Giving Publishers the Same Courtesy I Give the Car Wash Guy

I suffered deep humiliation when I took my car in for free wash--something I got after having my oil changed. Since free means the the absolute basic wash, I expected to drive my car through one of those mechanisms that frightens pets and small children. Instead, I had to hand over my keys to a waiting employee. OK, I thought. Probably some insurance requirement that they drive the cars through themselves.

Let me describe the interior of my car. Back Seat. A few empty collapsible water dishes, reusable grocery bags tossed in the corner until I put them in the trunk where they belong, and lots and lots of dog hair. It looks like I have a blanket over my back seat. The window on one side is smother in nose smears and drool from Buster.

Front Seat. Receipts that I need to go through dating back to January, discarded water bottles that roll on the floor, and lots of straw wrappers and crumpled napkins. These I stuffed into a bag to get them out of the way before handing over my keys.

Half an hour later, my car sparkled--inside and out.  I expected a quick dry courtesy of automated blowers. Instead, a guy equipped with bucket and towels cleaned my entire car by hand. Yes, he went inside and saw my embarrassing mess.

I actually apologized to him as I handed over a five dollar bill--all the cash I had on me. Yet I don't always have the same pride about my manuscripts. Is it because the car wash guy could see my face?

How many writers pick up before the cleaning lady arrives, yet hand over sloppy pages to agents and publishers?

It's not intentional neglect. I've submitted work and then realized that it was the second-to-last version I attached and not the final, proof read version. I've made corrections only to find out that they didn't "take". How simple to close and save the document and then reopen just to make sure everything is as it should be.

Yesterday, I opened a Teacher's Guide I'm working on. I had made all sorts of changes, yet when I opened it up, they were gone. It turned out that when I saved the document the day before, there was a simple slip of keys in typing the name of the document--a 1 for an l. Can you tell at a glance that the first is a one and the second an L? Me neither. Anyway, if I had sent in the properly named document (the previous save) without checking it first, I would have been mortified. The client's thoughts about my professionalism may have been even darker.

After spending anywhere from hours to days to months on a project, why is it so difficult to take the time to review? Excitement? Relief? Boredom? None are good reasons.

Maybe, when writers discuss the writing process, there should be an additional step that falls after the final edit and hitting the send button. The Cover Your Butt Step.

P.S. I almost published this without hitting the spellcheck. Sigh.


  1. Good reminder! I recently submitted a story to an online journal, only I put the wrong title. I wasn't recycling a query letter, I just blanked out and wrote the title of another story instead of the one I sent. Yikes. It got rejected anyway, and they had the decency to cite the correct title in their rejection.

    PS -- The nose smears and drool are technically known as snoodles. They're handy for ID'ing your car from look-alikes in the parking lot.

  2. Now, when the snoodles are on the manuscript, well... I'm not sure you can come up with a decent explanation for that.

    About the main topic, I think we are just so darned happy to have a completed ms. to send, we get clouded about the other details. We need assistants. Yeah, that's it.

  3. Love the Snoodles. Love the idea of assistants. Do you think I could combine them and clicker train the dog to...probably not.


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