Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I’m leaving for England on author Julie Klassen’s English Countryside Tour. Much of the fun of this tour is the people sharing it. I already know editors Raela Schoenherr and Karen Shurrer; my good buddy, Janet Grant; fiction buyer for Lifeway, Rachel McRae; and, of course, Julie Klassen. When we come back I’m sure we’ll have lots to share about the importance of setting in fiction as well as literary travel.
But, for the duration of the trip, we’re unplugging for the most part, so I’m reposting some basic advice that bears repeating for the next few posts. Here’s one on how to know when you are ready to put that red pen down and submit.
One of the most difficult things for a writer is to close the file on a book or a proposal and declare it ready to submit. Almost as hard as prying it out of their clenched fingers at a conference.
How do you know if your submission is ready to submit?
- Make sure it is in the correct format. This is part of the nuts and bolts. Be sure to check agents’ and publishing house websites to see the information they need in the proposal. But don’t feel you have to reformat for each submission. If you have all the information I can’t imagine anyone would ding you for not having it in their preferred order. We certainly wouldn’t.
- Check it over for grammar and typos. If you don’t have the copyediting eye, have someone else do this for you. Nobody will hold a typo or a grammatical error against you unless the number of mistakes shows an inherent sloppiness. But don’t forget, a typo will pull the reader out of the manuscript. Especially in fiction, do you want the agent or editor to leave your story world if he’s loving the book?
- Have it read by others who have a critical eye. After you’ve worked on the manuscript for a long time, you’ve lost all perspective. There’s no way for you to judge if it’s ready to submit or not. Most successful authors have a small cadre of beta readers who will give them tough and honest feedback. You need this!
- Have it professionally edited? I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of having a manuscript professionally edited before I see it. I can’t tell how much is the editor and how much is the author I’m deciding to represent. However, there are a number of agents who do want to see edited manuscripts. On a panel last month I was surprised that a majority on the panel had no problem with this
And how can you increase your chances of getting a fair read?
- Choose your target well. I’m preaching to the choir here since you are all very active in the publishing community, but you need to do due diligence on each agent or editor you submit to. Don’t shotgun. (Especially if you list them all in the email address block. Automatic pass. No one wants to be one of a cast of thousands.)
- Send it in the manner they request. Very important! Each agency and those publishing houses who will take unagented work have a protocol. If you don’t send it in the way they request, your submission will be lost. For instance, I’ve had people query me in a Facebook private message. What in the world can I do with that? How do I file it? So the question is, how do you find out what each target prefers? Simple! You’ll find it on their websites.
- Push the send button. “Be brave, little Piglet.” We all know you could fiddle around with this submission forever. At some point you just need to stop and send. Declare it ready to submit.
What’s the worst that can happen?
- No one likes it so you put it in a drawer and start your next book. Once you are a best-selling author, believe me, they’ll be fighting for that first book.
- They’ve seen your name attached to a manuscript they declined. Don’t assume that’s a negative. Editors and agents have to pass on superb manuscripts every day for any number of reasons. It will be a big plus if they remember your name. We find that it takes a number of positive contacts before we begin to really take notice of a writer. Each “touch” builds on that. Submitting is a great introduction.
So how about you? Is it hard to let your baby go? What are the dangers of waiting too long? Can you over-finesse a submission? Have you heard the term “workshopped to death”? What do you think that means? How do you tell when a manuscript is ready to submit? Tell us your experiences with submission angst.