Ask Daphne! Hail Britannia!

July 10th, 2009 • Kate

johnlobbGorgeous bespoke British shoes for Roberto, who writes:

I have a question about international submissions. Do you prefer writing coming from Britain to use American spellings of words (‘color’, not ‘colour’, etc)? Considering that much of publishing seems to exist in London and New York, I wonder whether it is best to have two versions of a text, for submitting to agents in each country (if even this is a good idea). Does it matter?

Short answer: no, I don’t care about spelling, so long as it’s correct somewhere.

Long answer (and the more useful one, perhaps): no, but why are you worrying about this? Each country has a different style, and while many US books cross over to the UK and vice versa, why are you seeking representation in a different country, and neglecting your own? Those books that commonly cross over do so after being successful in their own country first.

Publishers want authors who are available to promote their book, and a UK author who seeks US publication first is already at a disadvantage (and vice versa). Not to say it isn’t done, but I think you need to ask yourself — why? In your mind, what’s wrong with the publishing industry in your own country that you would seek to ignore it?

If you’re not ignoring it — if, for instance, you’ve already made the rounds seeking publication in your own country, only to find rejection, why aren’t you revising your manuscript, or working on something new, rather than hoping that, while all the agents/editors/publishers in your own country might be wrong/stupid/clueless, surely those folks across the pond will realize your genius!

Don’t focus your attention on the little picture (spelling) while ignoring something bigger.

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8 Responses to “Ask Daphne! Hail Britannia!”

  1. Abby Says:

    I have to disagree here… There are many genres that have very different markets in the US and UK. Chick-lit, for example, and also the US YA market is much bigger, not just in sales (obviously) but also the breadth of material published. There are certain types of books that just don't get bought over here – an older commercial YA, chicklitty style for one. I know that Maureen Johnson only just got a UK deal recently, but her books haven't been available over here for years; similarly, browse the Borders YA section and 70%+ of the books won't have a UK deal.

    I targeted US agents and publishers for my YAs because I knew from the start that my style of shiny, teen girl YA didn't suit the market over here. Now, the publisher who bought it actually jointly acquired it with the UK branch, and will be putting it out here in a few months (so maybe that undermines my point!) – but that's a 'back-door' style deal. I sincerely doubt I would have found an agent or publisher had I queried over here (in the UK).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are styles of writing and genres that suit the market more in each territory, and querying agents on 'the other side' may be a sign of shrewd analysis more than overlooking your own country.

  2. Kate Says:

    Abby, thanks for that other perspective. Indeed, there are exceptions that prove every rule, and your experience is a fantastic one to share.

  3. Roberto Says:

    Many thanks for your answer Daphne, and to Abby for the counterpoint. I hadn’t really considered it as either/or, but perhaps I should. It just seems that there is a bigger YA market over there, and as such more agents who will represent authors in the area.

    As it happens, I haven’t sent my manuscript anywhere yet; I’m just trying to work out what to do when I think it’s good enough.

    I have to wonder though, when you get a submission from the UK (or anywhere else outside America, for that matter), does it concern you that they’ve sent it to New York when they could have looked for something closer?

  4. Kate Says:

    Honestly, I don't even look at addresses. I may *notice* it, but I don't look at your address to try to fill some sort of geographical quote.

    And maybe I'm looking at things the wrong way — maybe I should be grateful that my reputation has spread so far, that international authors are seeking me out!

  5. Fran Says:

    And then there are books like mine. Both are set about 50% in the U.K., but one has Australia as its home base, and the other has Canada.

    I have an English agent for the first, who'll possibly pick up the second – this after trying some 30 New York agents, but it was a bit of a dilemma – especially that darned spelling, which may not bother you, but bothered me a lot.

  6. Megan Says:

    I agree with Abby. My specific genre of YA doesn't exist in Australia, but is pretty big in America – therefore I'll be querying in America and probably not Australia!

  7. kt literary » Blog Archive » Ask Daphne! About International Clients Says:

    […] talked a little bit about this in the past, but the short answer is, sure, I’d be happy to consider queries from out of the country. […]

  8. Random Thoughts | Website of Megan Burke Says:

    […] get published, and worry about that later! 4. Kate over at KT Literary broaches the subject of international submissions. The original post started out as one on spellings (i.e. colour/color – English/American/) […]