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Jake George

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Killer submission letters to agents and publishers
by Jake George   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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Tips for your submission packages to publisher and or agents. Things that will send your query to the reject pile.


Killer submissions that will send your manuscript the reject pile.

As the acquisition director for Virtual Tales Publications it is my job to review all incoming submissions to see if they meet our current needs. We have very explicit submission guidelines as do other publishers. There is a reason for publishers to do so. Mostly it is to make all the submissions appear in the same format so we do not have to try to read different fonts or odd formatting.

Submit on white paper with no backgrounds. Same applies for e-mail submissions.

The number one killer of a submission package is not following the submission guidelines. Hard to believe but as the acquisition director, I have seen so many different formats come in with up to a dozen different fonts or formatting that makes it difficult to read and follow.

Remember that publishers receive dozens to hundreds of submissions a week. Make sure your query Letter has all the information asked for in the submission guidelines. USE SPELL CHECK. A sloppy, poorly written query letter will cause the acquisition director to toss it aside before the end of the query letter.

If an author cannot take the time to proof and provide a quality query letter, how likely is the author to make sure the manuscript submitted is any better?

If your query letter is good, make sure you submit the first three chapters or word count the publisher asks for. Start with the first chapter, or the beginning. That may seem like common sense but we get three sample chapters, 6, 8 and 32 for example. First thing we think is what is wrong with chapters 1-5?

Go over your chapters to make sure they are the best you can produce. Spell check, proper grammar, no POV shifts, etc.. Remember we are basing your work on what you submit. If we like what you sent we will ask for a full manuscript for review.

When you hit the point where a publisher or agent asks for the full manuscript for review, make sure you spent as much time grooming the full manuscript as you did the first three chapters.

We recently rejected three of the last four submissions of full manuscripts. What killed the other three? Poor grammar, head hopping, no spell check and most of all, overall sloppiness.

Make your novel stand out by being clean, well prepared and most of all, follow the submission guidelines. If you do this you increase your chances of the publisher or agent asking to see the full manuscript.

Oh, by the way. Seems kind of silly but add your e-mail address in your submission letter. If you send your query by e-mail, often the submission is put into a file and the e-mail with your submission is often deleted. If you do not put your contact information in your submission letter they may not be able to contact you if they are interested.

I had this happen four times last week alone.

All in all, get your projects ready and submit.


Jake George
Acquisition Director
Virtual Tales Publications

Web Site: Virtual Tales

Reader Reviews for "Killer submission letters to agents and publishers"

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Reviewed by Ruth Barringham
I cannot agree with you more. I too receive and review book proposals for cheriton house publsihing pty ltd. People repeatedly send in emailed submissions even though I don't accept electronic submissions. They also do not send what is asked for, set it out badly (as you say) or send in badly written rubbish that I can't even read.

I received a submission last week of 2 FULL manuscripts from the same would-be author. Both manuscripts were formatted badly, extremely badly written, the paper was crumpled and the first page of the first chapter of one of them had a food stain on it (looked like a finger print in baked bean juice). I threw the whole lot in the bin and then went and washed my hands.

Sadly, the great submissions are few and far between.

But all publishing companies put up submission guidelines on their web sites which must be followed because if they don't, the author's work will be instantly rejected. Why? Because busy publishers and editors don't have time to waste and so will reject something rather than struggle with it.

So when sending in query letters and manuscripts, it's so vitally important to read and follow the submission guidelines to ensure that you give your work the best chance of being published and that your work at least gets read and not tossed straight in the bin.
Reviewed by Eileen Granfors
Wow! Great advice, Jake. Now, if I know I've got the format right, the spelling and grammar are perfect, and the editor sends me a hand-written note saying "more rising action," should I take that as a gold star, meaning "one more try"?
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