Monday, January 31, 2011

Top Ten Errors Writer's Make When Submitting Their Manuscripts to Agents

Hello All,
I hope life is treating you well.  Things are good here in my neck of the woods.
Last weekend I attended a writer's conference in Roanoke, Virginia.  I met some interesting people and learned a lot about the publishing business.  One of the more informative sessions I attended was conducted by Joan Timberlake, Literary Agent for Timberlake Literary Services.  She spoke about the top ten errors writers make when submitting their manuscripts.  I thought it would be helpful to share them with you:
  • Writers should not send mass e-mails.  No Dear Sir or Madam headings. 
  • Writers should not contact literary agents when what they really want is a marketer for their novel.  
    • Agents do not do this. They are primarily concerned with selling the novel to a publisher.  
  • Sending an upolished manuscript to an agent expecting them to edit it will get a writer rejected.  Ensure the draft is as close to perfect as it can get. 
    • Although agents will recommend some changes, they are not proofreaders and editors.
  • Writers should never send a query letter that tells the agent to look at the material on their website. 
    • Yes, some doe doe birds have done this.
  • Writers who refuse to make manuscript changes that the agent requests will be turned away.
  • Writers ensure their queries are perfect before sending them out.  If it is a mess the agent will see that as a telling sign of what's to come and they will reject the piece. 
  • Don't approach an agent with an idea and tell them it's the greatest thing since Harry Potter.  Agents can't do anything with an idea.
    • Write the book and then they will talk to you.
  •  Writer's should not begin their manuscripts with cliches like, It was a dark and stormy night.  They will be rejected.
  • Do not spam an agent who rejected a writer's manuscript and tell them something like: "Harry Potter was rejected and you are making the worst mistake of your life."
    • Sour grapes author is not the best reputation to have in the industry. 
  • Last, but certainly not least, writer's should not carry grudges with old agents into relationships with new ones.  
Also, Ms. Timberlake gave a couple of tips for new writers.
  • Never pay a reader's fee to an agent.  This is part of their job.
  • Writer's usually pay for their own shipping.
  • Look for an agent that is a lawyer or has legal expertise like a law degree.  Contracts are tricky and the writer needs to be represented by someone who knows what to look for and what to ask for in a contract.
  • Do not send out a manuscript before it is ready.  Make sure it is polished till it shines. 
  • Publishers love series books, shows the writer is not a one book wonder.  
  • Queries should include the word count.  First paragraph should explain why the writer chose the particular agency to represent them.  Second paragraph should include the book synopsis.  The third paragraph should include the writer's qualifications.  If he/she received awards, any and all publications, degrees etc., that qualify them to write a novel should be included.
I hope this information helps some of you who are ready to submit queries.  Although I'm not there yet, someday down the road I will be.  This information is helpful to know.  Until next time, happy writing.