Who Likes Sending out Submissions?

In September, I purchased the Writer’s Market Guide to Agents, and I dutifully spent several afternoons scanning the listings to highlight possible “matches.” Yes, I think you can get it online and probably have the listings sorted for genre, but sometimes, a girl needs to do the work.

I’m old school. I like holding a highlighter (or three-a different color for each genre) in my hand and sniffing ink and paper while physically turning pages. The tactile experience keeps me engaged. Although I admit I fell asleep on two separate afternoons after leafing through dozens of pages.

I’ll return to the book at some point and make a list of my top choices. Because that’s what an author who wants to be traditionally published does.

And I don’t like it. It’s worse than marketing because it IS marketing. It is me “selling” my story idea in a cover letter to a bunch of strangers in hope they will be interested enough to read the pages.

Okay, I want more than that. I want them to read the pages and scramble to their laptop or phone or whatever to send an email that reads like this:

Dear Sharon,
Oh my word, girl! I love your voice. Your characters crack me up and I’m dying to know what happens next.
Please send me the full manuscript as soon as possible (and I do mean yesterday) because my sleep will be affected until I find out what happens.
The Agent Who Will Get You the Deal of Your Dreams

Yes, I’m pretty good at imagining things. That’s why I make up stories for a living. Well, I’m not exactly earning a living wage selling my stories. Yet. But, I can imagine what it will be like to have a multi-book deal with a major publishing house.

Submission Process

I’ve already explained the first step of the traditional submission process: finding prospective agents or publishers to pitch.
This is what the rest of the process looks like:

  1. Create a list of the top five, next five, next five and so on until all the possibilities are exhausted
  2. The list includes: name, address, submission guidelines, links
  3. Once the manuscript is polished, sit down and write and polish a synopsis of the novel. Check the requirements for the top five agents on the list and write the synopsis that fits the largest number. (Yes, some will ask for a one-page synopsis but generally, they will ask for a synopsis, meaning no more than three pages. You can always distill that synopsis into something shorter for those who demand no more than one page).
  4. Craft an amazing pitch and paragraph hook for the query letter
  5. Write a stock query letter.
  6. Customize the stock query letter to each agent on your list. This means make sure the opening paragraph indicates you know something about them by mentioning either a book they represent or a genre they’re slathering to read because they said as much on their website.
  7. Send the query, synopsis and number of pages requested in their submission guidelines carefully following their submission instructions
  8. Record the pertinent information in your submission tracking spreadsheet. Mine records the agent’s name, agency name, email address I sent to, title of submission and date I sent it. I have a formula that tracks the days so I can enter a no response date after the appropriate time.
  9. Make ke sure the agents accept simultaneous submissions. If they respond and ask for more pages, I always let them know if the manuscript is being considered by someone else, too. A bit of tension to keep them reading, right?
    And yes, a large number of agencies will say “If you don’t hear from us in 90 days (to as long as six months) consider this a pass.” I don’t generally put these agencies in my top ten list because I want to be able to get through the list in a timely manner.
    In this day and age, is it really such a hardship to sent your assistant a little note saying “Not interested in NAME OF MANUSCRIPT” as seen in this query. Send them a note. Thanks.
    No. I don’t believe it is. Even if you’re the agent who is doing the work. You read the query. It’s not for you, so you open your email and dash off a quick note letting the author know that.
    It feels rude that someone wouldn’t consider my hours of writing and research and due diligence to send them a complete submission worthy of a quick reply. In fact, anyone who wouldn’t think my effort was worth their two sentence: “Thanks for submitting but this isn’t what I’m looking for right now. Best of luck” response probably isn’t someone I want to work with for the next twenty years.
    Yes, it’s on days like this when I’m sending out submissions that I wish the indie author life appealed to me. But I tried that road. It didn’t lead to my dream destination, so here I am, back to the traditional publishing path.
    Have you ever submitted something for consideration? What sort of responses have you gotten back?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.