Thursday, December 10, 2009

Editor Request

I recently won a small contest. First prize in each category is a guaranteed full read by a particular agent and a particular editor. I know promising to receive a full manuscript isn't the same as promising to LIKE the book, but I am very excited to have this opportunity. How do I go about submitting my material? Do I send a regular query letter and say, "Oh, by the way, will you read this?" Do I send the full manuscript and label it "Requested material"? Or do I email the whole thing and say, "Here ya go!"? Also, in your opinion, what is the time limit on things like this? Do I need to send in my manuscript right away, or just sometime before Christmas, or do I put the whole thing under my bed for six months just on principle?

First of all let me send along my congratulations. Any time you get a full read through a contest, an auction win, or a query request you’re being given a fabulous opportunity. So let me go ahead and see if I can answer all of your questions.

When submitting any material at all, in any of the instances I mention above, you always need to include your query letter. Once the material gets requested, the query becomes a cover letter but should include the same basic information. I would start out the letter by mentioning why you are sending it. Something along the lines of, “as per your request,” or “I was thrilled to win the contest, and as per their rules I’m sending along,” will work sufficiently. Then you’ll need to include your title, genre, blurb, and bio. Basically the rest of the information that appears in your standard query.

If you’re not sure whether the agent or editor would prefer an email or snail mail submission, I would ask the contest coordinators. They might have a set of guidelines for their winners to follow. If not, I would send a professional email to the agent or editor asking what she prefers.

While I can’t guarantee the agent or editor will react in a super-timely manner (that’s going to depend on her schedule), I would submit the material within a few weeks of winning. Some contests have a timeline of when you have to submit material by, but I think four to eight weeks is longer than you should need. While certainly you want to show your best work, it also tends to throw our schedules off when a contest submission arrives months and months after the contest has ended. Also, as more time goes on, we tend to forget what made us request the material in the first place, and are less excited about receiving it.



Anonymous said...

Great post. Very helpful.

Mira said...

I agree - good post. Thanks for the information, Jessica.

Congrats to the writer! Best of luck!

Rashda Khan said...

I usually just lurk (okay, i came out for the shelter dogs post, couldn't resist), but today's topic seemed meant for me. I had been up since 5:30 a.m. struggling to write a cover letter to go with my pages in response to an editor request from a contest. Then my bleary gaze landed on your blog. Eureka! And thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I would add that in additon to asking the contest administrators if the agent wants it email or snail mail, also ask what the time frame is. It is usually outlined.

Then go for the agent read first because she may have revision ideas before you send off to the editor.

Anonymous said...


If the request for a full comes during the holidays, is it better to send it off right away...or should I wait until after New Years?

Mira said...


I'm not Jessica, but my take: if an agent asks for it, send it promptly.

You might not get it back until after New Year's though. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the input Mira. Now I have to figure out if the req. full and synopsis should be in one attachment or two (instr. said rtf or doc). That's a whole new blog...New Rules in the New Age of Electronic Submissions:)

Anonymous said...

I would send the ms. (as soon as the email inquiring as to delivery method is answered) immediately. Why wait? Also, if you wait a long time, like a month or more, it makes it look like you don't really have the ms. ready. Get that puppy out ASAP! And start writing the next book while you wait to hear back.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:39,

I always do separate file attachemtns in the same mail for synop and ms. Honestly though, this is because the formatting is different for the synop (single space, business-letter-style line space b/n para's) than it is for the ms. (double space, different font), and I can never figure out how to have the page numbers for the synop, if it's in the same doc as the ms., start over when the ms. starts. I know there's a way, but I also figure it's convenient to have them separarte anyway.

Pen said...

I thought sending query letters and synopsis etc as attachments was a no-no as many editors/agents don't open them being afraid of viruses.

I think Nathan Bransford mentioned this somewhere (?)

But yeah, I've worried about what this will do to the formatting of my query letter.

What is your take on this? To attach or not to attach - that is the question.

Anonymous said...


If it's requested, it's okay, unless they speciaically state they want it snail-mailed.

Any unsolicited mail should never have an attachment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jessica!
I am in the same boat - I came second in a comp last week and was shocked when the editor requested my full. I want to send my best work and I have had some conflicting advice as to how long I should wait to send due to edits. Some said up to six months, which I thought ridiculous. I am aiming for Christmas eve, so that fits perfectly with what you suggest.
Thanks again for a great post.