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[rec.arts.sf.composition] Frequently Asked Questions

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Archive-name: writing/sf-composition
Posting-Frequency: bi-weekly
Last-modified: 1997/04/29
Version: 1.3b
Copyright: (c) 1997 Geoffrey Wiseman
Maintainer: Geoffrey Wiseman <>

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
[ Frequently Asked Questions for rec.arts.sf.composition, v1.3a ]
Date of last modification:  April 29, 1997.


96-11-21:  v1.0   of the FAQ is released.
96-12-01:  v1.1   contains minor corrections and adjustments 
97-02-20:  v1.2   contains real FAQ questions, with more to come.
97-04-17:  v1.2a  extra credits
97-04-21:  v1.3	  a substantial revision including new
97-04-29:  v1.3a  two new questions and some minor changes.
97-05-05:  v1.3b  approved by news.answers.  posted, archived and
                  sent to FAQ server.

0.1	Credits

At the time this document was last modified, assorted credit for
bits of this FAQ were due to:

    Loki                    <>
    Stevens R. Miller       <>
    Gary Farber             <>
    Patricia Wrede          <>
    Lisa Leutheuser         <>
    Patrick Nielsen Hayden  <>
    Dan Goodman             <>
    Patricia C. Wrede	    <>

Extra credit is given to the following people for contributing to
this FAQ in an indirect fashion by being a long-time font of 
useful information:

    Gary Farber             <>
    Liz Holliday            <>
    Patrick Nielsen Hayden  <>
    Lawrence Watt-Evans	    <>    


This document is to serve as a list of frequently asked 
questions, as well as a form of help document for the 
Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.composition.

At the time this document was last modified, the maintainer of
this FAQ was Loki and he could be found at 
for general email or for general, non-urgent FAQ 
commentary that will be looked at less frequently.

If you feel in need of a form of address and "oh great and 
wonderful maintainer of the rasfc FAQ" seems like a mouthful,
try 'Geoff' or 'Loki'.

Any questions, suggestions, comments or other feedback can be 
directed to him.  Comments posted to rec.arts.sf.composition 
may well be seen, but no guarantees will be made.  As well, 
requests for a copy of the FAQ may be sent to this address, 
although the FAQ itself should be up on the WWW in the near 

1.1	Charter

The charter for this newsgroup was posted with the RFD 
(Request for Discussion) and CFV (Call for Votes) for this 
newsgroup.  It is reproduced here, with minimal modifications:

Before discussing the newsgroup, one must define 'sf', for 
which I refer to the original CFV for the group that created 
the rec.arts.sf.* hierarchy:  "Both science fiction and 
fantasy, as well as that vast blurred mass of material in 
between."  This charter mirrors the position of the HWA:  
Horror is an emotion, not a genre.  If the Horror takes place 
in a speculative fiction book, it can be discussed in an sf

The rec.arts.sf.composition newsgroup would include, but not be 
limited to the following types of discussion:

    General writing questions, to be answered from the sf 
    perspective.  This includes market research, submission 
    format and discussions on the process of writing itself,
    as it connects with the writing of sf.

    Discussion of the process of writing speculative fiction 
    between professionals, aspiring writers or the merely 

    Discussion of the methods and processes of worldbuilding, 
    the creation of new, alternate or historically-based worlds
    in which speculative fiction is often set.

This newsgroup is not meant to replace or significantly  
overlap other groups.  As such, topics that are on-topic 
and useful in other groups should be kept to those groups.  
That would include, but not be limited to the following

    Discussion connected to writing, but not specifically
    to sf, nor with an important sf slant should be posted
    in misc.writing.
    Discussion about the science used in speculative fiction
    should be posted to
    Discussion of existing written work should be left to

As well, the charter specifically excludes the posting of work 
unless that posting is specifically related to a topic that is
being discussed, and is used in that context, and quoted briefly.
Posting of work to be read and/or critiqued is excluded from the
charter of this newsgroup, for a number of reasons.  For 
those who wish to avail themselves of the group's resources, a 
specially marked header, "CRIT:  " will be used to post short 
requests for critiquing or reading, with all followups directed 
to email, the poster's web page, rec.arts.prose, or any other 
valid forum, rather than the newsgroup.

As for advertising, overt advertising is excluded from the 
group, particularly off-topic overt advertising (the kind that 
doesn't care what this charter says anyway).  Tactful, brief, 
infrequently posted references to information that can be 
found elsewhere will be tolerated, but advertisers must tread 
that fine line carefully if they wish to avoid flamage from 
ad-hating regulars.

1.2	Annotations

The charter as shown above was only slightly modified to 
clear up the section on the posting of work, as the phrasing 
wasn't as specific as it should have been.

1.3	FAQ Procedures

At this time, the FAQ will be posted every two weeks.  Changes 
to that timing will be made as the FAQ maintainer sees fit.  
It can also be posted on request, requested by email or found 
on the web at  Further, it is
archived on and can be found in news.answers.
Anyone who wishes to keep a copy to post, email or from which
to quote or post is asked to keep their copy up to date.

Additions to the FAQ will be made as seen fit by the FAQ 
maintainer, but may be suggested by emailing the FAQ 
maintainer, or posting in the newsgroup.  It is hoped that the 
Frequently Asked Questions section will primarily be composed of 
paragraphs quoted directly from newsgroup participants, or 
edited for brevity or clarity.  Those participants will be 
asked in email before their comments are added, and their 
comments will only appear in the FAQ if they agree to it.

1.4	Where can I find this FAQ?

It will be posted every two weeks by MIT's faq-server to 
news.answers, rec.answers and rec.arts.sf.composition.  It
can be found via FTP (or email) through under
the archive name writing/sf-composition.  It is on the web


2.1	Critiques

As mentioned in the group's charter, posting of work to be 
read or critiqued is against the charter.  Not only are there 
better, more valid places for that sort of activity, and not 
only does this cause publication difficulties that new writers 
may not have thought about, but these messages, being long 
and potentially frequent, could drive legitimate readers 
and traffic from the group.  Please keep postings of work 
to small excerpts that fit into the discussion, or just don't 
post them.  

If you wish to post a message requesting that people read or 
critique your work, please use the "CRIT:" subject prefix to 
allow people to killfile your posts if they have no interest 
in reading or critiquing your work, or anyone else's.  These 
messages should be kept brief, and should largely be a short 
summary of what you're requesting (be that reading or 
critiquing), a description of your story (theme, genre, 
size--whatever you feel is relevant, but be brief) and where
that story can be found (email, WWW, FTP, whatever you want, 
just not on the group).

2.2	Netiquette

That subject is too vast to go into in detail, and isn't really 
the business of the FAQ maintainer or the FAQ.  However, it is 
hoped that flameage, crossposting, spam, and other egregious 
breaches of netiquette can be kept to a minimum, as they have 
been with rec.arts.sf.written.

Further information can be found on the news.announce.newusers 
group, in the form of FAQs.

2.3	Advertising

As stated in the charter, overt advertising is excluded from 
the group; if you wish to promote your work, your services or 
your products, please leave only a very brief message with 
minimal marketese.  That is, while "My new book is on the 
shelves!  Anyone seen it?" or "I've a program I think might 
be useful to writers: blah blah blah for more information, 
see the following URL:" is generally tolerable, long ads or 
extremely non-relevant posts or posts filled with hyperbole 
will likely get flamed.

The charter deliberately leaves the matter vague--it is up 
to the group participants to determine what level of advertising 
is acceptable.  While one can probably expect the posters (by 
and large, at least) to be reasonable, tread the line 
carefully.  There -is- such a thing as bad publicity.

I had a great example of an ad, but I seem to have misplaced it.
I'll put it in here, if I locate it again.

2.4	Moderation

The group, as proposed, was unmoderated.  Most of those 
participating in the discussion of the group were strongly 
against group moderation. That policy  will only change if the 
group as a whole, particularly regulars, decide to firmly support 
a switch to a moderated policy.

2.5 	North America centrism, specifically USA-centrism.

Some of the things in this FAQ will undoubtedly be given by 
American experts concerning submissions to American markets; 
although this is the prime audience of the FAQ, any corrections 
to make the FAQ more global are certainly welcomed.


3.1	What is the appropriate manuscript format for 
	submission to speculative fiction markets?  Is it 
	important to get every detail right?

As long as you get the basics right, there won't be any real harm 
done; in fact, it is a common opinion among pros and editors that 
many amateurs spend far too much time worrying about format that 
should be spent improving their writing.  However, getting the 
basics right is certainly one of the first steps to from wannabe 
to would-be.

Essentially:  Spend ten minutes getting to know what the format 
is, stick to it, and stop worrying about it.

Your main body of text should be double-spaced, with ragged-right 
justification (or left justification, as opposed to -full- 
justification) text organized into a series of paragraphs.  
Except when needed as scene breaks, there should be no additional 
blank lines between paragraphs.  Scene break lines are preferably 
marked, either with an asterisk (*) or a pound sign (#).  The 
typeface should not be proportionally spaced, and should be as close 
to typewriter text as possible.  For most of us, that means 
Courier 12pt.  

The text should start halfway down the first page; as for the 
rest of the page, the writer's name and address should be in 
the upper left-hand corner, the word count in the upper right, 
the title and byline centered in the middle of the page. 

Every other page in the document should have the writer's last 
name, the story title and the page number in the upper right-hand 
corner, usually separated by slashes (eg:  Wiseman / rasfc FAQ 
/ page 2 ). Do not bind the manuscript in any permanent way; 
a removeable clip is acceptable.  If the manuscript need not be 
returned, mark DISPOSABLE on the first page.

Any part of the text meant to be displayed in italics should 
be underlined and -not- in italics.

Although many reference sources not specific to sf/f/h will 
specify that you should include a rights-offered statement, 
this is not a standard practice in speculative fiction 
publication and should be avoided.

 	References include:
		"Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy," 
		Dozois, G. et al, ed.; 
		St. Martin's Press, New York;

3.2	What about cover letters?

If an editor has a specific policy with respect to cover letters, 
follow it.  Otherwise, be brief.  Most people with editing 
experience will tell you that unprofessional cover letters are 
a common mistake of amateurs.

Your cover letter should simply include any -relevant- 
previous sales (no, not your article on hand-rolling cigarettes 
for the school paper), and potentially that you've graduated 
from Clarion, if you have.  State that you're submitting a 
story, attached, and end the cover letter there, while you're 
still ahead.

3.3	So what's all this about rights, anyway?

Unless otherwise specified, sf magazines are buying North 
American First Serial rights.  In theory, this means that 
something published out of North America is saleable.  In 
practice, mention -any- previous sales in the cover 
letter--most editors are not looking to buy reprints of any 
sort, unless you happen to be big-name.

Of course, if you're not selling to a North American magazine, 
it is unlikely to be buying North American First Serial 
rights, but again, in practice, the distinction is rarely 

Likewise, electronic publication (web pages, newsgroups, large 
email lists, any place with real circulation) is likely to affect 
a work's salability; if you are trying to sell a work that has 
been electronically 'published' be sure and include that 
information in the cover letter.

3.4	Do I need a copyright notice?


Stevens R. Miller summarized the issue quite well, so I'll quote 

    By international law (known as "the Berne Convention"), 
    any work is protected by copyright law upon its fixation 
    in a tangible medium. The author of the work owns the 
    copyright unless the work was created for hire. No notice 
    or symbol is required on the work. Some legal advantages 
    apply when a notice is present, however, and the law defines 
    a valid notice to look like:

            Copyright 1996 by Stevens R. Miller
    The "C" in a circle and other variations are also legal, but
    the above is always valid. In some countries, the phrase "all
    rights reserved" should accompany the notice. In the United
    States, the phrase adds nothing, but it also takes nothing

    To commence a suit for infringement, the copyright must be
    registered. However, registration can occur after 

    Copyright lasts for the duration of the author's life, plus a
    term of years that Congress periodically has increased. In 
    1994, the term was fifty years. Anonymous works, joint works, 
    works owned by corporations, and others all have rules 
    governing them that vary the above, but the main point is: 
    Once you've written it down somewhere, you have a copyright 
    to it.

Lisa Leutheuser ( adds the following caveat:

    If you're sending something through e-mail, don't take the
    chance that the recipient's e-mail software can handle 
    anything beyond ASCII text, such as that fancy c-in-a-circle.  
    Use "Copyright."  Same said for fax machines.  Why take the 
    chance that the fax machine will not clearly scan the little 
Basically, it's easiest just to include the full word.  (C) and 
the full copyright symbol are harder to reproduce and often 
won't carry through all transmission media.

3.5 Trademarks

Stevens R. Miller on the subject:

	A trademark is a form of intellectual property. It is any
	word, name, symbol, or device used by a manufacturer or
	merchant to identify his or her goods. (15 USC 1127). A 
	valid trademark may not be used by anyone other than the 
	markholder if that usage would reasonably confuse the 
	public about whether or not the markholder's goods were 
	being offered by the nonholder. Usage that cannot 
	reasonably create this confusion is not a violation of 
	trademark law. One can, therefore, use a trademark 
	without permission or attribution, provided no reasonable 
	confusion will result. The letter's "tm" need not be 
	attached in such usage.

	Other restrictions besides trademark law, however, argue
	against unpermitted usage. Trademarks can also be 
	protected by either copyright or patent law. If the 
	trademark is used in a disparaging way, issues of 
	unfair competition and 	defamation can arise. And, even 
	where usage is entirely lawful, a markholder may, either 
	through ignorance or with malicious intent, commence 
	legal action that can be troublesome to combat.

	As a practical matter, trademarks should not be used 
	without permission, unless one is prepared to defend 
	against a law suit.

	(Foregoing is my general assessment of the matter based 
	on my understanding of the law. This is not my area 
	and anyone in need of advice on a particular issue 
	should not rely on it.)

Observation seems to indicate that tradmark use within fiction 
is common and not as fraught with danger as the above might 
indicate, but if you want to stay on the safe side, bear the 
above in mind.

3.6	How do I specify the word count on my manuscript?

Your word processor very likely can give you the 'exact' word 
count of your docment; besides the fact that different word 
processors will give you different results, you should know that 
editors don't want to know how many 'words' you have, but want 
to estimate the amount of space that would be required by your 

Given the above, the word count should be given in an estimated 
form, rather than the exact form.  The editors don't want to 
see the exact number, it makes a very small amount of extra work 
for them, and it marks the writer as an amateur.  A common 
practice is to round off short story counts to the nearest 
hundred, and novels to the nearest thousand.

3.7	Hey, there's an email/news article from an agent/publisher
	here.  Should I send something in?
No reputable speculative fiction agents have been seen posting on 
Usenet so far, AFAIK.  Chances are, it will remain that way.  Be 
instantly suspicious of any agent who's soliciting you, rather 
than vice versa.

There have been -very- infrequent postings by publishers.  White 
Wolf, for instance, has posted their guidelines to newsgroups on 
occasion.  Again, however, be suspicious unless you know the 
publisher.  If you can't find the publisher in Locus, ask around.  
If no-one else has heard of them, that tells you all you need to 

Someone has nicely assembled 'dubious agents' and 'dubious 
publishers' lists for the 'net.  While they aren't specific to 
speculative fiction, it's just a little bit more ammo for your 

    The Dubious Agents List
    The Dubious Publishers List

Robert J. Sawyer (76702.747@CompuServe.COM) listed the following 
agents as currently representing at least one member of the SFFWA:
	James Allen, Matthew Bialer (of William Morris), Barbara 
	Bova, Richard Curtis, Russell Galen (of Scovil Chichak 
	Galen), Ashley Grayson, Susan L. Graham, Merrilee Heifetz 
	(of Writers' House), Joshua Bilmes (of JABerwocky), 
	Sharon Jarvis, Virginia Kidd, Donald A. Maass, Ricia 
	Mainhardt, Jonathan Matson (of Harold Matson), Kirby 
	McCauley (of Pimlico), Shawna McCarthy (of Scovil 
	Chichak Galen), Martha Millard, Howard Morhaim, William 
	Morris, Inc., Owlswick Literary Agency, Scovil Chichak 
	Galen, Valerie Smith, Ralph M. Vicinanza, Cherry Weiner, 
	Eleanor Wood (of Spectrum)
That list is, of course, dating itself as we speak and may never 
be valid for another second of its lifetime, but it gives a 
starting place for now.  Hopefully, those in the know can help 
make sure it doesn't get egregiously out of date, but it's not 
to rely on.  Read Locus for real agent information, or chat up 
your favorite on-line author.  ;)

3.8	How's the submission process for novels really work?  What
	about copyediting?
From the keyboard of the eminent Patricia C. Wrede 
( comes the following:

	When you submit a manuscript, you usually send in one 
	copy.  That's the submission copy, or submission draft.  
	The editor then decides whether or not to buy it.  If 
	not, you go on to the next publisher.  If so...

	The editor asks for revisions.  Always.  Slow down the 
	pace here, pick it up there, explain *why* the parrot 
	didn't eat the goldfish this time when he'd eaten all six 
	of the previous goldfish, add a darker edge, bring this 
	sub-plot forward and push that one back, expand the fight 
	scene and trim the conversation over tea (or vice versa; 
	depends on the editor), and so on.  Some of them are 
	reasonable revisions; some of them you feel intensely 
	stupid for not having thought of yourself; some of them 
	are completely out of the question and you want to murder 
	the editor for even *thinking* of them, much less 
	suggesting them.

	So you talk.  And eventually, you come to an agreement 
	about what needs to be done.  Then you, the writer, go 
	and do it.  The revisions are almost never a matter of 
	fixing a page here and a page there; you end up doing a 
	run through the whole manuscript, which you then print up 
	and send off. (Some publishers request more than one copy 
	at this point, so that the Art Department can have one 
	while Editing and Production work on the other.) If the 
	editor decides that it is now acceptable, this becomes 
	the Final Manuscript, which gets sent to the copyeditor 
	and then to the typesetter. The editor can (but seldom 
	does) ask for a second or even a third round of 
	revisions, in which case it's just an intermediate 

	In very rare instances (or in the case of publishers who
	don't believe in wasting time editing bestselling authors
	whose books will sell like hotcakes anyway), the editor 
	will decide that the copy you originally submitted is 
	fine, and send it straight on to the copyeditor (this 
	actually happened to me once; it was a considerable 
	shock).  In this case, the submission manuscript and the 
	final manuscript are the same thing.

When sending in the final copy, it can be useful to include a 
style sheet--this indicates the variations that you were 
-attempting- to stick to.  That means, if you used 'grey' and 
'gray' inconsistently, your stylesheet will let the copyeditor 
know you meant to use the infinitely preferable 'grey'.  :)

As far as the format of the style sheet, Gary Farber had this to 
	There are several; this is not an important detail so 
	long as it is clear.  Some houses have preferences for 
	their copyeditors, some don't.

	The crucial detail is that every word is listed in 
	alphabetical order as this is the quickest way to use 
	the sheet(s) for reference.  

	Whether you go with a more graphic format like an 
	enlarged tic-tac-toe graph, each section for a letter, 
	or use a strictly linear list by letter does not matter 
	so long as it is clear and logical.
Lastly, when you get a chance to review the copy-edited draft 
(this may or may not be specified in your contract--if it isn't, 
you -may- not get this chance, if time is short), a word that'll 
come in handy is 'stet'.  You may use it so often that a 'stet' 
stamp will come in handy.  You should be able to find it in a 
dictionary, but it means 'let it stand' and indicates that you 
want the copyedited change not to be made--you want the original, 
unchanged form which you originally submitted.

3.9	Are there Writer's groups/workshops on the 'net?


Most people feel that a solid local writer's group is a better 
solution, but if there isn't one accessible to you, then an 
on-line workshop may be your ticket.  You can search around the 
'net for one, or just hop over to:

3.10 To what speculative fiction magazines should I submit?

There are market lists available on the 'net.  The most commonly 
described one is:
Very common advice from pros is to aim for the top of the heap, 
and work your way down, submitting constantly.  For most people, 
that means the top pay-wise, OMNI, Playboy, Writers of the 
Future, Analog, Asimov's and perhaps a couple more.  However, 
most of the prozines are worth being published in.  Once you're 
in to semi-pro, it's up to you.

Other people prefer to define the top of the heap through some 
other algorithm that works for them.  That, as well, is up to 
you.  But don't sell yourself short.

Someone (iforgoetwho@perhapszhe' recently
suggested that perhaps a better terminology than this almost
B&D "submission" and "rejection":

"I displayed my new short-short to Pirate Writings this week."
"Oh really?  How'd it go?"
"Oh, they failed to comprehend it.  However, they did send a 
 good note of incomprehension, so that's always a promising
"Oh, good.  Keep trying, they're bound to understand your work
 sooner or later."

If nothing else, this makes the ol' repeated-submission routine
much more entertaining to describe.

3.11 Why aren't there more questions than this?  And more detail?
     What's the secret handshake, and why haven't you told me 
     yet?  What's the manuscript format again?
Wannabe's and would-be's often get too caught up in the 
'mysteries' of the writing world, and spend all their time 
worrying about how best to break through, obsessing about 
manuscript format, and calling editors at home.

Here's what Patrick Nielsen Hayden ( had to say on 
the subject.  Other people with similarly respectable experience 
have mirrored what he had to say, including Lawrence Watt Evans,
and Gary Farber.

	I can barely find the words to say how tired I am of 
	online obsessiveness about this stuff.  Write good books.
	Write good books and send them out.  They will get found.
	Most of the people fussing over Courier or query letters 
	have not written good books and are not going to write 
	good books.  That's why they fixate on the petty little 
	details instead.

3.12 Who is Dan Goodman, and why does he keep telling me to
     talk to a reference librarian?
If every writer with a question asked around online instead of 
doing a little legwork for themselves, we'd be inundated with 
questions.  If your question seems like the kind of thing you 
should be looking up, beware that we will suggest that you should 
do just that.  If you have a particularly good reason why you're 
not looking it up, you might want to state that in your question-
asking post.

If you -are- going to look things up, you might want to know 
about reference librarians, since many people don't.  Dan Goodman 
( wrote this up for the FAQ:

	You want to find out what sailors in the Spanish Armada 
	ate.  You go to the library; you look where cookbooks 
	are, and books on sailing.  If the answer isn't there, 
	what do you do? 
	You ask a reference librarian.  There may be a reference-
	only book, or a book in storage, with the answer.  Or a 
	newspaper or magazine article which someone at the 
	library clipped out and saved.  Or maybe the information 
	is in a book on Comparative Bureaucracy in the sociology 
	section.  A reference librarian who doesn't have the 
	answer at hand can ask other reference librarians.
	It helps if you tell the reference librarian what you're 
	looking for.  Not "where can I find information about a 
	historical figure in an Eastern European country?" but 
	"I'm looking for information on the historical Dracula 
	-- not the fictional one." Not "What does the word 
	'gamahuche' mean?" but show the passage in which you 
	found the word.  It also helps if you explain what you 
	intend to do with the information.  

	Don't worry about looking ignorant or foolish.  The last 
	questioner may have been looking for T.S. Eliot's (or 
	maybe it was Winston S.  Churchill's) novel about 
	gamekeeping -- with a title something like 
	"Chatterton's Lady."  Yes, I made that up -- the real 
	examples I've been given aren't believable.

3.13 What kind of advance am I likely to get for my first book?

Although some clearly run to either extreme, $4,000-$10,000 is a 
reasonable approximation.  For a more clear approximation, 
submit your novel to a publisher, and convince them to buy it.  
It will depend on your story, and on the publisher, and any 
number of other things you can't control.  Ultimately, it does 
your career good to earn out your advance, so don't fret too 
much about the payment.  If your book earns out, you'll start 
collecting royalties.

As a side note, though, once a publisher has informed you that 
they're interested in purchasing your novel, this is an ideal 
time to find an agent.  You have a sale on the table, but you 
want someone to negotiate it properly for you.  With a sale in 
hand, it's much easier to get a listen at an agent that you're 
interested in.

3.14 Simultaneous Submissions:  Are they ok?

Some people find the wait to hear the results of a particular
submission/display of their work to a publisher to be unbearable.
They would like to submit the same story or manuscript to more
than one publisher at a same time.

However, as convenient as this might be, it tends not to work out
very well for the editors, who spend a bunch of time reading a
story, decide to accept it, prepare themselves with that in mind.
In the case of short stories, this tends to involve preparing 
an issue with a story in mind; for novels, this tends to involve
a lot of discussion with various people to determine if it fits 
into the lineup, and so forth.

In order to avoid these problems, almost all editors in the SF 
genre will not accept simultaneous submissions.  This makes the
practice rather pointless.  You can technically get away with it,
but this will only happen if only one person wishes to accept 
your manuscript, so betting on not getting caught is akin to 
betting that your writing isn't very good.

Ultimately, you'll have to decide for yourself.  Some people 
still feel that simsubbs are the way to go.  However, the 
large majority of SF pros (writers and editors) view it as
an extremely bad idea.

3.15 When submitting three-chapters-and-a-synopsis, should the
     rest of the novel be complete, or can I send my work in
     as soon as I ahve the three chapters?

Let me start off with a quote from Gary Farber:
	If you'd had a book published, odds are 95% that you'd 
	know the answer to this: so I presume you are 
	unpublished, in which case, yes, you need to have the 
	manuscript finished.  It would be a very rare and 
	exceptional case for an editor to risk signing a contract 
	with someone who has no track record and no completed 
	manuscript -- there are too many risks.  There are 
	exceptions, but it would be unwise for you to count on 
    	being one.

Like simsubs, you can get away with it if you're lucky, but it's
not a good idea to count on this.  The publisher might ask to
see the rest of your manuscript right away, and you won't have it
to give to them.  Alternately, you might want to make major editing
changes to the part the editor already has.

If your agent or publisher is willing to deal with this, and
they've been informed up-front, it's fine.  Just be aware that
editors and agents are rarely willing to do this for a new
writer that they have no experience with.

Loki : : rec.arts.sf.composition FAQ

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM