be.

And, to put the icing on the cake, another door is opening.

Wow. In writing all that, I’ve discovered what I was actually trying to say is this:



*Work-Time Dilation. If you think you can have it done in a week, that usually means two. I’m quadrupling it to the whole month in this case because this is important, right? You want to get it right, right?