Lessons Learned From a First Time Submitter
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 email@example.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!)