Thursday, July 24, 2008

Submission Guidelines

It constantly amazes me at how "stupid" writers can be. In fact, I am seeing more and more of these writers out there and frankly it really scares me. Not simply for the fact that they are writing, but that these people vote, drive, operate heavy machinery and even some do surgery.

Putting together a submission for an editor or an agent is so simple if you use your brain and yet, for the last several months, I have seen a lot of brainless wonders.

Look, before you submit to anyone, take the time to read their guidelines on what to submit and how to submit. This is really not that hard. All of the information is posted on their websites and for some, they really took the time to make it crystal clear for the writers.

I cruised around to various websites today to see what they have. All of them had very clear guidelines as to what to send and how to send it. I have to say, I think mine has even clearer guidelines, with specific information that writers can download and read.

If you really want to stop the rejections from coming back, then start to follow the directions.

Now, for those of you getting ready to pitch in San Francisco, you dang well better do that research before you go. Especially for the editors... Here are some things to consider:

1) Did you know that there are some publishers that, although they are listening to your pitches, may well reject you unless you have an agent? Check this out ahead of time.
2) Is your word count in the area of what the publisher wants? If not, you will get a rejection (even though they may ask to see your manuscript).
3) Are you pitching a genre that they even want? If not, you will get a rejection (even though they may ask to see your manuscript).
4) Do you know what those editors and agents like? If you pitch something they simply hate you will get a rejection (even though they may ask to see your manuscript).

Simply put, stupid mistakes make up the majority of the rejections we send out. And if you are thinking "Whew, that's not me," you may want to make sure before you say it outloud.

Check your mail. Is there a rejection?



  1. The program has been rejecting comments for several days. Sometimes the letters and numbers run together so closely that it is difficult to tell what they are, and there is no second chance to correct it. Let's see.

  2. That seemed to work. Useful insights, and may I add the miserable news of encountering what Eric Maisel calls "the insanity of the marketplace?"
    Many agent websites state that they want to see women's fiction and historical novels as well as romances., but if a list of their recent publications can be found, one finds that all they have apparently published for a long time consists of either hardcore chick lit or formula romance. I don't think the websites are updated very often.
    So many agents insist they want submissions that are unique, unusual, terrific new stories, but what they really seems to mean is that they want "new" ideas that read just like the last bestseller. For instance, this summer and fall there are apparently at least FOUR novels being released based on the same set of witchtrials in Salem. Fine, but how many can the market absorb? Will they earn back their advances? We shall see. After the success of the Stephanie Meyer books, i expect a veritable tidal wave of vampire knockoffs. Everyone seems to be chasing their tails. Be warned as you submit ideas that are not near-copies of whatever sold well last time around. Watch what agents do rather than what is said.
    For instance, the Donald Maass agency, a top one, has added to their web site, a list of what they are currently looking for, and updating it every month. This is a great idea, and much appreciated. But I was thunderstruck when I looked at the list of plot ideas suggested by this Mt. Everest of agencies.
    It's just the same old tired stuff! Summer camp mysteries, murder at beach time shares, legal interns who discover someone is being blackmailed at a high level, blah, blah, blah...
    What can anyone possibly say that is fresh and interesting about dad taking the kids to the beach for the summer? I can't imagine.
    I hear you saying that these hoary plots are reliable sellers, and that a writer needs to come up with a fresh angle on the tedious murder at a time share house plot, but I think you may as well ask for world peace at the same time. Don't hold your breath, gang.
    So, buyer beware, as always, and it's stil critical to know the truth about the industry as it exists right now. Only the toughest will make it.
    I do have a great new idea for DM though. A group of young and beautiful New York professionals (one must be gay of course) are renting a beach house, and one of them...appears to be...yes! a vampire! Omigod, bestseller for sure. I'm rich.
    Back to The Trail. And I am sincerely grateful to the DM agency for saying in plain English what is wanted right now. I hope more agencies will consider doing this. Save a lot of trees.

  3. took me a long time to actually listen to what H/S wanted. But y'know, in a world of Italian Tycoons with mistresses and strangely wealthy royals from long forgotten countries that for some reason keep their money--there is room for new stuff.

    Knowing the rules, knowing what's up, is the first step. Working within the rules is the second. Yes, there can be something new to say about a murder at a time-share. Caroll O'Connell would send Mallory, and JR Ward would send the Brotherhood.