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What Not to Do and a Judicial Suggestion

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Miss Snark has some valuable information on what NOT to do when preparing your submission to an agent or editor. According to the snarkilicious one, these are the ultimate signs of being a rank amateur. Check out Miss Snark’s post, make an offering of some gin, and learn from her.

Since I can’t link to the specific post and by the time you head over to visit her, the blog might have scrolled considerably, I’ll paraphrase her tips here. Do not make any of the following mistakes on your submission.

  • Put (c)1996 on the manuscript
  • Plaster your name, address, phone number, email, alternate email, parent’s home address, the local pub’s phone number and all kinds of other identification crap all over your submission
  • Request your pages returned but don’t include sufficient postage
  • Gush about how desperately you want to be a published writer in you cover letter
  • Exclaim that you just finished the novel and these pages are hot off the printer
  • Proclaim that your spouse (or mom or uncle or parakeet) is your toughest critic but that they still raved about this magnum opus
  • Print the submission in massive black font so it looks like a slash of tribal tattoos
  • Print the submission in tiny italic font so it looks like the Declaration of Independence
  • Admit that your work probably isn’t any good but will the agent or editor please review it and answer some questions
  • Include a questionnaire for the agent to complete, proving their worthiness of representing you

Now, all these prescriptions seem pretty damn obvious. And I’m sure all the wonderful Slushpile.net readers, and all of Miss Snark’s dedicated minions, know better that to commit any of these sins.

But here’s the amazing thing… hundreds, even thousands of people, do these very things every single solitary day. We often gripe about aloof editors or reclusive agents, hiding behind informal rejection letters and torturous submission guidelines–hell, I’ve done plenty of bitching about that myself–but the frightening fact is that they are often driven to those extremes of inaccessibility.

Some people may be good-hearted and truly don’t know any better. Some people are just idiots. But both of them hound editors and agents with awful submissions. A pal of mine runs a fairly successful website that gets about 700,000 viewers each day. The pitches he receives will turn your stomach, either from laughing so hard or being nauseated. Every editor you meet has stories of manuscripts pushed under bathroom stall doors, delivered via singing telegram, and other ludicrous methods. I was perusing a writing-related messageboard recently and someone (who claimed to be a dedicated, determined, serious writer) actually posted the question… oh god, this was such a sad, ignorant, depressing exchange that I can’t even bring myself to make fun of it here. Put it this way, the thread revolved around someone saying the literary equivalent of “I’ve never played organized basketball before, but I have no doubt in my mind I can be the best in the world. I’m dedicated and determined to do whatever it takes to be successful. But I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers? Are they good organizations?” Just awful.

So I post Miss Snark’s wonderful list here to remind us all to be on top of our game. And also to help identify the symptoms of idiot-writer-syndrome. If you see a person foaming at the mouth, saying their marketing plan is to get on Oprah, and making any of these mistakes, please help them immediately. If they prove to be of the incurable variety, or malicious in their ignorance, then I believe we should arrest them and have them tried for crimes against publishing.

The punishment for incorrigible submission behavior should be similar to the way they penalize hackers. After hacking wizard and convicted criminal Kevin Mitnick was released from prison, a stipulation of his parole was that he could not use any technology other than a landline telephone. He even had a cameo in the first season of television’s Alias but could only use a prop computer since playing with a real one, even an old Commodore 64 would have violated him back to the big house. Likewise, incorrigible submission offenders should not be allowed to go within 150 yards of a post office with a manila folder or manuscript box in their hands.