Monday, September 26, 2011

Submission Guidelines

Nothing is more frustrating than authors who query without following submission guidelines. The wrong subject line means your email isn't filtered properly and my response is delayed--sometimes meaning we miss out on ever getting a chance to work together at all. People send their query as an attachment, with no information about the project in the body of the email...and no, I don't click unsolicited links or attachments. Not many agents (read: nearly 0) do.

But the worst of all is when I get a well-crafted query with the right subject line with a good idea...and no pages pasted into the email.

Seeing the writing is so important, and it can remedy many common query faults, at least for me. If the story doesn't quite make sense or it sounds like something I'm seeing too much of, seeing great writing will always, always give me pause and make me reconsider rejecting.

So submission guidelines aren't just because agents are ego-maniacs who demand that you jump through a lot of hoops. We take great care with our query inboxes to keep them organized and responses quick. And, even more importantly, we want to give you as many chances as possible to get our attention: query and pages.


  1. The only time I leave pages out of a query is when agents specifically say do not send pages. If there's any ambiguity at all, then I send them the first chapter. Otherwise I follow guidelines to the letter! :D

  2. Like Giles I send sample pages unless otherwise noted. I can't speak for everyone, but based on the many posts I've read from querying authors, it seems that we tend to overthink everything! (I'm including myself in that category.) From subject line to logline, we search for the right combo to dazzle (or at least not offend) the agent. 

  3. Andee, I agree. Authors do tend to put way too much pressure on themselves!

    If you do your research and take your time, there's really nothing to fear! We all work really hard to make sure our submission information is out there, and there are dozens of resources for how to write queries.

    If you feel like you're winging it or that you've got dozens of unanswered questions, it's probably because you haven't taken the time to query correctly. It starts with the Oracle (Google).

  4. I just sent off a query to an agent who requires the pages as an attachment - weird. Now I'm wondering if I should have cut and pasted the first five after the query letter in the body of the email. Just in case the attachment doesn't get opened. :(

  5. Does the formatting of the chapters within the body of the e-mail make a difference? Copying and pasting always leaves the text, spacing, etc. with an unpleasing look (at least on the sending end). Does that matter, or is strictly the language you're looking at?

  6. Tam, no--Don't overthink! If the agent requests an attachment, that's what they want.

  7. Richard,

    An unpleasantly formatted email is always unpleasant to read, of course.

    It's up to you to delete those extra spaces before you send.

    This mis-formatting can also happen if authors try to be fast and simply forward an email they sent to one agent to the next on their list, changing only the email address before resending.

    Instead, open a NEW email for each agent, and copy the body of the message out of a word document rather than out of another email.

  8. In my experience, C&P from Word seldom looks any better. Try this: C&P from Word or email to Notepad. This will remove all formatting, leaving you with just plain text. Then C&P from Notepad to your e-mail program. Then go through and make spot corrections.

    Shooting for the Moon