Love this picture. So cute. :)
Note: At the end of this post you’ll see the 4-page critique is back. I know you guys love this, so don’t miss out if you’re keen. Follow the instructions below to enter the draw.
Let’s jump into the Common Red Flags Seen In Submissions. And for those of you seeking an agent or publisher, have you ever wondered how big their submission pile is? It’s huge, and some agents even report as many as 100 submissions hit their inbox in a day. A day! How on earth are they going to get through that many?
If you haven’t guessed it, as they read through these submissions, they keep an eye out for certain things which may alert them to giving a quick “no.” These red flags MAY mean your submission might get rejected before it even gets read. That would be awful, and the last thing any writer wants.
So, what are these red flags? And how do we ensure we don’t spark one?
We make sure we follow some simple rules, and here they are:
- Follow the agent or publisher’s submission guidelines to the letter.
- This means you must read their website’s guidelines. They always have a submissions page, and it details exactly what they require of a writer who submits. Follow each directive given, because you’re a professional, just as they are, so ensure your first communication is equally so. If they say to format in a particular font, do it. If they say they want only one chapter, don’t go sending the first three. If they want a blurb, yep, you got it, include it. There is always a list of what they need, so don’t deviate from it.
- Incorrect grammar and typos.
- Oh yeah, your spellchecker doesn’t always pick up the misuse of words like “there/their.” And as a writer, it’s our job to know how to spell, and to use correct punctuation. The only problem is we all make mistakes, so get someone you trust to check your query letter, synopsis, and those first few crucial pages of your manuscript. A second set of eyes never goes amiss, particularly when you usually only get one chance to submit your work to each agent/publisher.
- Know your word count.
- Inappropriate word counts are red flags for agents and editors. If they say we take submissions of between 20,000 to 100,000 words, don’t go submitting your 120,000 word novel. It’ll get rejected because it’s outside their guidelines. Why spend your precious time on submitting when it won’t even get looked at. Just move onto another agent or publisher and see if your book will suit them.
- Don’t over-explain.
- I’ve heard agents and editors say some writers who submit will over-explain within their query letter. An agent or editor doesn’t want to hear how your mother read your book and loved it, so they should too. :) Yeah, I imagine you get my drift–let the agent or editor decide for themselves. You want to make sure your query letter shines with professionalism.
And lastly, don’t get upset when you get the inevitable “no.” Every writer gets these, and in bucket loads. It’s said, for every thirty queries you submit, expect one request for a partial or full manuscript. I’m not kidding you. The odds are 30 to 1, and that’s not even with a guaranteed “yes” after they’ve seen your partial or full.
Here are some of my statistics, which makes for interesting reading. It certainly shows my writing journey, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you’re seeking an agent or publisher.
To begin with I wrote FOUR BOOKS in 2009. None of these were ever submitted, but I did rewrite the first one in 2011, and its titled PROTECTOR.
NOW, HERE’S THE INTERESTING DATA–
THE INHERITANCE was written in 2010. Here I sent out 52 submissions. 12 I never heard back from, 39 gave a “no,” and one UK agent requested a partial, and then said “no.” But the feedback I got from her was invaluable, and I even halted any further submissions on this book in order to set the work aside for a rewrite. What was her advice? To hone my writing skills, but that my ability to tell a story was fantastic. I spent 2010 and 2011 doing just that and studying my craft like crazy.
MOON FORCE was written in 2010. Here I sent out 31 submissions. 11 I never heard back from, and 20 gave a “no.” A couple of the agents though did give feedback They told me the same as the UK agent that year. And as soon as I heard the identical advice, I set this book aside for a complete rewrite.
I wrote THREE further books in 2011. I submitted these in various writing competitions, and it was my way of getting some editorial feedback. None ever placed, but I got the feedback I was after, and as I wrote, I kept honing my skills.
PROTECTOR. This is the first book I rewrote in 2011 after learning everything I could. I felt I really had a chance with this one, so in 2011 I sent out 48 submissions. 23 I never heard back from, 24 gave a “no,” and yes, I had one CONTRACT issued on a full manuscript. Yee-ha!
Now, yay, I seem to be away–
WARRIOR was written in 2012. Here I sent out 1 submission, and yes, one CONTRACT was issued.
WITNESS PURSUIT was written in 2012. Here I sent out 1 submission, and yes, one CONTRACT was issued.
This year I’ll write three more books. I go through the same submission process every single time, and I make sure I follow the publisher’s guidelines to the letter. I cross my fingers and hope for good news, but this truly is a never-ending journey we writers travel. It’s tough and takes hard work, no matter which route we take.
So, tell me where you’re up to in your journey. I love hearing from other writers, so leave me a comment and let me know how it’s going for you? What’s your battle? Are you still struggling with the frustrating rejection letters? If you’re self-publishing, what’s been the most difficult part of the journey for you? Because we’re ALL in this together. We’re writers, and no one else can truly understand us, except for another writer.
* * * *
And since I’m all for writers supporting writers, my offer for a 4-page critique is back . What do you win? Yours truly shall be your second set of eyes to go over the FIRST FOUR PAGES (or 1500 words thereabouts) of your novel.
Amy Kennedy, Kozo Hattori and Heather Jensen have all been winners and had their prize redeemed in the past three months. I loved getting to know them and their wonderful work. So don’t be shy, if you want to enter, take advantage of all the hard slog I’ve put in and get some quality editing feedback. Simply drop in a COMMENT asking FOR A CRITIQUE.
I’ll pick a winner using random.org and post the name next week on my blog, so keep your eyes open for who that is. (Particularly the winner, because you’ll need to get in contact with me via email.)
Okay, catch ya all later. Have a wonderful week.
* * * *