You very rarely learn things from commercials on TV but one commercial did have an impact on me and since hearing it, I have used it constantly when working with writers and those in the business world. Head and Shoulders shampoo used the slogan once, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Oh, how true. And yet, for many people in the business world, they seem to forget this when sending resumes out to prospective employers. And guess what, writers are no exception when it comes to submissions to editors and agents.
I have talked about this before, but after working through 40+ submissions yesterday, I think it might be time for a refresher.
Everything you do, from the envelope, to the packaging of the manuscript in the envelope, to the query letter, and even the manuscript and synopsis reflect who you are as a professional writer. This is my first impression of you. From the first moment I “meet you” it is crucial that you have me thinking that you are a professional writer that understands the business and knows what it takes to survive in this world. Show me you are a hobbyist or a hack writer is not a great start. What is scary here, is that many times, you might have a fantastic 6+ figure book and you blew it on the approach.
Let me just make a list of a few of the good ones to give you a feel of this:
Query letter on a postcard telling me God wanted to buy the book.
Having the main character write the query because the author is too devastated from prior rejections.
Letters addressed to Mr. Grey Haus, Ms. Haus, Mr. Greyhaus Scott, etc.
Spelling and typos in the query (the funny thing here is that I have received these from English teachers)
Sending an envelope to mail the manuscript back with a note saying they didn’t have postage but I should get the stamps for them.
Using a Signature confirmation on an envelope with just a query letter
Sending an e-query with the entire manuscript for 2 books and 10 page synopses attached jamming my email
Using the form online to submit an e-query and entering data in the wrong spaces
Using the form online to submit an e-query and ignoring what I want (yes this is that whole word count issue again)
I could go on and on but you get the idea.
Remember that finding an agent or an editor for your book is just like getting a job. You must not only be qualified to do the work, but you have to carry yourself in such a manner that makes the person realize that you know what you are talking about. You must demonstrate that you are a writer in all areas. And yes, remember my conversations with you about pitching at conferences. Sweats and getting drunk are a no no.
Have a great day.
Scott C. Eagan