Friday, May 02, 2008

The Wrong Multiple Submission

For many years, I have been reading submissions from writers. I reviewed these submissions as an acquisitions editor and now as a literary agent. In Book Proposals That Sell, I advocate simultaneous submissions (Secret #19) because of the slow nature of publishing.

Writers are creative people and over the years I've seen some "different" submissions. Several years ago, one published novelist before I had a chance to read and respond to her submission would periodically email me a revised manuscript and ask that I substitute it for the original submission. I was glad to know this author was continually working to revise her story but when I got the fourth substitution, I'd had enough of this nonsense and unprofessionalism. Without providing the reason (which in general editors and literary agents do not provide), I sent this author my form rejection letter.

As I explained in Book Proposals That Sell, writers can't assume that the publishing professional is reading their email or their physical mail every day. We travel and attend conferences and sales meetings plus other immediate priorities push these unsolicited submissions into a "to be read" stack.

Within the last month, I've received a different type of multiple submission and I thought there was value to tell you about it. The cover letter included a date, "The Whalin Agency" then the words, "Please substitute the enclosed in ______MS." Then a signature and email address combined with some strange manuscript pages.

It looked a bit strange and I had not opened the original submission so I had no idea what was being substituted. Then several days later in my mail, I received another letter from this author with different pages to be substituted. Another day I received another thin envelope with different substitute pages. The arrival of the third envelope with substitute pages triggered an email form rejection (which if I had been on top of my submissions would have happened with the first submission since it was totally off the wall).

This writer was clueless about the memorable impression that he was making with these substitutions. I'm certain he was innocent on his part with little thought about how his actions were coming across to the receiver. Whatever you write, take a few minutes and consider how it will be received. Then your pitch will be seriously considered and possibly you will stay out of the rejection pile.

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6 Comment:

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

I seriously laughed when I read your post today, mostly because I had been contemplating that very issue, but had never before thought to approach it with 'insert page' or 'replace page' tactics. That is very tacky in my humble opinion.

I think the question is, what is the most appropriate thing to do when you change a key part of your proposal? For me, my proposal did not change, but I rewrote the first five pages of my MSS after I sent the proposal to a specific agent but before I received a response. I look at the original one in hindsight and can understand if he threw it in the trash and didn't take another look. It was a boring intro which is not acceptable, and is one of the most important parts of a novel. Is it appropriate to replace it, once? And when I say replace, I mean send a completely knew proposal. Or do you just cross your fingers, hope for the best with the first one, and then move on to the next agent/publisher? Is there a proper protocal or is this subjective? I had assumed that I wasn't able to resubmit, but thought I would ask since you brought it up!

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


If you send the wrong thing or make changes to your manuscript, the best course of action in my view is to wait--and say nothing. If you get questioned about it, then apologize but do not try and change it or send a new edition or anything on that order. You simply look foolish for the effort.

Professionalism and respect count for a great deal--and this author who sent me the revisions had zero respect for my time and effort. Instead he was only focused on his own perspective--and for his efforts got rapidly rejected. And yes, I'll remember his name for years to come.


At 7:19 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

Good advice... thank you! I had assumed as much. You are right, I think professionalism is just as key as having a good story. You might have a good story, but if editors/agents are turned off by your actions, it still isn't going to get anywhere. There is a fine balance between being 'real' and being 'professional' at the same time.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Kristi Holl Left a note...

Great advice, Terry! I know new writers are just eager to put their best foot forward, but that gets ridiculous. A good alternative would be to make sure (through peer critiques or maybe even a paid critique) that your work is the best you're capable of at this point. Then submit ONCE. I think newer writers get too eager occasionally to submit their work.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger :Donna Left a note...

Kristi, I agree with your comment: that new authors submit too early. To me, if your first five pages are too boring, the manuscript is obviously not ready for submission.

I think there will always be things we'll revise (and be asked to revise), but if a writer senses a problem or hole or whatever with any part of a manuscript, it needs more work and is not ready to submit. Work out the problems to the best of your ability and when you get to the point where you feel it's as good as it can be, THEN you submit. That doesn't mean you won't think of other things, and when you do --- jot them down or rework it, then IF an agent/editor shows interest, you'll get into discussing those revisions anyway.
: Donna

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

I agree, and I probably did submit too early. My problem is, I didn't realize my first 5 pages were too boring until after I submitted! Some of this may come from having read the first five pages.. oh... about 250 times... and after awhile anything will get boring! Well, everyone has to learn sometime, and I chalked it up to a learning experience, brushed myself off, and will try again. My five pages probably still aren't perfect, thus the reason I have yet to submit to others, but it is greatly improved. And, I still like the rest of the book, so 5 pages out of 374 shouldn't be so difficult right??

Oh, and on the flip side of this scenerio, I think there are can be many times that first time authors wait to long to submit. If you spend 10 years (exagerated) editing, tweaking, changing and fretting, then I don't think that is a good thing either. Sometimes (we) as new authors are fearful of the rejection, and need to learn that no pain=no gain. We need to develope thick skin and the ability to take constructive critisism.

So, back to my 5 pages I go!!



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