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Over The Transom – Another Arcane Freelance Writing Term

over the transomHi Anne,

I could probably find out this information through a google search, but I would like to know from you, what is submitting articles through the transom? What work is involved in it?

I’d appreciate any article or explanation you have to offer on the subject.



Hi GA,

Jargon just slips in everywhere doesn’t it?

I googled the term just to be sure and guess what? An article I wrote years ago showed up as number 2. Essentially the term over the transom means to submit manuscript to a publisher without an agent or without getting the go-ahead from an editor as a result of a query.

So the work is completing the manuscript and locating a publisher.

The manuscript can be an article, a book or just about anything a publisher might buy.

The biggest reason you might do this is because you hope to sell it and don’t want to go through the query process or, in the case of a book, find an agent. The risk, of course, is that it gets rejected – but that’s the risk you take with a query or an agent.

You might want to submit a complete manuscript because it’s impossible to describe the piece in a query. A top of the head article on family camping for a woman’s magazine might be an example. So might an op-ed piece (commentary printed opposite an editorial). A breaking news story might also be an example. Short stories for magazines are often sent over the transom.

Over the transom history

I also googled the history of the term, over the transom. While I was right, it refers to a window over a door that was opened for air circulation before we had air conditioning, it turns out that it’s not just manuscripts that have been slipped into publishing offices. According to the U.K. based Phrase Finder it was also used to talk about bribes for politicians and, perhaps, any unexpected luck.

Got a question about freelance writing? Contact me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll probably get it answered for you.

I also sell an ebook called The Freelance Writer’s Glossary which you might find helpful.


Image adapted from Attribution Some rights reserved by Zonie_Zambonie

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