By: Amanda Gochez
All of us writers have been there. I have talked about how we get lost in the excitement of submitting our manuscript to publishers and literally agents in previous blogs, but what I have not yet done is stress the importance of reading the guidelines for submission.
Let me just start by saying that I’ve made each of the mistakes you’ll find discussed below. I’ve gotten so many rejections for my own manuscripts in the last few months and yes, each one hurts just the same, but it is what it is. With that said, what I have noticed about other submissions is how many submitters get lost in the excitement and do not triple check their work. When I first started submitting my manuscripts, I didn’t understand the importance of a query letter. What is the letter going to show them that my manuscript won’t? Well, it can tell quite a bit.
For instance, the guidelines for the publisher or agent says, “WE DO NOT ACCEPT ATTACHMENTS. IF YOU SEND ATTACHMENTS YOUR SUBMISSION WILL BE DELETED. PLEASE COPY AND PASTE IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL.” Please, listen to them. And for all that’s yummy in this world, double check for grammar errors and misspelled words. I am far from having established myself as a publisher or a literary agent, even though it is what I eventually aspire to be. While beginning my journey, however, I have noticed that if the submission itself has a litany of errors, and/or no professionalism, let me tell you something: THEY WILL DELETE IT. They aren’t even going to read it. They are going to say, “Wow they can’t even double check their work before submitting? No, thanks.” DELETE.
Or perhaps the guidelines state, “PLEASE ATTACH A COPY OF THE QUERY LETTER AND MANUSCRIPT.” Awesome, so what do you write in the body of the email to lead them to the attachments? You can’t just leave it blank because that’s awkward. My personal go-to is,
“Dear Ms. Smith, Please see the attached query letter and manuscript to be considered for acquisition. Thank you, Amanda.”
It’s generic. I know it is boring. But, anything personal you say in the email will be in the letter, they don’t want to reread anything. They don’t want you to write a synopsis in the email just to read it again in the letter. They don’t have that much time. They want the letter to be answers; “Why submit to us?” “What is your story about?” “Tell us about yourself as an author.” Basically, are you a newbie or do you have experience in this industry?
They want consistency. They want professionalism. They want to see that you researched who they are. They want to see that you followed directions. When they read your query letter, they want to be able to see that you are serious. They want the query letter to stand out, as they read so many of them each day. And if they don’t like the query letter, they probably won’t read your manuscript. Seems brutal, I understand, but that’s just how it is.
So why am I talking about something you already know? Because these seemingly innocuous things come up each and every day when reviewing submissions. Inconsistencies, failure to follow guidelines, unprofessionalism, grammatical issues, misspelled words…the list goes on. Seriously, I have only been an intern for a few months, but I’ve gained a little insight and I thought it best to share it with you. Being on the other side makes me realize how NOT great my submissions have been, even though I did the research and thought I had been thorough.
Am I being harsh? Maybe. But if you can’t handle the truth, then you probably can’t handle this industry. Don’t forget to submit your manuscript in the format requested, don’t forget to submit the actual finalized version of your manuscript, don’t forget your query letter, and don’t forget to triple check for grammatical or spelling errors. We aren’t perfect, but they want something close with your submission. Let me tell you, reading submissions with errors in the email does not motivate me to read your manuscript. Why? The answer is basic, and cut and dry. Your email and query letter are a reflection of what the manuscript consists of.
The query letter holds important information like YOUR contact information, YOUR qualifications and published works, awards from those works, a synopsis of your manuscript…etc. You don’t know how to write a letter? Research it. You don’t know what agents want? Research it. You don’t know if this word or that word should be used? Dictionaries and thesauruses are helpful (or hire an editor).
Go out of your way to make your submission perfect. Because if you don’t put all your effort into the submission, it will show. And if you don’t put your best foot forward with your work, why should an agent or publisher be willing to?
Please, pay attention. I don’t know everything about this industry, but if I notice these things, what do you think publishers and agents see?