Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Dos and Don'ts of Submitting to Editors

Now that Seek's open submissions period is over, I wanted to share some things I saw on the other side of the submissions desk. I hope you find this helpful.

First, let's start with the negative—things I saw that I wish I hadn't. These are things I beg you not to do when querying. 
  • Queries that didn't follow submission guidelines  I get that every publisher (and agent) tends to have specific submission guidelines and it can be overwhelming for authors, but please take the time to follow them. If you don't, it shows us you don't value our time or our preferences. That's no way to start a relationship with someone.
  • Queries that aren't at all what I'm looking for  I received queries for young adult books and early readers, yet my submission guidelines specifically say I'm looking for middle grade books. Querying with a book that isn't what an editor is looking for is wasting everyone's time, including your own. Besides, who wants an unnecessary rejection?
  • Misspelling the editor's name.  I understand Kelly is both a girl's name and a boy's name; however, a simple Google search brings up only one Kelly Hashway—me. And I have my picture all over the place. I'm not Mr. Hashway. I also got a lot of "Dear Ms. Hathaway" queries. I'm not related to Anne Hathaway or any other Hathaways. If you can't take the time to proofread to ensure you're spelling an editor's name correctly, you're telling me you don't care. That doesn't make me care much in return. :(
  • Replies asking if the author can revise and resubmit  If an editor loves your writing and concept but thinks the book needs work, he/she will tell you to revise and resubmit. Please don't email me and ask if you can—or worse, just assume you can. If I took the time to give you helpful feedback, use it to move forward and get ready for your next submission.
  • Forget to include a query  I kid you not. I received more than one query that didn't have a query letter. They were simply "here's my attached manuscript" messages. I didn't even know what the books were called. If you can't care enough to describe your book to me or even tell me the title, I'm not going to be the least bit excited to read your pages.
Okay, enough negativity. Let's move on to the positives—things I saw and loved. These are the things you should do when querying:
  • Be professional  I had several people who know me from this blog or other social media sites query me and they still addressed me as Ms. Hashway or Mrs. Hashway instead of Kelly. Kudos to you, because even though I was thinking, "Oh yay, INSERT NAME HERE is querying me" I still handle all query letters equally. Yes, I had to pass on queries from people I know, and yes it made me sad. But this is a business and we have to remember that.
  • Appreciate any feedback you get, because it's rare  I got the nicest response from a pass. I didn't know this person at all, but they responded to my pass to thank me for getting back to them in such a timely manner and for offering helpful feedback. I'm not going to lie. I got a few others like this one and they kept me going when my inbox was spilling over. This showed me these people get it. They get how busy editors are and appreciate that an editor took the time to offer feedback when it's not mandatory. These are people I'll remember if they cross my inbox again.
Okay, there are other things you should do, but I think you can figure them out from my list of things you shouldn't do. Do you have any query tips to add to my list? Feel free to share in the comments.

34 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great tips. I’ve done my share of the bad things. I have misspelled an agent’s last name. It was a typo where I transposed two letters. I saw it at the very moment I hit send. I’ve often wondered how many months would have to pass till she would not recognize my name so I could sub another work. Was too embarrassed to resubmit with a correct spelling. And there is a question. If we make a big blunder like this, is it better to just mark it off as an automatic rejection, and hope she reads it anyway? Or wait a day or two and resubmit to try to sneak it in? If we resubmit, do we apologize for the first, or not mention it?
    Thanks

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    1. I think each editor may feel differently about this. I wouldn't mind if someone caught the error and resubmitted saying that there was an error. We all make mistakes. I think it says a lot that you recognize a mistake and correct it. That's just me though.

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  2. Great advice here! I am bookmarking this and will add this post to my list of resources for a couple of community ed classes I teach on writing/publishing.

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  3. lol at Ms. Hathaway. Great tips here. I'm glad to know a thank you on a kind pass is good, I remember when I was querying I got THE BEST rejection from an agent so I wrote her thanking her for her time and all the wonderful words and advice, and she told me I'm very welcome and she had no doubt the MS would find its home with an agent at some point...I never replied to Rs but sometimes it can be warranted :)

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    1. It definitely can. I was happy to get these emails.

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  4. Whew! I had to go back to my query to make sure I didn't fall into any of the "don't" column. We all learn from our mistakes, and believe me I've made more than my share of them. But, I am always so appreciative when an editor takes the time to write a personal rejection, and goes the extra mile to offer suggestions. You are the best, Kelly, and your willingness to share your writing journey encourages me to learn, grow, and improve my writing.

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    1. You're fine, Sherry. No worries. You fell in the "what TO do" category. :) I'm glad you find the information I share helpful. I had so much help when I started writing and continue to get help now. I think it's important for us all to share what we learn and know so we can all grow together.

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  5. Acquisitions editor sounds like such a daunting responsibility. Thanks for taking the time to share some of your experiences.

    Oh - and that name thing! I'm not a car. Sigh.

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    1. It's a lot of work, Kai. I'm not going to lie. Honestly, I don't know how agents do it. They get submissions like this all the time. I wanted to pass out for a week after 14 days of it. I give agents so much credit.

      Car? Oy!

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  6. I'm not sure people understand the sheer volume of email you guys deal with on a daily basis! Unreal. I can't imagine. I think many agents/editors end up in a position of looking for a reason to dismiss right off the bat. Didn't follow rules? Reject. Doesn't fit what I represent? Reject. It makes sense...but mostly you guys are just looking through a pile, just hoping something jumps out at you. That's what people don't get--you don't WANT to reject people. You just have to weed through a huge pile to find that one diamond!

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    1. That's very true, Stephanie. I found two books already that I couldn't put down. It's such a great feeling to find a manuscript and know you get to be the one to work on it with the author and see it through to publication. I love it. Rejecting people is the worst part of my job.

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  7. Great advice. I usually wait to send a query until the next day so I can look it over and be sure it has everything just like it says in the guidelines.

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  8. I find it interesting how all submission tips need to include a reminder to read the submission guidelines. You think people would've caught on by now. I wonder why people don't read the guidelines before submitting.

    I'm real paranoid about getting a person's name wrong. I check it a million times before I send the email.

    Great advice, Kelly!

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    1. I'm amazed by that too, Auden. I know it takes a little extra effort, but why wouldn't you want to show a potential agent or editor that you are going to be someone who can follow through with procedures and do what's best for your book?

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  9. Thanks for all these useful information. I'm sharing to all my MG writers.

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  10. These are all important things. I'm always reviewing emails and attachments before I hit submit, because I've made mistakes before.

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    1. We allake mistakes. Reviewing before you submit is very smart.

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  11. It's so interesting to see things from the other side of the editor's desk. :-)

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  12. While most of us mean well, these examples are (should be) mortifying! I can understand your angst. All excellent tips and solemn reminders how easily we can shoot ourselves in the foot! :-)

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    1. I'm hoping sharing this will remind authors to slow down. Excitement can make us hasty.

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  13. Really opens your eyes to what the publishing industry faces everyday, doesn't it Kelly. I was recently involved with a publishers contest they hosted and was completely amazed at the unfinished, unprofessional stuff people sent in. I'm a stickler for following the rules as they are written and when someone breaks them... they are off the grid for me. If you want to be a published author, you simply must learn to follow the rules of each individual publisher. If you can't do that, well chances are you'll be waiting a very long time to get published.

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    1. That's true. You have to put your best foot forward and that means following rules.

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  14. What a helpful post! Some I would hope are obvious (like spell the editor's name correctly), but it is always great to be reminded of some dos and don'ts when sending a query. Glad you got some nice emails back too. :)
    ~Jess

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  15. I've (yet) to get a name wrong (that I knew of), though I've sent letters with no spaces in there at all. There were spaces when I sent it, I swear! I just don't know where they went after send... =)

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    1. Email can alter your formatting, so that might not have been your fault. I've seen emails get very screwed up that way.

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  16. That last point was a new one for me. It never occurred to me that when a personal rejection from an editor comes, the editor would appreciate a thank you, though I felt thankful for the feedback. I thought it would be one more email to clog their Inbox or note to heighted their slush pile.This means I blew it many times... Ouch.

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    1. Mirka, I'm sure not all editors feel this way. I do know that these emails brightened my days though. I don't think this will ever be held against you, so no worries.

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