Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Writer's Guidelines

Nearly every publishing house with a website has a "submissions" tab containing instructions for submitting material. Agents also post their requirements. 

Thomas Kies's post give excellent tips on acquiring an agent. About 85% of the books in Barnes and Noble and other chain sellers are published by the large conglomerates that dominate the industry. Most (but not all) will only look at manuscripts submitted through an agency. Agents separate the wheat from the chaff. 

One agent I know said she received 9,000 queries the month after her agency was spotlighted in Writer's Digest. How much time do you suppose she spent reading these letters? You would be amazed at how quickly agents decide which manuscripts they would like to see. 

Thomas mentioned that when he submitted material, he had followed each agent's guidelines exactly. 

That may sound elementary, but it isn't. I wish I had kept track over the years of the number of writers who have told me no one will look at their novel or non-fiction book. If I offer to "help" (That's the subject for another column) I quickly realize that no one--not a soul--has looked at the manuscript. Why? Because the writer ignored the submission guidelines or wrote a poor query letter. 

Here are some of the most egregious errors: 

1. Sending a snail mail letter when the guidelines ask for email submissions.

     I've also seen hand printed coffee-stained letters with the stamp in the wrong place and the editor's name misspelled. 

2. Ignoring the requested format for the query.

    If the agent asks for one page and can see at a glance that your query letter goes on and on for several pages, you're doomed. She knows immediately that you won't follow instructions. 

3.  Assuring the agent that this is the most wonderful manuscript since the first Harry Potter.

     Oh really? They've heard that before. Also, that everyone just loved your manuscript. They don't care who liked it. They care about selling your manuscript. 

4.  Talking about everything but what the agent needs to know.

    Mention up front if your book is psychological suspense, a cozy mystery, a classic who-done-it, a spy novel. And always state the word count. 

The good news in all this is that detailed information about writing query letters can be found on-line. A good query letter is a business letter. It should be short and to the point. 


Sybil Johnson said...

It always amazes me how many people don't read or follow directions.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Sybil, me too. There is so much involved in getting published in addition to talent.