Most publishers have a specific focus and a specific format in which they want to receive submissions, usually described in their submission guidelines.
For example, in our submission guidelines we state that we exclusively publish fiction written by women, yet we have received several submissions by men. After telling one of them that we accept only submission by women, he told us that his wife has a wonderful manuscript and asked if he could send us the whole thing. We told him that we would love to take a look if he could please follow the instructions we give on submitting manuscripts… We never heard back from him.
The editor-in-chief of a large publishing house told us that every now and then, manuscripts are sent to their “erotica department”—even though the publisher explicitly states in their submission guidelines that they’re not accepting erotica.
We also instruct authors to send us their manuscript as an e-mail attachment, but a few authors mailed us paper copies. One writer even copied the full manuscript into the body of an e-mail.
Some authors sent us e-mails, saying things such as, “I know your submission guidelines say to send you the first three chapters, but I attached pages 23-70, because they’re more interesting.” Well, there’s a reason we want you to send us your opening—if the book gets interesting only on page 23, readers will stop reading long before they reach that page.
Not following the instructions given in the submission guidelines doesn’t make your manuscript a bad one. That’s not it. But even if the submitted manuscript is great, it’s never a good sign if an author is not able to follow the few instructions we give. The process to see a story published is a long one and requires cooperation and willingness to work together on both sides. So ignoring instructions in the beginning isn’t a good way to start the cooperation.
So please, do yourself a favor—read the publisher’s submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. It will show the publisher that you’re professional enough to follow directions.