Don't Sabotage Yourself
I bid you welcome once again to MM! Today along with my excerpt post from Final Deceit, I'm going to muse a little on several points on submissions by authors that puzzle me. Now, if you're a writer of fiction and use a Twitter account you should be following agents' and editors' Tweets as well as your friends and fellow authors. Many editors and agents are now on Twitter and post regularly with tips and instructions on submitting your work. Here's where the puzzlement comes in: why do authors still commit obvious, grievous to your manuscript "should have known better", mistakes? Now, I put in this disclaimer: I am not agented. However, I am multi-published via ebook and print publishers. I take this seriously. And if you plan to get published, so should you. Again the head of puzzlement pops up. Those editors and agents I mentioned? Well, most of their Tweets point out those mistakes; you should be paying attention. Prior to the Internet, there was little information on submitting your novel to a publisher or agent; now there is no excuse for unintentional or intentional unprofessionalism. Not only is there a wealth of information on how to submit, but those very editors and agents are telling you what mistakes to avoid!
Certain things should go without saying such as politeness & respect no matter what the decision is on your work. Unfounded bragging or exaggerated comparisons to ridiculously famous and talented authors makes your submission seem pretty ridiculous too. Yes, I know it sounds like a broken record, but check out Twitter to see how many ridiculous mistakes authors still make to this day, every day!
I understand the great frustrations of writing in general, including writing and then polishing, the dreaded synopsis and the query letter. But that's still no excuse for anger and or aggression toward the people who can help you now or especially in the future. Most of the agents and editors want to find the next big thing and from what I've seen they are now so much more open to new authors. Rarely do they ask for referrals any longer.
My solution? You may not like it but the list goes like this:
1)Do your homework! Check out agents' and editors' sites, blogs, working experience at various publishing houses or agencies. Find out who reps what genre' and what they are looking for. Not only will this save you an immense amount of time, it will save your intended agent or editor probably more!
2)Pay attention to what they say. These professionals are not "trying to hurt you, they're trying help you" as Gandalf says to Bilbo in LOTR. Read their websites completely if you need to and check back frequently to make sure you're on course with them.
3)Learn agents and editors' pet peeves: Small things perhaps but as they say the devil is in the details. If you're not committed enough to pay attention to the little things, then you're not committed to getting published.
4)Adhere to the requirements: Again, there is no excuse for not leaving anything out or putting anything in that they don't want. If their instructions are not explicit enough for you to understand, check out the hundreds if not thousands of writing websites that spell out how exactly how to write and present your submission or join an online writing group who will painstakingly give you help and advice that can be priceless. You should be tracking these anyway.
5)Leave your ego in hibernate. I’m constantly reminded of a quote by Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister: "If you have to tell people you're a lady, then you're not." Same principle applies here. If you have to tell people you're a magnificent writer and a future bestseller, then…well you know the rest. They will tell you. Now there's nothing wrong with being confident. In fact you have to be to a certain extent. There is however something wrong with rampant egotism. Agents and editors look at hundreds again if not thousands of manuscripts per year and have probably done so for years as well. This is their job day in and day out and they can pretty much recognize a bestseller or even a potential great piece of work quickly. They don't have time or energy to deal with someone who may be "difficult" to work with or who may refuse to work within the parameters of publishing standards. This sounds incredibly basic but the number of times I see editors post complaints, these are in the top 10. Speak softly and carry a big pen is my advice.
6)Do not berate other agents, editors or authors! Just as Hollywood, the publishing industry is a very small town so to speak. Most of the players know each other or know of each other and many of them are or were co-workers. They talk. All the time. You can get a bad reputation faster than you can type The End and trust me you do not want that—ever. Plus, while one agent or editor may not want your work for whatever reason, another might and again, they talk. Besides, if you are serious about writing and getting published, you need to appear as professional as possible. The pros are pros for a reason.
7)Realize you are not the only author in the writing universe. This goes back to the ego hibernation, but just as I realized when working in Hollywood one day, standing on the roof of a famous music company overlooking Los Angeles, there are a million + authors (musicians in my case) ready, willing, and waiting to take your place. They will have checked their egos, perfected their manuscripts, query letters, synopsis and will show confidence, humility and respect to agents, editors, authors, PR people and cover artists, in fact, to everyone who works hard to get their novels out there for the public to read and respond with sales. Every one of those people who work on your project deserves respect and gratitude, even after your book skyrockets. They helped get you there.
8)Keep it short and to the point. Agents and editors have thousands of submissions constantly and they don't have time to be reading tomes of your work or submission material. Anything to help them save time will not go unnoticed. You don't have to use one liner funny jokes or leave out important aspects but you do need to know how to get to the point without jeopardizing your submission.
If you're rolling your eyes at this point thinking that this is all useless repetition go and look at agent & editor Twitter Tweets. The whole reason I wrote this list is directly due to those Tweets. Editors and agents get just as frustrated in the process as well, especially with repeated submission offenses. I'm fairly sure that they experience the same astonishment that these simple, obvious errors just keep occurring! Besides, if you're rolling your eyes, you're probably one of the ones who listen; those of you who aren't; this post's for you! Go forth and submit!
That all being proselytized, here's the excerpt from my Future Imperfect series' last book: Final Deceit:
"Dispatch, can you hear me?" Charlie's voice rang through the command center hushed
and sounding odd as if something stunned him.
"That's affirmative, Chief."
"Okay, I want some type of... I don't know... conveyor belt or something rigged up."
"I want something that can carry something… horizontal out."
"Sir, I'm not sure I understand. You want some way to bring something out of the crater?"
"Let me talk to him!" John Long yanked the earpiece out of the dispatcher's ear and
pressed the talk key. "Charlie, I want you to get the hell up here now! This is completely
uncalled for -- you are wasting the city's money by putting yourself in unnecessary danger and I
won't stand for it! What the hell do you want to bring up from this catastrophe?"
A long silence hung in the air.
"My homicide detective, Gavin McAllister," Charlie said, voice cracking. "I'm not going
to have him dragged up there like a side of beef. Now, you rig me up something that will carry
him up with some dignity, if you still know what that is, John."
No one spoke. It was one thing to think about cops dying in the line of duty; it was quite
another to see the body. Everyone in the command center looked at one another for a long, long
moment and then the dispatcher picked up a mobile microphone.
"That is affirmative, sir."
No one bothered to look at the mayor.