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The Art of Submission

That title sounds much naughtier than I intended it to. That’s okay though, I kind of like it. Rather than discussing something borderline inappropriate I’m referring to submitting pieces of writing. Since Novel Concept Publishing is starting to take off, we’ve seen a fair amount of submissions being sent our way. What we’re looking for initially is a query letter to interest us in the piece, followed by a sample of the manuscript. And that is where things generally go wrong.

Prior to this I was on the writing side of things. I wrote the stories and sent them out. I struggled vehemently to come up with interesting query letters and then sent out what I considered to be well edited samples of my own manuscripts. Looking back in time, I now have to wonder at my success. Granted, I was published and went out to publish several more (and continue to do so), but I know for a fact that my initial one was rife with problems.

The query letter, my friends and would-be applicants, is important in catching the publisher or agent’s eye. My own growing experience tells me that it does not need to be worthy of a Pulitzer. It does, however, need to be grammatically and typographically correct. Show me something that interests me, even if your story seems to come from a cookie cutter template, explain why that template worked for you and how you spun it into something groovy.

Then there’s the manuscript sample. We’re after a sample of the manuscript, enough to interest us. To date I’ve had a few that left me wanting. I’ve seen a few that were too abstract and a few that were filled with an alarming collection of grammatical / typographical mistakes. On the flip side, I’ve read a couple that were full of promise, yet still had some editorial snafus. The one that has impressed me the most so far ended the sample with a catchy hook that left me wanting more. Kudos to that author, I had to break down and ask for the full manuscript.

I say breakdown as though it’s a game or a challenge. It’s not really. I want good stories. I want to see some quality work that the author is proud to have written and I’ll be proud to have played a part in polishing and nudging it along the way.

I throw out a very special thanks to those who accepted my first few attempts at writing. I’m sure they were rough and in need of a lot of work, but I appreciate the willingness to look past the typos and failures of self-editing. I’ve since learned better ways to do things, even by myself, and I encourage those who are struggling to get those first few acceptance emails under their belts to keep trying. Print the documents you want to submit out and read them to yourself with a red pen in hand. Read it aloud even, so you know what it sounds like outside your head as well as inside. It’s amazing what a difference that can make.

And then, when you’re sure you’ve replaced all the ‘there’ with ‘their’ and the ‘to’ with ‘too’, or the ‘four’ with ‘for’ and ‘form’ with ‘from’, then send it in and we can get past the silly stuff and into whether or not you really do have a story people want to read.

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