I’m sure I’ve passed on a little advice about submitting to agents and editors before, but a recent MS I received through one of the writing agencies I work for prompted me to make a few of observations:
- Don’t fasten individual chapters together with paperclips (or by any other means). It’s just not necessary, and in fact is quite a nuisance. In this case, however, there was a certain logic to it because…
- …the writer had submitted ‘random’ chapters rather than the conventional first three/first 50 pages or whatever. I can understand the thinking behind this – they weren’t actually random, but selected because they featured key scenes which I’m sure the writer felt would be more impressive. Although it’s great if a novel starts with a bang, the early chapters often aren’t as interesting or as exciting as when things have hotted up later – but still, it’s not something I’d advise unless specifically requested to do so. I think I have once or twice been asked to submit early chapters plus one significant one from deeper into the novel, but it’s not the norm. When reading such a submission, it’s quite jarring and unsettling to keep leaping forwards in the story and having to try to figure how things have got to where they are – even with the help of a synopsis and a chapter breakdown, as were provided in this case
- The synopsis, chapter breakdown and a ‘blurb’ all had their own title pages. This is overkill! Only the main MS needs a title page. Headings will do for the rest.
- I actually thought that submitting a synopsis, chapter breakdown and blurb page was also overkill. Some agents/publishers do sometimes ask for some or all of these things, but mostly it’s just the synopsis for fiction, with a chapter-by-chapter outline being not uncommon for non-fiction. The main thing by far is to send what you are asked to send! Many agents/publishers are very sniffy about writers who don’t obey the ‘rules’ of submission – and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of them before they’ve even read a word!
- This submission also came in a cardboard folder. This is a greyer area. I don’t like them, and I know one of the agencies I work for actively counsels against using them – whereas another one actually recommends them. My gut instinct is that most recipients think they just get in the way and add bulk. A padded envelope and an elastic band are all that’s needed in my view.
The simplest rule to follow is check out the website of whoever you plan to submit to and follow the advice on there to the letter. If in doubt, keep it simple rather than trying too hard to impress!