You’ve worked on your book proposal/manuscript for twelve weeks/months/years. An editor or agent you met at a writers conference last week/last year/eleven years ago invited you to send it when it was ready.
Is it? How can a writer know for sure?
Writer, if you wait for perfect conditions, rest assured that’s a great way to ensure you’ll never SEND it, which also ensures the work will never be published. Perfect conditions are as much a myth as centaurs.
If you wait for a download of unshakable confidence, you might want to take up knitting to kill time while you’re waiting.
If you wait for a sign from heaven, here it is:
Did you hope for a “GO!” sign, or a “NOW!” or “JUST DO IT!”?
Not quite yet.
Your confidence will grow–and your agent or editor will thank you–if you stop yourself from sending your proposal or manuscript until you consider these final double-checks.
Before you hit send:
- Did you double-check the spelling of the editor’s or agent’s name? Sending a query or proposal to Janette Grant or Jnaet Grent at Books & Such doesn’t spell doom for your work, but it certainly doesn’t speak highly of your attention to detail, and the level of care expected.
- Is the editor’s or agent’s email address correct? No missing letters, dots, or @’s?
- If this is a simultaneous submission, did you note that somewhere in your email?
- If a simultaneous submission, did you accidentally address the email correctly, but left another agent’s name in the greeting? “Dear Doug” is a dead giveaway that an email I receive wasn’t checked for accuracy before the writer hit SEND.
- Are all pages (except for the cover/title page) numbered?
- Does every page (starting with page two) include your name and the title of your work in the header? If you’re uncertain how to do that, it’s easy to search online for how to make that happen with little effort on your part.
Don’t hit send until you ask:
- Did you make sure you’ve followed the prescribed format according to the publisher’s or agent’s guidelines on their website? (This isn’t a last minute question. It should have been considered long ago, but it’s included here because a surprising number of submissions arrive missing some key element or with a format element that reveals the guidelines weren’t consulted at all.)
- Is it a “clean” copy? You may see an unmarked copy on your computer screen, but that’s not a guarantee previous editing, corrections, strikeouts, and comments aren’t still accessible in another setting. In Track Changes, when your work is ready to send, Accept All Changes, and go to the Delete pull-down menu to Delete All Comments to create a truly clean copy. The exception is if you intend an editor or agent to see a comment, but that’s often better expressed in a note within the email with the page noted.
- Did you leave anything highlighted? Like some writers, you may leave yourself notes within, like “add 300 more words here” or “fact-check that date for the War of 1812.” Any inadvertent notes to yourself show the agent or editor that you didn’t make a final pass through your manuscript. Yes, it happens. But the fewer oopses, the better.
A few more tasks before you hit send:
In a July 8, 2020 Facebook post, Harlequin editor Emily Rodmell suggested, among others, these “things you should always do before sending in a manuscript–
- Final read (preferably a week+ after you finished it, deadline permitting)
- Make sure document is attached in email.
- Promise yourself you won’t reread after sending.”
Great points. It seems intuitive that writers would spell and grammar check before considering a proposal or manuscript done, but not so. Many a project will arrive with the computer software’s built in warning lights remaining, unattended by the writer (red lines indicating a possible misspelling, blue lines indicating a comma may be missing or other contextual error, green lines indicating a grammar issue or other problem).
Emily’s note about making sure the document is attached is one that struck me personally. Compose decent email. Check. Refer to attached document. Check. Attach said document before hitting send. Grr! Not again!
Why would this editor suggest that writers promise themselves they won’t reread after sending? Because the lowest you will ever feel about your proposal or manuscript is in the moments after hitting send. You’ll instantly think of a more compelling ending or of an inadvertent error in something you intended to correct. You’ll assume it’s the worst dreck an agent or editor has ever seen. STOP YOURSELF from indulging in second guessing. Rest in the knowledge that you gave it your all and that Dreck is a common ailment, but it will pass.
One last check before you hit send:
- Take a deep breath. Make sure the exhale is filled with gratitude that you were given the privilege and gift of writing.
Do you have any helpful hints for last minute checks before you hit send, perhaps from personal experience?