More Things You’re Doing Wrong When You Submit Your Writing—Part 3

I know I’ve been harping on what probably seem like silly, nitpicky things (things that shouldn’t matter) over the past few weeks as I’ve outlined some of the mistakes that I find in the submissions we receive at Blydyn Square Books from aspiring writers.

But the thing is, if y’all would stop MAKING those mistakes, I could stop harping on them. Okay?

So, listen up: This is my third and final (for now) rant on the things you’re doing wrong when you submit your writing to publishers or agents.

Once again, all of the errors I’m covering in today’s post come from just ONE recent submission. And just for the record, if you make one, single mistake, it MIGHT be forgivable. If you make FOUR, you’re toast. So, pay attention.

Mistake #1: You’re sending your submission to the wrong person.

This particular submission arrived in the email inbox of Blydyn Square Books’ marketing director, Eliot Wise, rather than (where it belonged) in the inbox of acquisitions editor Megan Skamwell.

I know that some publishers make it difficult to figure out the name of the appropriate staff member to whom you should address your query. And seriously, I feel for writers who have to go through that process.

However, Blydyn Square Books is NOT one of those publishers. The submissions guidelines page on our website clearly states that submissions should be sent to Megan (along with lots of details about what should be sent and how). And yet, we frequently get queries addressed to poor, overworked Eliot in marketing.

If you can’t figure out the correct person to whom you should send your submission, especially when the information is clearly stated, how can we expect you to be smart enough to handle any revisions that need to be made to produce your book?

The brutal truth is, it’s easier not to risk it, so it makes more sense for us to reject your submission.

Mistake #2: You didn’t review the submission guidelines.

Obviously, this point goes hand in hand with the previous one, but it still deserves its own mention because I see mistakes in this area so often.

In the submission in question, the author wrote a very thorough, even compelling description of his/her book, explaining which popular titles her work might be compared to and how he/she envisions the book being marketed.

Unfortunately, he/she also notes that the book is intended for a young adult (YA) audience. And (at least currently) Blydyn Square Books doesn’t publish children’s or YA titles.

Again, this is something that is clearly mentioned on our website, but from the query, it is obvious that the author never bothered to read our submissions guidelines. He/she is simply doing bulk submissions—never a good tactic—sending the exact same query to every publisher/agent he/she comes across, without taking the time to check what each one wants.

Bad idea.

Tailor your submission to each and every publisher/agent, taking the time to follow each’s guidelines precisely. Failing to do so is a guarantee that your submission will be rejected—and rightly so.

Mistake #3: You didn’t proofread your submission.

I know I’ve included this point every single time I’ve posted about the errors that writers make in submitting their work, but it bears repeating because it really is THAT important.

Look at it from the publisher’s perspective: If you, the author, are too lazy to read a less-than-one-page query letter thoroughly, how many mistakes will you miss (or add) when you review our edits on your completed manuscript if we sign you up for a book contract?

It’s simply not worth the risk.

For the love of all that is holy, PROOFREAD your submission!

Mistake #4: You forgot your submission.

Yes, you read that correctly.

This particular writer inexplicably forgot to include his/her work. The query letter was there, as was his/her contact information, but the sample pages were curiously missing. In essence, there was no submission submitted.

Now, sure, we could easily have contacted the person and said, “Hey, did you forget something?” (after we stopped laughing, of course).

But then again, why should we?

Isn’t including the pages, the actual SUBMISSION, kind of the most important detail? If you forgot THAT, what else are you going to forget if we agree to work with you?

No, thanks. We’ll be moving on.

It’s not hard to avoid these (and many other) mistakes, these tiny things that stand between you and successfully attracting a publisher or agent’s attention.

All it takes is a little bit of patience, some attention to detail, and the ability to step outside your own ego and take an objective look at your work before you hit that “Send” button.

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