Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Submission Process - 101

If we apply for a job with a company, what generally goes into that application packet? In most cases, you submit the following:
  • Cover letter
  • Resume
  • Letters of reference
  • Application
  • Sample of work
This certainly doesn't come as a shock to you. This is a pretty standard packet for any job. I bring this up though because, for the most part, this is the same information you would submit to a potential editor or agent if you are wishing to work with that individual.
  • Cover Letter = Resume
  • Resume = Biography/Bibliography
  • Sample of Work = Your manuscript
  • Letters of reference = might include recommendations from other authors
Still, for many authors they seem to struggle with seeing the correlation between the two. For some reason, there is a belief that what we do in publishing is somehow different from any other job out there.

For the next couple of days, I want to focus on the submission process in the same way we view apply for jobs. Today, we focus on the whole submission process.

If we want to get a new job, what do we do? We don't just randomly throw darts a board. If it is a job fair, we don't just run from one table to the next to throw applications at the HR people. We do our research. We make sure the job we are applying for is perfect for us.

If the job is in a field we aren't educated in, we certainly don't apply for the job. We look at the qualifications for the job as well as the job description and make sure that we are the right candidate for the job. Even if we take the old standard approach of looking in the classified ads (yes, this is old-school here with print newspapers) we will still go beyond that single blurb and look at the detailed information at the company website.

With publishing, we do the same thing. Successful authors know good and well that their stories do not go to every publisher out there. They do their research and find out all they can about the publishers they want to work for, the specific editors and yes, even the agents they want to work for. 

Unfortunately, too many authors skip this step. At writers conferences, they simply sign up for any opening that shows up with any editor or agent. They don't take the time to look and see if this person is even acquiring that material, or even if the person is right for that writer. Editors and agents are dealing with, on a daily basis, a ton of submissions that show up in or Emails that aren't even in the genre we represent.

Let's move to another level - Education.

In the "real world" do we apply for jobs we have no skill in? Probably not. Along the same lines, we don't often apply for jobs UNTIL we have finished our degree and have learned that skill area. We know the value of education, whether it is high school, college, university or tech school. We want to know what we are doing before we start applying. Why? Because we want to demonstrate we can do it.

But, in writing, we often skip this step. Writers often write one manuscript, with no guidance, no workshops, no knowledge of the business and wonder why they get rejected? In simple terms, they have skipped their education.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I am a firm believer in writers taking their time before submitting. Learn the business. Learn the craft. Don't rush.

Look, this isn't rocket science here. Publishing is a job. This means we have to approach it with the same attitude we would if we apply for a job in the real world.


  1. I like this a lot. It's very true and to be honest, when I started writing years ago, I would have never understood this because we're all so naive starting.

  2. Publishing is exactly backwards from the typical job in another respect. The agent works for the writer, yet the writer must submit the resume.

  3. Maryilynn,
    You make an interesting point, but there might be a bit of twist to this to consider. In most cases, it isn't so much about someone working for someone else, but more of a team work situation. The agent and the writer work together to get the projects submitted. Agents will not (in most cases) just do whatever the writer wants. If a project isn't quite ready, most agents will certainly not send it out just because the writer says to do it now. Along the same lines, if a writer wants to send it to XYZ Publisher and the agent doesn't feel it is right, in most cases, there will be a discussion about placement.
    Just another angle to think about with this.