Submission Suggestions by Editors and Agents

Sunday night at 7PM in Embassy D-F of the Hyatt, Deidre Knight, Nancy Knight, Jim Minz, and Anne Sowards recounted their anecdotes about submissions that made them laugh on the “Seriously Funny Ways to Get Rejected” panel.

First thing, moderator Nancy Knight explained that the intent of the hour was not to be cruel or to make fun of people who had submitted their work. Instead, the panel was meant to provide the audience with the information submitters needed to prevent them from making the same mistakes.

In keeping with Knight’s theme, the funny stories will not be repeated here.  Instead writers should work to avoid the mistakes below, follow the suggestions, and meet all of the guidelines on an agent/editor’s website before submitting a manuscript and/or query letter.

Mistakes you don’t want to make when submitting your manuscript:

  • Don’t put your cover letter inside a plastic fish.
  • Don’t write creepy poetry filled with longing for the agent/editor.
  • Don’t insist that agents/editors sign a non-disclosure agreement before they hear/read your pitch.
  • Don’t sign your query letter in blood.
  • Don’t send an argumentative response to your rejection, listing all of the people who love your work and insulting the agent/editor’s intelligence.
  • Don’t call your agent/editor twice a day making demands and monopolizing their time. You do not want to be remembered as the writer who is too difficult to work with.
  • Don’t insist what the cover of the book should look like in your proposal. (Better to not include any artwork.)
  • Don’t claim that you’re the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.

Important must-do’s when submitting your manuscript:

  • Check the agents’ and publishers’ websites and follow their ALL of guidelines.
  • Be succinct and use professional language.
  • Include pertinent details about your skills and your previous sales. Don’t bury them at the very bottom or in the middle of a long chunk of text on the query letter.
  • Treat the editor/agent with decency and respect.
  • Do your research and double-check your facts.
  • Thoroughly check the submission for grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Remember that agents and editors work in the publishing field because they love books. They are not looking to crush anyone’s dreams. They actually want to find great manuscripts and turn them into books.

Author of the article

When Suzanne Church isn't chasing characters through other realms, she's hanging with her two children. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, On Spec, and Cicada and in several anthologies including Urban Green Man and When the Hero Comes Home 2. Her collection Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is due out in spring 2014 from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. She is a three time finalist and 2012 winner of the Prix Aurora Award in the Short Fiction category.