(Here I go again, blogging about writing. I realize that I blog about this more than anything else. It’s what I do. Even if you’re not a writer, I hope you realize there is wisdom for all professions within the writing industry, and keep reading anyway.)
You know that whole first impression cliché? I’ve been thinking about that, and I kinda want to talk about an important part of our image as professionals.
When first we encounter someone in our industry, chances are it will be online, rather than in person. Not that the in-person part isn’t important—because I cannot stress enough HOW big it is to have that personal contact—but realistically, when we submit work to agents or publishers it’s generally cold. That means first impressions are formed solely on the quality of our query and sample pages.
If you’ve ever read an article on submitting, you should already know how important it is to send only your very, very best work. So I’m going to skip that lecture. Also the query lesson. (But if you need help in those areas, you can look here or here.)
So we work and work and work on our sample pages, and then we work and work and work on our query, and then we think…ahhhh. Now we can submit, right?
Actually, you’re just getting started. I mean, yeah, you can submit, but if you want to make a good impression, it’s also important to do some research first. I know, I know, we write fiction to AVOID research.
So what do we have to research and why?
1. First, research any potential agents/publishing houses to find out if they represent or publish the type of work you have.
2. While you’re there, look to see if they have something on their list similar to yours so you can mention that in your query. Trust me, it looks good for you.
3. Finally, (and people, this is the BIG one, I think) check their submission guidelines. Every company and every agent is a little different. Some want just a query, some want five pages, some ten, some three chapters, etc. Some have questionnaires, some want just a twitter pitch.
There are a bazillion different quirky things these professionals might expect. If you do it right, you have a chance. But if you don’t, it’s possible your submission will be deleted unread.
The good news: the majority of publishers and agents have websites where you can go to find the pertinent information. Really, truly, there is no need to email them individually to ask (although, in extreme circumstances, that might be okay, depending on who it is—most agents prefer not) because the frequently asked questions are generally covered in one section or another.
Your query package is the first part of you these people will get to meet. So IMO, it’s uber important to put on your proverbial conservative makeup, spray down your “stray hairs”, and wear something nice to the party. Make a good impression, and you will NOT be sorry.
Have a great time at the query party. And hey, while you’re there, find me and say hi.