Thursday, April 26, 2018

What Does Your Submission Say About You?

Too often, I do believe that writers simply think that the story will sell itself. I have heard this over and over again at conferences when presenters (often people with limited publishing backgrounds) proclaim to the crowds that as long as the story is good, it will sell.

And yet, time and time again, authors who probably do have great stories end up finding their email inboxes full of rejections (if they even get a rejection letter). So why is that?

The answer is how the submission highlights who they are as a professional writer.

I know this might sound like a broken record, but a submission packet you send to an editor or agent is no different that sending in that cover letter, application and resume to an employer. This is a job and you are applying for the job of "PROFESSIONAL WRITER."

This last weekend, I went through a lot of submissions and a lot of people were passed on. Some were indeed rejected because they were not a good fit with Greyhaus Literary Agency. A far too many were rejected due to the way they presented their experience and professionalism.

Consider a few of the following issues:

Writers who announce their lack of experience
This is a big one for me. When you go in for a job, do you tell that future employer that you have no clue what you are doing? I would seriously doubt it. You show how you are a perfect fit for the position, regardless of the fact that this might be your first job ever. And yet, I am always getting people who not only tell me this is their first novel ever (this is not the problem), but then proceed to tell me how they really do not know or understand the business and need someone to do the work for them and to teach them how to write.

Writers who feel submission guidelines are not to be followed
Several years ago, I calculated that every initial submission I receive, it takes 2-3 minutes to read, record it, and respond to it. While this might not seem like a lot, when you get 100 submissions you are reading, the numbers add up. Where the frustration comes in are the numerous authors who have decided to just send whatever they want to, regardless of following the submission guidelines. These are not hoops to be jumped through, but a way to make getting a response back to you quicker. It does not take much to read through the submission guidelines before you send in your work. Remember, if you cannot follow directions to get the job, how well will you follow revisions from your agent or editor?

Writers who show weak grammar and spelling in their cover letters
For the most part, people are pretty good at this, but we still get those letters. You have a grammar checker and spell checker, so use it. I will say, one of the biggest pet peeves I have are those people who address their letters to me as Dear Mr. Greyhaus.....?????? Um, no.

Writers who have submitted in the past and continue to submit material not right for the agency
I understand that there are some small sub-genres that might be confusing. For example, I do accept inspirational romance, but these are ONLY for the Harlequin lines. I get that an author might be confused on this one. The problem that I have are those who submit stories that are not even close to what we are looking for, and then they continue to submit projects that are not those genres.

I have one author who I have now rejected over 10 times, and each project is something other than a romance or women's fiction project. The last was a screenplay for a sci-fi/fantasy. I have sent nice responses, the last several included links to the submission guidelines. And yet, the author does not follow that advice.

Writers who show no professionalism
Look, your submission guidelines should not spend all of your time talking about your kids, family, and pets. You should not be spending your whole time telling us how your self-publishing career was pathetic. You should not be spending your whole time throwing past editors, publishers and agents under the bus. Not cool.

These are just some small points, but it should get you thinking. As I say over and over again, look at your submission. If this is something you saw for the very first time, without knowing who you are or your history, would you hire you?

Probably not!

1 comment:

  1. Writers need to think like an agent when it's time to submit their work.

    Excellent piece. Thanks, Scott.