Show Them You Can Read!

First things first. Authors need to know how to read.

We’re just sayin’. . .

You may think this is a given. But it’s not. And it makes a lasting first impression on those who review your work.

And it’s not a good one.

Here you are. You’ve done all the hard work. You have finished your manuscript and now you are ready to send it off into the world!

You make a list of publishers and literary agencies you are going to send your work out to and then wait.  And wait. And wait.

On the other side of the computer an acquisitions editor or literary agent opens up your email. No cover letter. No proposal. Just your manuscript.

If only the author could read, the agent or publisher thinks.


And there, somewhere dangling in cyber space, is your hard work. Unopened. Unread. Unappreciated.

We don’t want this to happen to you!

When you are ready to submit your manuscript, we encourage you to always read the fine print on each and every website of either the publisher or literary agency you plan to contact. Every company is different as to how they would like to receive your work for review—and you need to read the stipulations, or, chances are your work will be deleted before the agent reaches for another sip of coffee.

And remember. You are not exempt from following their rules of submission. They’re there for a reason.

Agents and Acquisition Editors see tons of submissions a week. If they are not in the format they have requested, making it difficult and time consuming to wade through your submission, more often than not it will end up in the virtual round file.

Following are some good tips on how to avoid that from happening:

1.      Read up on which literary agency or publisher would be a good fit for your work. Read on-line bios of the agents and see which one you feel will resonate with your genre or topic. Research a publisher’s product line, etc. This way your work will have a better chance of being reviewed by someone who has interest in your genre or topic. For instance, don’t send a fiction submission to an agent that only takes non-fiction, and vice versa. It really is important to do your research.

2.      Read every word of the submission guidelines for each publisher or agency. If the guidelines say that if you don’t hear back from them in eight weeks they are not interested, don’t send an email two weeks later asking if they’ve read your proposal. Or six weeks later. Or nine weeks later. If they ask that you will need to use their on-line proposal template to submit your proposal and sample writing . . . use it. Don’t fill out some of it. Don’t think of the proposal as just an unnecessary hindrance to the brilliance of your manuscript. It’s not. If agents can’t get through your proposal, chances are they won’t make it to your writing sample.

3.      Read what exactly they are asking for when submitting your writing sample with your proposal. Do they want three sample chapters? The whole manuscript? Nothing yet, but they’ll let you know if they are interested?

If you don’t follow directions, the agent or publisher may worry you can’t read! And we’re sure that’s not the first impression you want to make. . . we’re just sayin’. :)


Ready for Some Publishing Honesty?

Because you’re reading this, we’ll assume you said yes to the above—so here’s the honest truth: If you’re anything like the majority of authors who send their proposals to an agent or a publisher, you’re not ready.

We get it. You’ve worked super hard on your book; friends have read your chapters and love them and you feel a sense of urgency to take the next step towards your publishing goals. Proceed with caution.

 At AuthorTalk, we really do believe that you only have one chance to make a great first impression, and want to encourage you to invest the extra time to ensure you’re ready. Here’s why:

Acquisition Editors and Literary agents often suffer from an affliction only found in publishing. It’s called “Proposal Fatigue” and it generally manifests itself during the reading of poorly crafted proposals. The symptoms vary, but often include exasperated sighs, rolling eyes, maddening groans, laughter, and the quick use of the delete key.

Here’s the thing. These people are very busy and you simply must give the same attention to your proposal that you have given to the manuscript you’re submitting. There are no shortcuts! Remember, the last thing acquisition editors and agents generally read when you send in a proposal are the sample chapters. And they’ll only read those if you’ve captured their attention with your proposal.

Make sure you’re ready to make a great first impression. How? Get a good proposal template. Not sure how to fill it out? Ask a friend who has successfully placed a book with an agent or a publisher to coach you. Or invest in one of the proposal services offered by the professionals at AuthorTalk who can help guide you through the process.

And that’s the honest truth.