Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Important Steps Before Submitting To Editors and Agents

I don't want to spend the time today talking about query letters. I don't want to spend the time talking about synopsis writing. I also don't want to spend the time talking about the first three chapters of your manuscript. We have covered that over and over again (not just me but you have a multitude of other people who have given that advice). Instead I want to talk about what you should be doing BEFORE you bother to submit.

Let's start at the beginning.

Do you remember a concept taught to you in school known as the Writing Process? This is the same concept that is taught in numerous writing craft books as well. Regardless of what version you look at, the first phase of the writing process is known as PRE-WRITING. I am stressing this because this same concept should be used during the submission process.

It is during that pre-writing phase that you do your planning, you think about purpose, you do your research, and you do your outlining. You don't start writing until you have taken the time to truly conceptualize the project. This is not something that just writers do. Screenwriters and movie makers do the same thing with things such as concept boards and so forth.

When it comes to submitting projects, you should darn well be doing the same thing. The submission process is not a matter of firing up your email and copying and pasting your generic cover letter and attaching the generic synopsis and full manuscript to hundreds of emails. You know the list? You just copied and pasted that list from those external sources such as Query Tracker or Author Query. You are not throwing darts.

Before you even think of sending out a manuscript, you need to do your research and you need to do some thinking about what you want for your book and your career. You are out looking for the right match for your story and for you. This means doing things such as:

  • Reading books from the publisher you want to be at and see if your voice fits.
  • Reading books the agent you are thinking about and see if their style matches yours
  • Research the approaches the agent thinks is the best for a project.
  • Find the one editor who shares the same voice of your story. 
  • Examine what that editor or agent really likes to see in a story and/or submission.
  • Etc.
Yes, this is going to take time. And no, you cannot say the information is not out there. I do admit that some publishers and agencies have less information out there on their single website, but this is research people! You will have to look around. You will have to talk to people. You will have to get off your butt and maybe go to a conference these people are at. No, that does not mean you pitch to them there. This is research.

I just scanned my email box and I will be answering a lot of submissions over the Thanksgiving weekend (it's nice not to go anywhere). I bring this up because as I scanned that list, over 80% of that list are for projects where the author clearly did not do the research and pay attention to details. For example, I have a ton of authors who seem to believe that the email they used is not the one I have listed for submissions only. Guess what? These authors just gave me a reason for rejecting them. Apparently following directions is not something these authors wish to do.

So, instead of using this Thanksgiving break as a chance to "dump" manuscripts on unsuspecting editors and agents, take the time to start that research. No, it will not be finished by Monday, but start it. You might discover things that you had not seen before.

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