Thursday, June 26, 2008

Submission Freak-Outs

I received an email recently from someone freaking out because she forgot to include an SASE with her submission, and it made me think about all of the times I think authors freak out post-submission. Let me try to quell some of those fears.

SASE Problems . . . If you sent the submission to BookEnds, never fear. Simply email the agent in question around the time the response time is up and ask if they’ve gotten to it. You could also email our assistant at bookends@bookends-inc.com. Assistants know all. If they have responded and you didn’t receive the SASE for some reason, the agent can simply let you know via email what her answer was. Usually if we are requesting something more we will email that request (as long as there is an email address on your letter). Some of the SASE problems we have seen include forgetting one altogether, putting our address in place of yours on the envelope, not including enough postage (even before rates go up), or not putting your address on there correctly at all.

Query/Cover Letter Problems . . . If you forgot to include crucial information on your cover letter there’s not much you can do about it right at this moment. Write it off and keep your fingers crossed. However, once you receive that response, don’t be afraid to requery with the new and improved letter. While that can be a drag for me as my queries go up and it’s the same letters over and over, it’s great news for you. Why not? What do you have to lose? That being said, I would only query the same book twice. More than that and you start to become a strong memory.

Envelope Problems . . . I’m amazed how many people panic because they forgot to put “requested materials” on the outside of the envelope. Well here’s a good piece of information: No one here cares if it’s marked "requested materials" on the envelope or not. We only care what the letter and materials inside say. So make sure your letter says that the materials were requested, but don’t worry about the envelope. I never see the envelopes myself anyway.

U.S. Postal Service Problems . . . This should come as no surprise, but if your package arrives postage due we won’t pay for that. It’s going to come back to you. The same holds true if your package requires a signature. I will sign for it if I’m here (as will everyone else), but if the mailman isn’t able to track us down or doesn’t feel like it, those packages can often be returned too. Do not require signature and make sure you have enough postage on the package you’re sending. There are plenty of ways to track a package without requiring signature.

Revision Problems . . . If your material has been sent and has arrived and you suddenly decide to do some serious revisions, it’s usually too late as far as I’m concerned. I can’t have my interns, assistant, or me spending half of our days replacing submissions. Make sure what you send is the absolute best it can be. If you receive a rejection from me and the book has been completely, entirely reworked, feel free to re-query and start the process over. In this case you will need to tell me it’s a re-query. I have to say, though, that it’s the rare case I’ll want to take a second look.

That’s all I can think of for some of the common problems I’ve seen. My best bit of advice where all of this is concerned: Don’t stress. Just the other day, in fact, when submitting to an editor, I accidentally emailed the wrong file. Oops. I sent an immediate reply with the new file. Mistakes happen, we all make them. Try not to sweat the small stuff, as they say.

Jessica

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for today's most informative blog! You touched on so many things that I worry about after I've sent material.

Julie Weathers said...

Yes, I am one of those people who panic about stuff. I had to start making a very detailed checklist regarding submissions. Even so, stuff still happens. Glad you are not the literary inquisition, though.

JES said...

Thanks for the don't-sweat reminder!

That said, it must be entertaining as heck to guess the author's frame of mind from the condition of the submitted materials.

Sheila Lamb said...

I'm a worrier. Julie, great idea to make a checklist!

I have *finally* learned on e-queries to email it to myself(at different email accounts) to make sure formatting, etc. is ok.

Robena Grant said...

This came up as a question on another forum I was on last night. A writer asked about futzing with her ms. even though it has been requested by an agent. She wanted to add ten or so pages. What would your advice be, leave it alone until you hear back or make the changes?

Bernita said...

I worry most about the query/partial/full/ just getting there.

Anonymous said...

However, once you receive that response, don’t be afraid to requery with the new and improved letter.

How long should someone wait to requery if they were going to do so?

sylvia said...

However, once you receive that response, don’t be afraid to requery with the new and improved letter.

Er, do you mean that? That is, there's an implication here that if my letter wasn't very good, I can wait for you to reject me and then send it right in again. I think you meant with a new submission? Or have I totally missed the point.

Anonymous said...

You missed the point, Sylvia. It wasn't to send in the same letter after rejection, it was to rework your query from the ground up and then submit again. That assumes you got rejected because your query was subpar and the work was not, though.

sylvia said...

I'm not sure "I think it was my query not my book" is a good reason for re-querying either - you could always requery by that logic.

But the above example was talking about "forgetting crucial information", not rewriting your query. That's what surprised me. It appears (to me) to be inviting people to requery with only a modification to their cover letter.

BookEnds, LLC said...

I am actually inviting people to requery if you feel that you've since revised your query letter and feel it's stronger. Keep in mind though that names can be remembered so I would only advise doing this if you really, strongly feel that was the problem. You don't want to be remembered for being a pest.

--jhf

Gabrielle said...

LOL... does anybody remember Kevin Alexander's column in "Writer's Digest," a few years back, where he talked about the mailman responsible for ruining his career? Apparently he got delivered a letter of interest from an agent... three months late. It was hilarious, as he always is.

Julie Weathers said...

"I am actually inviting people to requery if you feel that you've since revised your query letter and feel it's stronger. Keep in mind though that names can be remembered so I would only advise doing this if you really, strongly feel that was the problem. You don't want to be remembered for being a pest."

I think this is terribly generous of you. I was going to start querying mine as soon as the final edit is done, but I decided to wait until after the Surrey conference. I'm positive I'll get some pointers on strengthening it and the work so another few weeks isn't going to hurt.

I'd just rather make a good first impression than try to straighten things up later.

Anonymous said...

BookEnds is actually the only agency that declined to let me resubmit after a substantial revision. I'm not passing judgment here--just saying that my experience has been the opposite of "no swaps allowed."

Emerging Writer said...

One thing my friend did. She had a SASE and the SAE for the agent. She put the SAE and the manuscript in the SASE and posted it ... to herself!