As everyone knows, there is always a polite way to go about doing things. In this age of reality shows where screaming makes you famous and atrocious behavior makes you money, this concept is sometimes forgotten. However, there are people (like say me and every other children’s book editor and agent on the planet) who appreciate courtesy. In fact, it will make you look more professional than the rude louts we all cringe at having to deal with. So, in that spirit, I have compiled a small list of polite things to consider when making an electronic submission.
- If you are doing multiple submissions, you need to send multiple emails.
I am not saying you can’t do a simultaneous submission if the editor/agent doesn’t require exclusive submissions. That’s fine. What I am saying is don’t use the exact same “Dear Editor” email and then type a bunch of different editor emails into the To or Bcc field creating a mass email. For one thing, we can tell when this has happened, even when you use the Bcc field. (It’s pretty obvious.) For another, it means that you haven’t taken the time to personalize the email to anyone which means you probably haven’t bothered to learn if your manuscript is even a good potential fit for the editor’s list. You can use chunks of your cover letter for every editor (the pitch and bio paragraphs won’t change much), but otherwise you should carefully consider each person you submit to, and make slight changes to suit that editor. Just as you shouldn’t make xerox copies of a cover letter and stick it in a bunch of submission envelopes, you shouldn’t send carbon copies of your email cover letter. Besides being kind of rude, it makes you look lazy.
- Do not make demands.
Unfortunately for submitters, editors are the ones with all the power. (And let’s face it, most of us only have a little bit compared to the Senior Editors or Editorial Directors or Publishers or other departments like Marketing that have a say in acquisitions. Very few have my luxury of owning the whole show.) We decide what is printed, when, and in what format, and our decisions are controlled by market forces as much as they are by our own tastes. This means that authors are in no position to make demands. Besides being annoying, they make you look clueless.
- Do not tell me that passing on your book would be stupid or the greatest mistake of my life.
Do I really have to explain this one? No one, including me, likes having their intelligence doubted. It almost instantly puts a person in a negative mood no matter how much they try to resist it. Why would you want a person who is about to read your manuscript to now be in a less than stellar mood? And let’s face it. I’ve done (and will do) many stupid things in my life, but passing on a manuscript has never even come close to making the top 1000.
- Do not lie to me.
Lying makes you untrustworthy, and no one wants to do business with someone they can’t trust. So, don’t tell me that I critiqued you at a conference and asked for the manuscript if I didn’t. Don’t tell me your manuscript is under consideration with XYZ editor at ABC house if it’s not. I will know if you’re lying. Trust me.
- Do disclose if you are doing a multiple submission.
They’re fine with me, just tell me you’re doing it. Also, let me know if it’s under consideration at another house (an editor has told you he/she is considering it) or another house has offered for it. Although if you do have an offer and are submitting to me in the hopes of starting a bidding war, don’t bother. I don’t do bidding wars or participate in auctions. Finally, let me know if you are agented. (Because from that moment on I’ll need to be talking to him/her not you.)
- Do not email asking for progress on your submission.
If your manuscript is being seriously considered, you will know because I will email you. If you haven’t heard from me within the three month waiting period, it’s because I haven’t gotten to your story yet and therefore have nothing to report. I can guarantee that will mean that your story will move to the bottom of the metaphorical pile, lengthening response time.
Of course, that is just for annoying emails during the three month period (or however long the publisher or agent’s stated time) I have said it will take to go through manuscripts. After the three months are up, it is fine to ask for a status update. Send a small polite email that tells your name, the day you submitted, the manuscript name, and politely, politely, request a status update. Remember to not make demands or accuse the editor of laziness or slowness. (Admittedly no one has ever done that to me personally, but I have seen ones that other people have received. And let me tell you, nothing inspires someone to immediately go look up and accept your manuscript than an accusatory email. Wow, I could literally feel the sarcasm dripping from my fingers as I typed that last sentence.) However, if you follow my advice, you won’t offend anyone, and you’ll get the info you are dying to receive.