The Google Ate My Homework

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Amanda “The Bellman” Marlowe

My dog ate my homework
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I confess. I work for a major publisher. I confess, this major publisher does accept some kinds of unsolicited manuscripts. I also confess, I have occasionally received unsolicited manuscripts. Recently a manuscript for a children’s picture book crossed my desk. Addressed to me, personally. But hang on a minute before you rush me your manuscripts.

Thing is, I don’t work for the part of the company that produces the stuff that ends up on The New York Times Bestsellers List. I don’t even come close to dealing with book acquisitions. I work for a completely different part of the company—the educational division. If you aren’t one of our textbook authors, or one of our writers, or one of our editors, I won’t be looking at your writing. The most I can do for you if you send me a trade book manuscript is to look at your contact info and let you know you sent it to the wrong place.

So how did I end up with the occasional manuscript on my desk?

I suspect LinkedIn.

My guess is that some folks who were trying to do their homework didn’t like the fact they didn’t have a specific person listed with the submission address to whom they could address the cover letter directly. After all, the prevailing advice is that it is better to address it to a person than to “Dear Sir or Madam.” So they looked around on LinkedIn under my company’s name, and found my name, and somehow decided I was the lucky editor they would write the cover letter to. In one case, it made some sense. In the others, I have no idea why they picked me over my multitude of coworkers.

This story has a moral, of course, and like most morals it can be summed up in a catch phrase:

Don’t let The Google eat your homework.

If you are casting around for a real name to send your material to, make sure that person works for a relevant part of the company. If you can’t tell what part of the company someone works for through LinkedIn or other searches, don’t just pick someone at random. Seriously. Someone who writes standardized tests for a living isn’t interested in your picture book. You might be lucky and hit someone like me, who will point you in the right direction. Or you might get someone less helpful, who just looks blankly at your packet before tossing it in the trash.


Email: bellman[at]

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