Thursday, September 9, 2010

Author Submission Mistakes

We all know that there are major changes happening in the industry, many of which are working against authors going after traditional publishing deals. That's why its so important to take advantage of every opportunity you have to improve your odds. One mistake may not completely ruin your chances, but it can make the difference when you're competing with other authors for that coveted slot on the agent's or publisher's list.

Why am I able to talk about this, you ask? I sit in on book review every week. My desk is right next to the woman who receives the submissions. I hear all the mistakes author's make. Here are the biggest ones that come through on a consistent basis:
  1. Being rude. Our submissions team truly cares about the writer, not just the project. If you're kind, they'll go the extra mile to champion you in review. In fact, it is standard practice for them to reveal in review whether the person was nice or difficult. Who do you think we would rather work with?
  2. Not following guidelines. Agents and publishers clearly post their guidelines for a reason. Following them will boost your chances of getting a favorable review. 
  3. Not submitting to the right people. If the agent or publisher says they only represent nonfiction, don't send them an epic fantasy or book of poetry. You're just wasting everyone's time including your own. 
  4. Properly formatting your manuscript. Funny fonts, bizarre margins, or adjusting the font to skew page count only reflects bad on you. Look at Formatting & Submitting your manuscript for guidelines, but typically your manuscript should be double spaced, 12pt Times Roman, with one inch margins. Start each chapter 1/3 of the way down and put the page number and title/last name in the header of every page.
  5. No contact information. What good is submitting if we have no idea who submitted? Yes, it's that common.
  6. Promoting yourself. Yes include a brief bio, but don't say you are the greatest at anything, don't start with a sales pitch, and please, please, please do NOT mention the word bestseller. It's a four letter word in the submissions process. No one can predict bestsellers. Don't assume that your novel will be one.
  7. Don't respond negatively to rejections. Publishing is not a one size fits all venture. There are many factors that make an author a good fit for one house over another. Yes it's difficult getting rejection after rejection, but its much better to unleash your anger in private or at your writer's group meeting rather than ruining your chances forever with one or more publishers.
The laundry list goes on and on, but these are the big ones. Please do yourself a favor and keep these in mind when you submit. The gatekeeper handling submissions is a kind book lover scouring for the hidden jewel. Be kind and considerate of them. It will help you get through the gates. 

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