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Believe it or not, your creative writing submissions to literary agents and editors of literary journals say a lot about who you are as a writer and how you view your career. Literary agents and lit mag editors are experts at spotting writing submission red flags that reveal your true colors!
Here Are Five Secrets Your Submissions Reveal About You:
How much you really love words and grammar. Word nerds devour books on grammar, usage, the history of language, etc. The result? Clearly stated, well-proofread text that is error-free. So what does it say about you when both your submission and your cover/query letter are riddled with mistakes? That you’re not the wordsmith you’re advertising yourself to be.
Whether or not you can follow instructions. Submission guidelines are published for a reason: Editors and literary agents have particular methods for evaluating submissions. When you follow the posted guidelines, you demonstrate that you are a team player—a person any agent/editor might want to collaborate with. When you don’t follow the guidelines, you send the message that you don’t respect the agent or editor—which will get your work tossed in the “reject” pile.
If you’re targeting or just spamming. If you send your sci-fi novel to a literary agent who represents only nonfiction, or a short story to an editor who only publishes poetry, you’re basically shouting out the fact that you haven’t done your research. Well-targeted submissions (like the kind we make for our clients here at Writer’s Relief—no submission spam, ever!) demonstrate professionalism and respect—good foundations for a long writing career.
How serious you are about being a professional in the publishing industry. Do you know the insider etiquette for writing a great cover letter? A query letter? What about manuscript formatting—are you following the industry standards? And are you savvy about what you should (and should not) say in your query/cover letter? Demonstrating professionalism shows publishing industry insiders that you’re a writer who is primed for success.
If you’re dedicated to your craft. Your author bio might not have a single publishing credit—but a bio that lists writing classes, workshops, college degrees, and writing tutors can still make an impression. Most editors and agents don’t care if you’ve been published or not: They’re more interested in how well you write. By using your author bio to mention your studious pursuit of writing insights and techniques (as well as your publishing credits, if you have them), you demonstrate that you’re a writer who cares about craft.
Remember: What You Do After Your Submission Matters Too!
Always take the extra time you need to proofread, clean up your prose, and cultivate authenticity (which isn’t always easy in an email text!). Create positive interactions with agents and editors. Even when you want to dash off a curt question or response, remember that it pays to be a nice writer. So go the extra mile to show how kind, professional, and serious you are!
QUESTION: Do you feel that it’s difficult to give a good picture of yourself when making submissions?