1. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Submission faux pas

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by terobi, Jan 25, 2016.

    So I've been doing a lot of redrafting of my first novel manuscript lately, and I think I'm coming up to the point where I'd like to start contacting agents and publishers.

    While I can find a lot of great info and resources on how to go about that, what to submit, etc. it's not too clear on the kinds of behaviours and conduct which are generally acceptable, and what's likely to give a bad impression or look amateurish.

    This is the kinds of things I'm thinking about;

    If you contact an agent with a manuscript looking for representation and they reject you, is it generally acceptable to resubmit a redrafted version in future? A completely new novel? Or is the rejection intended to be taken as a rejection of you as a writer, rather than just the manuscript you have submitted to them?

    If you submit your first three chapters as part of a submission, but decide to redraft (again!) in between that submission and any request for the full manuscript, is it acceptable to send the redrafted version, or will this just give the impression that you are submitting an incomplete book?

    Packaging. I understand that submissions generally should be sent loose, in plain white/manila A4 (not folded) envelopes, and that's fair enough (I've even decided against my usual wax seals, which is rather a shame) - but what about full manuscripts? ~500 pages naturally won't fit into a normal envelope, and even gusseted envelopes appear to have far too low capacity for this purpose. Is there a specific/preferred way to package full manuscripts, or is it simply a matter of "whatever you can get it to fit in"?
    Similarly, does this also apply to basic query letters to agents, or can I save myself some money on postage and envelopes by sending an A5 envelope with a second-class stamp?

    Any advice or resources here would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I've read examples where authors have done this and been taken on. In general it seems you can get away with this once per manuscript (though you're better off targeting new agents once you've made improvements), and definitely no problem in submitting a whole new novel.

    I haven't read specific advice on this, but I suspect it would be a huge red flag.

    Most agents I've been looking at don't even accept hard-copy manuscripts any more. Is there a reason you don't want to do it electronically?

    One I did see said "you don't have to bind your work" but apart from that, I can't remember. I think you'd have to follow whatever guidelines are on the agent's website, if they allow you to do it at all.

    Other things I've seen repeatedly as "do nots":
    • Addressing it to "Sir or Madam" or "Dear Agent". Exception is when you have to submit to the whole agency, not a specific person, in which case you can hardly list 10 names.
    • Saying how much your beta readers, family or friends loved it. Don't mention any feedback at all, even if it's amazing.
     
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  3. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Not at all (since it'd cost about £35 a go to print and post the bloody thing!), but I'd rather keep my options open rather than insisting on only submitting things electronically.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely fine to submit a whole new MS. For a redraft, I think it would depend how far along in the process you got, and what kind of feedback you got. If the agent didn't respond well to your query, for example, I don't think a redrafted MS would make any difference--it wasn't the MS that was the problem. But if the agent requested a full, and sent it back to you saying, for example "I really liked it but don't think I can market it because it's between genres" and then you made changes that would put it more firmly into one genre? I'd think that would be worth a re-contact, sure.

    I'd send the most current version of the story, probably with a comment about having made a few tweaks. But, really - you should try to get your story as good as it can be before you start querying, just to avoid this sort of conundrum.

    I've never sent a paper submission, but I know there are manuscript boxes available at my post office that are designed for, well, boxing manuscripts. See https://www.writersstore.com/proscript-manuscript-boxes/ .
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My advice, based on my own experience, would be to hold off on submitting until you're absolutely certain you don't need to redraft or significantly revise. Try to get feedback from beta readers, and have it reviewed by a professional editor - worth the expense, IMHO. Because even when you are absolutely certain that it couldn't possibly get any better, there are likely issues you aren't seeing.

    Make sure you check each agent's submission guidelines before querying them. Here in the US, most require a query letter and a small sample of the work - usually the first 5 or 10 pages, at most the first 3 chapters. Most accept electronic submissions, and in fact an increasing number are not even accepting snail mail queries.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Krishan
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    Krishan Active Member

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    I'd recommend The Writers' And Artists' Yearbook if you live in the UK. As well as listings of agents and publishers, it has some clear practical advice about how to package and send your work. I remember reading about the packaging of manuscripts in particular in a previous edition.
     
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  7. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Good point - I actually have a significantly out of date (2009) copy I picked up in a charity shop. Contact info will be out of date, but most of the articles and so on should still be mostly fine.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not entering the traditional publishing arena at all, but I'm pretty sure that giving any agent the impression that you're still redrafting is probably not a good idea. I'm with @BayView and @EdFromNY on this. Don't even think of actually submitting until your MS is as perfect as you can possibly get it. Obviously an agent or publisher might ask for changes, but don't give them the impression you're submitting something that's still needing work.

    I'd say don't jump the gun on this. If you send your work off to agents before it's perfectly polished, they'll doubtless reject you. That's not saving you any time, is it? You won't be able to submit to them again, in most cases, so you've dirtied your nest. Be patient. Take all the time it takes to get it perfect. Let it sit for a while. Read it again. Get more feedback. Keep doing this until you are truly done. THEN send it out there, and good luck!
     
  9. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Oh, certainly, I didn't mean major redrafts, that's obviously a no-go. Just things like slightly altered wording for clarity, etc.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I still wouldn't submit till you're sure it's done. Mind you, I suspect the urge to tweak is built-in to every writer. :)
     
  11. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I did think of another question, actually; when submission guidelines say "the first three chapters", for example, what allowance does this make for very short (or very long) chapters? One of the pieces I've been working with has relatively short chapters (of 1,200-1,500 words) and it feels like sending off 15 pages as my first three chapters is not enough. In these cases, should I assume the better thing would be sending off the first, say, eight chapters to get to a rough page count, or is this something that should be established in a query letter?
     
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    If they say three chapters, send three chapters. In the current Writers and Artists Yearbook there's one article where an agent says something like "sometimes I'm asked if a writer should send more when they have short chapters. My answer is always a firm 'no thank you' ". It might be in the same article where an agent says not to try and get around that rule by having long chapters.

    Some places I've seen say "the first three chapters or 50 pages, whichever is shorter".
     
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