So now what?
Yes, there are some writers out there who write purely for themselves and don’t harbour any ambition to see themselves in print. They’re the exception. Most of us want to be published. For whatever reason, the desire to have our work bound up in a nice package and offered to the public drives us to read and edit and hone our work a dozen times or more, so it’s the best it can be. So people can read it and enjoy. But there’s a process involved in getting from manuscript to printed book and, while we as writers now have the option to self-publish, most of us would like the vindication of having someone who knows what they’re talking about taking us seriously. Investing in us. Believing in us. Publishing us.
That means an agent, usually. Or perhaps a publisher.
And there are a lot of us doing the same thing. Trying to get a hard-pressed agent to notice our submission and give it a second read. Maybe ask to see the book. Of course standing out in the crowd, when a crowd is nothing more than a pile of papers identical to yours is difficult. People have tried all sorts of tricks to get noticed. Pretty paper. Scented paper. Cute paperclips. Exotic fonts. Glitzy folders.
You name it, it’s been tried. And it doesn’t get anyone to the front of the queue any quicker. In fact, all the razzmatazz is more likely to get your work on the slush pile without the benefit of a read. Agents’ eyes get tired. They don’t want to struggle with scripty, cool, gushing or wacky fonts. Times New Roman, or maybe Courier. 12 point so they don’t need a magnifying glass.
Similarly, coloured and patterned, or smooth, parchmenty paper can land a submission in the bin. Those tired eyes don’t want the extra challenge of struggling with weird contrasts or eye-searing patterns. Fingers don’t want paper cuts from stiff, high-quality paper, or the text from the page beneath showing through the one they’re reading. Simple 80 to 100 g photocopy paper will do just as well.
Put your submission into a ring binder, box folder or slippery sleeve and it’s likely to slide off an agent’s desk, along with an avalanche of other submissions. The bin thus beckoneth. Paperclips, staples, pins (god forbid), crocodile clips, and anything else that’s fiddly, awkward and sharp will get similar treatment. A plain square-cut folder with your name and the book’s title will suffice.
So now we know to keep it simple, clean and professional. What goes in it?
First and foremost, check what the agent wants. If they want a query letter, send just that. If they want 1, 2 or 3 chapters, submission letter, bio and full synopsis, send that. And by the by, always send the opening chapters, not a ‘sample’ from various points in your book.
Each agent or publisher has their own requirements, so make sure you know what that is, and before that, make sure you know if they’ll even consider your book. No good sending a gritty gangster story to a children’s publisher.
Check out the following links to get some ideas on writing an ideal query letter.
Here are some useful tips for getting your submission just right.
Good luck with your submission.
Remember – it’s the writing that matters.