Technique: Submitting to an Editor

(These are my notes and thoughts in relation to the Writing Excuses podcast Season 1, episodes 12 and 13. I will also disseminate this information to the topical sections of my resource section).

Amateur Mistakes

  • Fail to read and follow the submission guidelines.
  • Submit to an editor/agent that handles a different genre (including sub-genres)
  • Say ‘my family loves it’. They are not objective; their opinion does not count when it comes to your writing.
  • Use fancy paper, perfume the page, use fancy or coloured fonts.
  • Flip pages to try and determine where an editor ‘read to’.
  • Start your cover letter with a rhetorical question.
  • Send an author photo or do your own cover art.
  • Call an editor/agent if you don’t have a previous relationship with them asking about your manuscript. They get so many they probably don’t have a clue offhand. After a few months send a polite email.
  • Complain if your manuscript is rejected.

Stand out as little as possible in everything but your story.Let the text speak for itself.

  • Write epic tomes for your first book. (A new fantasy author should be writing about 100k-120k words).

Professional Behaviour

  • Be very careful of simultaneous submissions; if they don’t explicitly say you can, assume you can’t. Note this is sending the entire manuscript; sending sample chapters is OK.
  • Always be polite.
  • Keep a record of what you’ve already submitted to whom, when and any feedback they provide.
  • Send a thank you note when you get rejected.
  • Research: know which editors work with which genres/books. Pay attention to what is happening in the industry (e.g. Publishers Lunch). Know who has just moved jobs or might be on the look out for new talent. Find out what interests them. Listen to their panels, blogs etc.

You must know the rules before you’re allowed to break them.

  • Remember that editors are overworked and underpaid, and they do it out of love. Be nice!

Final Advice

An author’s voice for a character is really important. A good voice evokes the character and the setting. An editor can help fix the plot, they can’t teach voice. Focus on creating that voice and write characters.

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