Hey all – I know a lot of our authors here are self-pub, so this post won’t apply for you guys. Or it might. You may find that you want to send a manuscript to a publisher some day. I’m not going to talk about the pieces of a submission (query letter, synopsis, etc.) but I do want to talk a teensy bit about submission etiquette.
Etiquette used to be taught. Not so often any longer, but when you correspond with a publisher, how you present yourself can make the difference between having your submission considered and having it tossed in the reject pile. You can come across as professional or not.
Just a few do’s ad don’t(s) (and if some of these things sound absurd, I only include them because I’ve seen them):
- Read the submission guidelines. I can’t emphasize that enough. Ever. Read the guidelines. Know the publisher’s word count limits, formatting preferences, (if any) what they want included in the submission, what they do NOT want submission-wise, and if you’re really a good fit. Understand who you’re submitting to and what they’re looking for.
- Include any experience you have as a published writer. If you don’t have any, don’t be afraid to say this is your first novel, etc.
- Include the word count and genre/sub-genre of the story in your letter. (Synopsis may be required – either a brief overview or a formal synopsis. See submission guidelines.)
- Be polite and brief, but also advocate for your work. If you don’t feel excited about your book description, the editors won’t.
- Send simultaneous submissions. What does this mean? This means that you shouldn’t send a manuscript to more than one publisher at a time. Multiple queries are fine. (Would you have any interest in this?) Multiple submissions of a full manuscript are bad form.
- Be an arrogant twaddlewaffle. Be excited! Be enthusiastic! (Don’t use exclamation points – I’m just illustrating.) But don’t come off as doing the publisher a huge favor by submitting to them.
- Send a flood of submissions. Just don’t do this. One, possibly two at a time.
- For the love of all that’s holy, don’t reply to a rejection. Recognize that some rejections will be form letters and some won’t. Don’t reply and most certainly don’t reply with something angry and snarky. (Please don’t. People remember. People talk. Editors know each other.)
- Look at a revise and resub as a rejection. An editor sending you a revise and resubmission request is not “we hated you’re story, fix it before we’ll look at it.” No, no, no. A revise and resub request is a “We love this and you’re almost there! Please redo these couple of things for us!” No one bothers with a revise and resub if they’re not interested in the story.
- Submit prohibited content. That shouldn’t even have to be said. But again, it comes down to the submission guidelines. If the publisher says “we don’t consider sparkly vampires,” don’t submit sparkly vampires. (Okay, I’m picking on Scott. Most of the time prohibited content includes things like necrophilia, bestiality, sex with minors, that sort of thing.)
Be courteous and polite. Write a letter that looks like a grownup wrote it. Proofread before you send. Will all this get you accepted? Not on its own. But it won’t get you tossed right in the trash, either.