Monday, June 24, 2013

No Reason For "Stupid" Mistakes

When editors and agents start talking "shop" it is an almost certainty that one of the issues that comes up will be the "stupid" things writers do with submissions. We talk about our walls of shame in our offices and end up just shaking our heads. Unfortunately, these are mistakes that happen far too often, but also mistakes that could have been easily prevented. OK, maybe the people stalking us in the bathrooms at conferences might not be eliminated, but you get the idea.

I bring this up this morning for one simple reason. Editors and agents are trying to do all that they can to help writers out. As the title suggests, there really is no reason for these stupid mistakes to happen.

I have said this before but remember "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." That query letter, that synopsis, that entire submission packet is your initial introduction to the editors and agents. Those "mistakes" end up reflecting on your professionalism as a writer.

As I said, we do everything we can to clear the way to a great submission, but it does take time on your part.

Start first with their submission guidelines. Read those carefully. Everyone has different guidelines and you need to follow those with precision. No, these guidelines are not hoops to jump through or tricks. We have these here for a reason. Each of us reads the material that comes to us a different way and those guidelines help to streamline the process.

Next, take the time to do your research on the agency, the publisher and most certainly the individual agent or editor. Everyone likes something different, but they also have pet peeves. Sending something that crosses them the wrong way is not going to be a deal breaker, but it is starting you off on the wrong foot.

Finally, if you are unclear, then ask. We all have emails, so use them. I have always appreciated people who have simply asked something for clarification. Now, asking if we would be interested in  your story and then giving us a synopsis is nothing more than a query and we will treat it as such. But, asking those small points of clarification are fine.

The thing is, we don't like writing rejections. You don't like getting rejections. Let's see if we can reduce a few of those with getting rid of those "stupid mistakes."

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