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Paizo Publishing Gets Strangest Submission Ever

In mid-December 2002, just before Paizo’s holiday break, Dungeon Editor Chris Thomasson was sent the strangest submission he had ever received. We still don’t know if the adventure will be published, but the impact of its arrival was considerable. If the original portion of the submission process had not been handled properly, it wouldn’t even have been opened. We would have been forced, by our own guidelines to have thrown it away. In this case, that would have been heartwrenching because the package contained original artwork. Before continuing with this saga, we want to warn all would-be Dragon and Dungeon/Polyhedron authors to be certain that they read the submission guidelines before sending a proposal, much less a manuscript or package like the one described in this article. The story began after a proposal was greenlighted for submission. The author opted to use a mail packaging service and told them to pack the materials so that they would be safe. The result was described in the following email. The name has been held to protect the “guilty.” After all, you’ll know who it is if we publish it and you don’t need to know if we don’t publish it.

MIMIC OR MANUSCRIPT? Fortunately, Dungeon editor Chris Thomasson had received warning that the huge box that was to arrive on the next day contained a manuscript.


Please forgive me. UPS is about to deliver a box to you. A somewhat large cardboard box. A cardboard box just slightly smaller than Mount Rushmore. Inside, beneath several feet of Styrofoam peanuts, you’ll find, of all things, another cardboard box. Inside THAT box, you’ll find several feet of densely packed bubble wrap. Beneath the bubble wrap, you’ll find many layers of clear plastic wrap enclosing, well, more bubble wrap. At this point, a reasonable person might begin to wonder if this package contains some extraordinarily fragile treasure, some priceless Ming vase or mummified Incan artifact bound for Christie’s or The British Museum that has been mistakenly addressed to your office. It doesn’t.

Nor will you find, at the heart of the package, the business card of a salesman who sells bubble wrap. Somewhere deep below all of this Styrofoam and plastic, this monolithic package contains nothing more extraordinary than an adventure manuscript and a few illustrations. I dropped them off at my local Parcels Plus store and asked them to pack and ship them for me. “How do you want them shipped?” the clerk asked. “Safely,” I responded, “Just make sure they get there undamaged.” I then went to the grocery store, dropping by Parcels Plus again a half-hour later before heading home. “Ah, said the clerk with a proud smile, gesturing grandly to this ENORMOUS package standing alone behind the counter, “there’s your package.” We spent the next ten minutes discussing how something five inches tall transformed itself into a box big enough to carry the Ark of the Covenant. In the end, I learned that such massive proportions are absolutely necessary to ship a five-inch pile of paper and cardboard “safely.” I think the moral is, this time, go ahead and shoot the messenger.

NO BOX OF HOLDING After opening the box, we realized that the packing job was incredible. We had to push aside the Styrofoam and remove the…

ABJURER’S CHALK? We aren’t sure what these green blobs of light chalky substance may be, so we borrowed a term from Bastion’s Alchemy & Herbalists book. We have heard them called “peanuts” but they do not seem edible. Yet, there was more!

Naturally, as each layer of packaging was unveiled, the laughter increased such that not only were the Dungeon/Polyhedron staffers digging into the potpourri of protective materials, but the staffers from Dragon, Star Wars Insider and Paizo’s pre-press and corporate units were joining in the task of looting this cardboard treasure chest. Some of the other editors did not know that this was actually a manuscript that Thomasson had asked to see and, knowing the rule that we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, kept asking Chris how he was going to break the news to the contributor that we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Rules lawyers all over the company were waiting to see if Thomasson would fudge the rule. The rules lawyers sighed with disappointment when they found out that the manuscript was not in violation of the rules. Being sensitive “New Age” editors, they immediately switched tactics. “What are you going to do if the adventure isn’t any good?” they asked, failing their editorial empathy checks. Thomasson disappointed them again, stating that he would treat this adventure no differently than any other adventure and that they could be sure he would reject it if the adventure wasn’t good enough.

COCOON SWATHES. We were also forced to uncover the transparent material that surrounded the entire submission. We have heard that these may be called “bubble wrap,” but we prefer the term found in Bastion’s Alchemy & Herbalists book.

Once past the “bubble wrap,” we discovered two separate envelopes. One envelope contained the manuscript for the adventure while the other contained a brilliantly indexed supplement with extra maps, illustrations, a flow chart depicting the adventure’s timeline and more. We immediately decided that there was plenty of material for a web enhancement to accompany the adventure if the adventure itself proved to be as interesting as its components appeared to be. Before we could completely explore the envelopes, however, Theresa Cummins from our pre-press department had discovered that the packing material beneath the envelopes contained something completely unexpected. No, it wasn’t the Spanish Inquisition! The wrapping at the bottom of the carton contained canvases with original illustrations that had not been commissioned by the art director or editor. We don’t normally accept art from the authors, but this contributor took a huge chance on his own artwork in order to suggest his own vision for the adventure. Fortunately for the contributor, the art director likes some of the pieces, so they may make it into the adventure if it is accepted.

TWIN SCROLLS. Not only did the package contain the adventure (in envelope #1), but it contained a second envelope with annotations and additional resources for the adventure.

Of course, the rules lawyers on the staff weren’t quite finished, yet. Now, they asked the Dungeon staff if there was a return envelope with postage paid on it. If we didn’t know better, we’d have thought they were jealous and just looking for an excuse to reject the manuscript. Upon further discussion, however, we found that they were just worried that if Chris accepted this adventure that arrived in an outrageous package, they might receive such packages–packages that would be a hassle to open and a hassle to return. Thomasson turned to his colleagues over and over again and stated that he was only reading the manuscript because the author had queried him properly and followed the guidelines. Then, he insisted that if we posted the pictures on the web, we take extra care in pointing out that this is NOT the way we want to receive manuscripts and that, without the warning, it would have HURT the manuscript’s chances for acceptance. Hence, the title of this story, “Kids, Don’t Try This At Home!” Don’t try it at home, but you can read about it at home.

DISORIENTATION. Paizo’s Theresa Cummins and Mary Franklin attempt to unravel the mystery of all the extra material swathed in those transparent cocoons mentioned earlier.

OFF BALANCE. Dungeon Editor Chris Thomasson displays some of the original artwork that came unexpectedly with the submission.

SPRITE GALLERY. Here are a very few of the other paintings that were included with the package. Gift Certificates
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