Friday, October 16, 2009

Sidetracked Submissions

“A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.” Ring Lardner

Sending manuscripts to agents and authors, if done properly, is a multi-step process. The best way to begin is by using a book, such as, Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. It has inspirational stories and tips from various people from the publishing world, but what I like best is the list of agencies and publishers that are looking for manuscripts. Each agency and publishing company has an accompanying paragraph to describe what they are looking for, what they don’t want, what to send, and where to send. Some will only accept a query, while others request the entire manuscript.

If an agent or editor seems promising, I must then check their website under “Submissions” to make sure that their needs have not changed. Then I peruse their catalog, to see which one of their books is similar enough to mine that my manuscript would make a good addition, but not so close that my work would nearly be a duplicate of something on their list.

Once that is done, I tailor my query letter with their information, making sure to include buzzwords from their site, and then referencing the similar book, which demonstrates that I did some research. If all they accept is the query letter, I print it and place it in an envelope, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Without it, I’ll never know when they’ve rejected me. I keep track of all submissions and rejections on a word document.

If more than a query is requested, I print the other pages. For picture books, most agents and publishers want the entire manuscript (since, when condensed, doesn’t use many pages), but for middle-grade (ages 9-12) or young adult (YA – ages 13-18), they usually want three chapters. After I’ve printed a portion of my manuscript, I also print a summary. The summary is just what it sounds like – a summary of the entire book. When agents and editors are considering my manuscript, they don’t need to be surprised, but rather, want to be keen on the plot and writing.

Currently, I’m trying to get a series of four books published, so in addition to the query, SASE, summary, and portion of manuscript, I also need to include a proposal, marketing plan, and summaries of the subsequent books, even if they aren’t yet written. Once all is printed, I then tuck the papers in a large envelope to be brought to the post office for weighing, stamping, and mailing.

But each of these mailings leaves me fraught with anxiety. I prefer the writing much more than the researching of potential agents and editors, and self-promotion. As I’ve mentioned before, each SASE I write, I fear I’ll see again. Within a few days, I dread to check the mail. If I’ve sent some via e-mail (my preferred method, but few agents and publishers have joined the 21st century), within a day, I dread to check my e-mail. With each rejection, I tell myself not to get demoralized, but that’s easier said than done.

Yesterday was my second day off (no sub call), and I was going to spend it sending submissions (After editing a post, as well as checking e-mail and facebook – okay, I was procrastinating). I found an agent to send to on-line. They wanted it in the body of the e-mail, so the query, summaries, marketing plan, and proposal, as well as forty-six pages of manuscript were sent in a looooong e-mail. So far, so good. Next agent! I realized that I was out of stamps for the SASE, which I could remedy at the post office. I printed three pages and then the printer ran out of ink. No problem, I had another ink cartridge. Oh no! Out of ink too. I drove to my local drugstore that refills cartridges. When I got there, I was advised that their refill station was removed due to lack of business, so I drove to the next location to drop off my cartridges, and was told to come back in an hour (Which would be too close to when I had to get my kids from school to squeeze in more submissions). Trying to make the wasted time worthwhile, I stopped at the bank next to the drugstore, so I could purchase some stamps from the ATM. I was determined to work on submissions after I picked up my kids from school.

I hadn’t sent any manuscripts since July, so I was getting anxious. If I don’t send, then I can’t get a contract. I usually only have the stomach to submit about three times a year, so I didn’t want to lose momentum. I rallied, sending five out in total. Apparently, mentally preparing to put myself out there is also a process.


  1. I had lost my place in your blog! But I'm back! ; j
    Your prep for querying is the same I used when I was looking for a job. I even did research on my interviewer and some others as a part of my prepping. It seems like the only smart way to go about it.
    Have you got more comfortable with the querying process?

  2. @ Alesa, I stopped doing refills from Walgreens because the ink didn't print many pages. I bought one from Best Buy that makes hundreds of copies - much better!

    I wish all agents and editors took email submissions. It would be so much easier for me and on the environment.

  3. Umm...?
    Good to know! I'll keep that in mind if I get a printer to need refills for, and if I move to country with Walgreens. : j

    Incidentally, if you look online I'm sure you can find detailed specs/performances/price for printer cartridges online, and pick the one that best suits you for the best price.

  4. @ Alesa, ha! I think the problem wasn't with Walgreens (a drugstore that does refills) but because it was the cartridge that came with the computer. It probably only held a tiny bit.

    When these monster cartridges run out, I'll probably refill.