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What Not to Write–The Submission

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This is really more “What Not to Do” but I wanted to keep the title consistent.

Monday I gave examples of things in the cover letter of submissions that made me immediately grab a rejection card to send to the author. Here is some advice based on problems I ran into with the submissions I read.

–Be sure to research the houses you’re submitting to for the acceptable length of the story/article/novel. For children’s picture books, we were looking for stories under 1,000 words; more than half of the submissions I got were between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Instant rejection.

–PROOFREAD!!! Just like with the cover letter, your submission should be as clean as you can make it.

–Enclose an SASE or blank postcard enclosed for a response. I know we all hope that the editor (or agent) will be calling us to ask for a full manuscript or offer us a contract, but 99.99% of the time, it’s going to be a rejection. So please, enclose an SASE or stamped postcard for the reply. If you want your manuscript returned to you, make sure you send a big enough envelope.

–If the publisher’s guidelines specifically say, “Do not include artwork with the manuscript,” DO NOT INCLUDE ARTWORK WITH THE MANUSCRIPT! Mention in the letter you have drawn illustrations for it if the editor would like to see them. (This is pretty much for children’s books.)

–If sending more than 4–5 pages, use a 6×9 or 9×12 envelope instead of trying to tri-fold 12 pages and fit them into a #10 envelope.

–This kind of goes back to the cover letter part: If you’re going to say in your cover letter that there are no books on the market like yours, please make sure you know for certain that the publisher you’re submitting to didn’t publish a book just like it six months ago.

–If the submission guidelines say: “Multiple submissions are discouraged,” don’t send 8 manuscripts in one envelope—or 16 separately, all arriving within a three-day period.

–If you are tri-folding your letter and submission/proposal into a #10 envelope, fold the letter together with the rest of the pages so that it doesn’t seem so much like an afterthought.

–Send a manuscript—as in text only, printed in plain text (TNR or Courier 12 point font), on 8.5×11 paper. Bind with a binder clip, rubber band, or paper clip. Do not go out and have your manuscript spiral or comb bound at Staples. Do not print two pages on one piece of paper, front and back, and staple in the middle so it’s in “book format.” You don’t need fancy/colorful folders.

–For SASEs, self-sealing envelopes are WONDERFUL!

–Don’t send a self-published copy of the book—especially if it isn’t good quality!

–Yes, mentioning books by the same publisher that are similar to yours in theme may be a good idea, but be sure that you point out how yours complements them/fills a gap in the market.

–Oh, and be sure to sign your cover letter instead of enclosing an obviously photocopied version that you’re using for a mass submission to every publisher under the sun.

  1. Wednesday, November 19, 2008 3:12 pm

    As always, I’m enjoying your series and learning a lot.

    You may have already mentioned this–and in my current fog I missed it but–CONGRATULATIONS on getting a 4 star review from RT for Stand-In Groom! (Jan 2009 issue)


  2. Wednesday, November 19, 2008 3:53 pm

    Um . . . that’s news to me.

    Is that issue available on news-stands yet?


  3. Wednesday, November 19, 2008 5:48 pm

    Does RT have a meaning besides RottenTomatoes that I’m not aware of?


  4. Wednesday, November 19, 2008 7:26 pm

    Romantic Times–it’s a magazine.


  5. Wednesday, November 19, 2008 8:30 pm

    Oh my gosh…congrats on the RT review, Kaye!! Awesome news!


  6. Thursday, November 20, 2008 1:45 pm

    Ah, that would certainly explain why I hadn’t heard to it. Apparently it’s a big deal, so further congrats. Now I’m curious if they rate on a four or five star scale.


  7. Friday, November 21, 2008 10:42 am

    Congrats on the RT review, Kaye! That’s awesome news!!


  8. Friday, November 21, 2008 10:43 am

    5 star scale, Caleb. Near impossible to get. 4 1/2 stars will make you a Top Pick for the month. Most books are 3 stars but, occasionally you’ll see a few 2’s.

    Kaye’s 4-star rating for her debut novel is definitely a big deal.

    Congrats again, Kaye!


  9. Friday, November 21, 2008 5:46 pm

    Thanks for breaking it down for me. That’s even more awesome from sound of things then.


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