Snow has been a pain in my rear this winter. In the past five days, we’ve had two missed school days and one late start. We had to cancel DH’s Christmas party due to icy roads and the internet and cable hibernated on Saturday.
Which makes me wonder, do editors and agents feel this way about our deluge of manuscripts?
Today I checked out the Kidlit blog this morning to refresh the rules for the first chapter contest. I browsed the comments, trying to size up the competition and saw a few questions that made me wonder just how attentive we writers are to submission guidelines.
My guess is not very.
Every once in a while, an agent or editor might be delighted with an unexpected submission. However, my guess is that more often than not, they get as crabby as a mom with four school age kids after the fifth week in a row of snow days.
In short, it gets tiresome to field queries that don’t follow basic guidelines. To review:
- Unless you are writing non-fiction or are a super-star, do not query an incomplete manuscript. Period.
- Do not submit the minute you complete your manuscript. Manuscripts need rounds of edits and “just finished my first novel” is a sure sign not to sign.
- Send only what is asked for. We are in love with our own writing and want everyone to see it in its entirety. Quash the urge. Go to agent or editor websites and find out what they want sent and how they want it to arrive on their desks. A snail query to e-queries only is a waste of trees and agent patience.
- Don’t tout your first place win for the International Society of Poets in your bio. Everyone owns the plaque and has been invited to spend their money on $60 anthologies of really bad poetry. If you don’t have writing credits, it’s okay. There are agents and editors hungry to find the newest best-selling author.
- Likewise, don’t tell them your grandmother loves your manuscript more than her nightly martini. She’s your grandma (insert at leisure: kids, mom, spouse, best friend, neighbor) and will lie to stay on the Christmas list.
- For the love of all things holy, do not send a picture book to a YA contest or a romance novel to a horror agent. To do so is to clutter up cyber space and eat up everyone’s time. It’s like adding six inches of snow to a forty mile an hour wind. Unless you’re God, don’t do it.
- Know the very basics of manuscript formatting should you include more than a query letter. Most websites that cater to writers (including agency and publishing house sites) have sections devoted to double spacing, one inch margins, chapter breaks, cover pages and fancy fonts. If you don’t know these things, check out Agent Query asap.
Please follow these basic guidelines to keep the slush at a minimum. In the long run, it should help staunch the blizzard of queries to agents and editors. This should lighten their moods and make them more apt to read all of our queries more closely. Henceforth giving writers a better chance of actually having their manuscript requested, read and repped.
Willy nilly submission practices only garner rejections.
If we all do our part, we can stop the hands-in-the-air, enough-already expletives from those we wish to woo.
Have you made rooky mistakes when querying? What tips can you provide other writers to help the right manuscripts make it to the right desk?