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Friday, July 30, 2010

Guest Blogger: Heather Snow

Lessons Learned From a First Time Submitter

Hello, my name is Heather Snow, I write Regency Historical Romance and I am thrilled to be guest blogging at Lady Scribes today! I was so fortunate to have met Lydia, Samantha and Amy at a conference earlier in the year, and here at RWA National, to meet Jerrica and my fellow Golden Heart ® Nominee, Clarissa. I am honored to be amongst such incredibly diverse and fabulous historical authors.

Today, I’d like to talk about what I’ve learned about submitting. Though I am relatively new to the game, I hope what little I know can help someone else.

1. Enter Contests before you submit

a. Yes, they can be a crap-shoot, and yes, judges are subjective (as are agents and editors, btw), but I have gleaned something from the very best scores I’ve received and the very worst, and they’ve all either made my story better or clarified for me exactly what I wanted to keep the same. My manuscript, “Sweet Enemy” is my first completed novel and I am very grateful for the attention it’s gotten from agents, and that was due primarily to contest finals, big and small.

2. The SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) is one of life’s cruel ironies

a. There’s nothing like carefully printing, proofing, painstakingly filling out that return envelope in your very best handwriting, licking, stamping and running to the post-office with an active two-year-old (who proceeds to run over to the greeting card rack and toss Mother’s Day Cards in the air like a game of 52 card pick up while you’re trying to mail your package and dreading how much you are going to have to pay for those) only to have the big fat REJECTION RETURNED TO YOU IN YOUR OWN HANDWRITING! Fun. That being said…

3. Always OPEN the SASE

a. It has been my experience that when your project is received, if the agent is interested, they respond by e-mail for the full and if they are not, you get the form/nice rejection letter back in your lovely SASE. So, when that little envelope is waiting in your mailbox, coming back from someone you really, really wanted to love your story, it’s like a heartbreak with a stamp. However, I did learn, as I was holding just such one of these little gems, that is not always the case. I almost tossed it into the rejection file unopened, but decided I was a glutton for punishment and when I opened it, it was a handwritten request for a full on my original query letter. Open the envelopes, even if you’re afraid they’re going to hurt.

4. Submit far and wide, but only when the project is complete

a. I have an A list, a B list and a C list of agents, carefully researched and ranked. When “Sweet Enemy” finaled in the GH, I immediately queried A and B. Some agents picked it up immediately (who I thought would take forever!), some took longer, and some I’ve yet to hear from. I did both A list and B list, figuring an offer from a B would do more to spur the A’s than anything else (aside from the writing, of course!).

5. Ask LOTS of questions.

a. When those offers come rolling in, it’s important to choose the right agent for YOU. Ask questions. I have an extensive list that I would be happy to share (and have used to interview agents who made offers). E-mail me at heather@heathersnowbooks.com if you are a submitting writer who would like me to send it to you, then add your own questions.

6. Boil that story down

a. Call it the Elevator Pitch, the Hook, the Log Line, whatever you want. Those agents and editors need to know, quickly, how they are going to sell you. Spend some time. Try it out. Take a class. But get it down. Try hard to get in both personality, plot, conflict and a hook.

Here is the Elevator Pitch for “Sweet Enemy”

Beakers and ball gowns don’t mix, so when a lady chemist goes undercover at an earl’s house party to discover if he murdered her father, romance isn’t part of her formula—but ever good chemist would do well to remember that when you combine two unknown substances, you might just start a reaction you can’t control.

You can also view the book trailer at www.HeatherSnowBooks.com. I can tell you that prospective agents DO go to your websites, so keep them smart and updated.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now, and I hope it’s been a help. Thank you for having me. This post is being run while I am at the RWA National convention, so I will likely not get in much today to respond to comments, but please leave them if you’d like and I promise to respond to each as I have time.

I’d love to hear what tips you have for the submission process and would be glad to answer any questions (not that I’m an expert, but I am glad to share anything I know!)


  1. These are wonderful tips, especially the one on opening what *might* be the rejection letter, when it could also be a request!! Thanks so much for posting and congratulations on your book!

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  3. I received a letter that I was sure was a second rejection, tore it open and it asked for me to submit my full MS. I sat, stunned on the couch for like, five minutes. I remember mumbling something like, "They want my MS." Followed by, "Crap, I'd better polish up my MS." (haha!) It was a surprise, a *good* one!

  4. Heather -- great post! And I just saw that you won the Historical Category in the KOD Daphne contest! Congrats to you -- hope it's just the beginning of even more wonderful things for you.


  5. Heather, these are wonderful tips! And I do believe I am going to email you on those questions when next week. You're book sounds incredibly intriquing and I cannot wait to read it one day. Good luck on the GH award!

  6. Excellent advice! I haven't had the nerve to submit anything yet, but hopefully next year.... :)

  7. Thanks for joining us, Heather! And good luck on the GH. You've got some great tips for everyone in here. I've yet to enter a contest, but I do have a handy-dandy little (okay, not so little) list of questions to ask potential agents, just waiting to be used.

  8. Heather,
    What great advice. I never thought about having an A,B and C list of agents but that makes perfect sense.

  9. Heather,

    Thank you so much for visiting Lady Scribes today and sharing your tips. I'm so excited for all the good things happening in your career right now, and I can't wait to get my hands on your first book. I'll be routing for you in the GH. :)

  10. Heather, Thank you for doing this blog when I know you are so very busy at RWA Nationals. Congratulations on winning First Place in the Daphne and good luck for the Golden Heart.

  11. Great blog, Heather. My fingers and toes will be crossed for you tomorrow night. It has been fun seeing you again. Great tips by the way. I'll be e-mailing you for that list.

  12. Heather,

    So I'm a couple days late in responding. Sorry. Hopefully you'll forgive me since I've seen you all last week.

    Thanks so much for the wonderful blog. You have great suggestions for new writers.

  13. Great post, Heather!
    And great timing - when I got home from Nationals, I had the joy of receiving my rejection in my own SASE. Irony, indeed!
    It was great to see you again, and I wish you the best of luck in deciding on your agent!

  14. Heather that was a fantastic post! I absolutely loved your "elevator pitch" for sweet enemy. I hope it sells because that's the kind of story I'd love reading. I was at RWA's 2010 convention but didn't see you in the hall. Too bad; I'd have enjoyed saying hi, though.

  15. Okay, so I know that I am responding to comments over a month late! I'm terrible!!! However, I also try to do what I say and now that I have a breather, I had to run over and respond to comments. I'm a dork, I know ;)

    So, here goes, if only to assuage my guilt at being a horrible, non-comment-responsive guest blogger:

    Coffee~ Thanks so much! After this post, I got another of these requests by SASE, so again--open them!

    Jessica~ Good surprises are the best! Congrats on your request

    Donna~ Thanks so much! The Daphne win was quite exciting. Indeed, Thursday night of conference was a thrilling one for me all around. I appreciate your well wishes.

    Melissa~ I'd be happy to share the questions. E-mail anytime, heather@heathersnowbooks.com

    Sherrinda~ You'll know when you're ready to submit, but then get it out there! I had a friend who wouldn't let us read her work, but she had no problem sending it to editors. She said if they hated it, she didn't have to see them the next day :) You'll do great!

    Julie~ Yes, the ABC list of agents was very helpful to me. I won't tell you about the color coding...

    Samantha~ Thanks so much! I'm extra excited about your career taking off, too!

    Clarissa~ It was so awesome to meet you! Looking for great things from you, my friend :)

    Amy~ It was wonderful to see you, too! Having great friends really made this conference season extra special. Looking forward to seeing you again, soon

    Lydia~ Don't worry. I'm over a month late! It was lovely to spend a little time with you...can't wait for the next opportunity.

    Erin~ Just file it away, sister. The requests will come piling up soon, I know it

    Michelle~ Thanks! I'm so glad "Sweet Enemy" sounds intriguing. It's actually out on submission to editors now, so here's hoping! Sorry I didn't get to meet you in Orlando, but New York is right around the corner!

    Okay, thank you all for commenting and I hope to see you again :)