Submission Etiquette

Over at Miss Crankypants, I’m making fun of the waiting all writers do. We wait for our queries to be answered and often they’re answered with a big fat rejection. Once in a while, it’s a yes. Regardless of how well or poorly we wait, there is a little etiquette we should all remember.
Writing Tip for Today: Submission procedures are fast becoming all electronic. A few agents out there don’t accept e-queries or electronically submitted manuscripts, but they are few. Here are some things to remember when you begin the submission process:
  • Do Your Homework. Even if you do a mass query, read up on the places you are sending to. It really does matter if the recipient is interested in what you have to offer. A shotgun approach, without any personal warmth or targeted area will be rejected swiftly.
  • Send ONLY What They Ask. If a editor/agent asks for a query letter only, don’t send your manuscript. Don’t even send the first chapter, although sometimes you might get away with the first page. Respect the recipient by adhering to their submission guidelines. Go to the website or look them up in a marketing book and note what they ask to receive. Then send only that.
  • Sell Yourself. I could write volumes on query letters, but let’s assume you’ve already revised 92 times or been through the Query Shark’s shredder. The main thing to remember is to write it simply, clearly and with as much enthusiasm as you can without sounding like the King of France.
  • Resist the Urge to Check. After you hit “send,” resist the urge to check, obsess or otherwise worry about that query’s status. Agent/Editors receive hundreds of letters per day. It may take some time to get to yours. Even though everything is very quick over Internet, response time may still be in the 8 weeks’ realm. Wait at least this long before contacting.
  • Ask About Status. If you follow up, and it’s been more than 2 months, inquire about the status of your project. Never ask if the ed/agt liked what you sent. And if/when the rejection comes, resist the urge to read meaning into what is likely a template letter. Most rejection slips are worded so as to be gracious, but this doesn’t mean the ed/agt will buy your work if only you keep bugging him/her. Move on. Keep a submissions log so you don’t query the same person twice.
  • Start the Next Project. Get back to work. Let the “no” go. Keep writing, practicing. You’re more likely to get there if you persist. And when you’re in the waiting room again, observe submissions etiquette. The editors/agents will thank you.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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