Inaccurate information has a longer shelf life than Velveeta. It hangs around forever, or so it seems, especially on the Internet. For example: articles/blogs/columns that advise writers how to submit snail-mailed query letters. Oh Puleeze! Snail mail is so yesterday!
Submission misinformation also lives in books, even those with current publication dates. Information in any published book had been assembled at least one year prior.
This can be deadly for writers.
If you follow out-of-date formats when you submit your project, you'll be shooting yourself in the foot. You’ll appear to be an out-of-date writer. Plus, your work, since it requires effort to open and read, will be thrown onto the slush pile (like the one on the left), or tossed into the circular file, unread. No writer wants that!
It’s time to reboot and discard everything you thought you knew about submitting your work to an agent (editor or publisher).
The drip, drip, drip method is long gone. Prior to 2014, you’d submit your query, and wait for a reply. Then, if the agent requested to read your synopsis, you’d mail it in, and wait for a reply. Finally, if the agent requested sample chapters, you’d mail these, and, as usual, wait for a reply. Yawn!
Welcome to the digital age. The documents in your submission (query, synopsis, and sample pages) are cut and pasted inside one very looooooong email, and fly into agent inboxes. The following five (5) steps will help you make the most of your device-and-agent-friendly submission package.
ONE: Become technically aware
Your work may be read on small screens, including smart phones, so don’t waste space or the agent’s time. Remove all blank lines between paragraphs. Because all browsers are not created equal, how your materials look when you submit them is not necessarily how they will be received. What looks like a comfortable blank line on your computer translates into a huge (and wasted) space between paragraphs when your work is being scanned on a smart phone screen.
TWO: Win the battle for attention
Write a snappy subject line. Capture the agent’s attention with one “CLICK,” so your submission will be opened. However, if the agent requests the word “query” and/or their name in the subject line, do it! Then, unless your title is uber fascinating, substitute a few clever, enticing, well-thought out words that pertain to your manuscript and will garner attention.
(The ease and inexpensive nature of email submission has created an unintended consequence. Hundreds and thousands of typing-enabled non-writers now submit their sure-to-be-best-sellers to every agent with an email address. This tsunami will engulf your submission unless you win the battle for attention by crafting a subject line that demands “open me now!”)
THREE: Reveal your story core quickly
Jump right into your story on the first line of your 350-word query. No headings, no addresses, no date, etc., unless the agent specifies title, genre, and word count on your first line. Give them what they ask for, then begin your query on the 2nd line.
Note: Make certain your first paragraph reveals the story core. Who wants what, why they can’t have it, and the terrible “or else” that will occur if they don’t get what they want.
FOUR: Edit, edit, edit
Before you begin the submission process, perform due diligence and determine that your work is, indeed, ready for prime time. Self-edit to revise writing mechanic errors. Same with “red-flag” words: purge these rascals out of your documents.
FIVE: Testo! Testo!
Send your submission to yourself and read it on your phone or tablet. Right away, any formatting issues will be easy to spot. Fix them!
If you need assistance with any aspect of landing an agent or getting published, CLICK HERE to check out my various writers' services or drop by MolliMart a valuable resource of low-cost tutorials.
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