My last post, My rules for writing, was quite popular, so I got cocky and started thinking maybe I could actually help writers.
Here are a few tips about how to submit your work, because this seems to cause either agony or resentment, as your darlings are repeatedly rejected. These tips will work just as well for online and print journals, small press publishers and agents.
(Note: some of these tips might sound harsh, but they come with love as – as I shared in the last post – many, many, many years of experience)
- Just as with editing, you need to distance yourself from your manuscript when you’re submitting, because your first-choice agent/journal is not obliged to accept your work. You have become a salesperson, they are your customer. If they don’t want it, you can’t force them, and it isn’t personal. How many times have you said ‘no thank you’ to a cold-caller offering double glazing? When you submit, you are the cold-caller.
- Follow the individual guidelines of each market – word counts, ms layout, and extra requirements might all be mentioned specifically.
- Be professional. Check the name of the editor/agent, and begin your email ‘Dear…’ or if that feels too fusty, perhaps Good Morning… or Good Afternoon. Never Hi, or Hey or skip that part altogether. Your first approach should be formal; once you have a relationship (or even a second/third email) you can relax a little.
- End your email similarly with Regards, Kind Regards or Faithfully/Sincerely if you wish. Bonus points to anyone knows the correct context to use Faithfully and Sincerely!
- First names are fine, I think, these days. But Mr/Mrs/Miss are traditional and formal. And using first names avoids the need to know whether your female recipient is married or not!
- I like to have a list of markets for the same book/story, so that if I get a rejection I can send it out again straight away.
- If the reply is a rejection, do not enter into correspondence with the editor. I know most people wouldn’t do this, but there have been instances, and those instances somehow find their way into the public domain for everyone to see. Worst case scenario, you may find yourself blacklisted by all editors or agents if your conduct is very poor.
- Try not to weep and wail and throw away every scrap of writing that you’ve ever done. This is one person’s view of that one story on that one day you sent it. If it had reached them the day before or the day afterwards – or if their dog hadn’t died, or their car hadn’t broken down – the outcome may have been different.
- Although, some chocolate/wine/coffee is allowed.
- Don’t give up. It might be tempting to self-publish at the first sign of rejection, but before you do, ask yourself if that’s what you really want. If it is, awesome, go for it. If you have a yearning to follow in the footsteps of J.K. Rowling, keeping trying. After all, J.K did!
Can you add any other tips that have worked for you?