Showing posts with label professional. Show all posts
Showing posts with label professional. Show all posts

Five Ways NOT to Attract an Editor's Attention

Will Rogers wisely said, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” As an acquisitions editor, I read proposals and manuscripts from authors every day. It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve read thousands of submissions in my years in publishing. Besides my work at Morgan James Publishing, I’ve acquired for two other publishers.

In minutes, I can scan your submission and see if it is going to move forward or be rejected. This may sound harsh because of the work and energy writers poured into their submission. Here’s the reality, every year our publishing house receives over 5,000 submissions and we’re going to publish about 150 books this year.

In spite of these large rejection numbers, I’m actively looking for quality work and daily interacting with authors and literary agents. Here’s five ways not to stand out:

1. Unprofessional appearance. Are you using a serif font like Ariel that is the default for most writing programs? Change it to Times New Roman or a serif font because it is easier to read and shows you care. This small change makes a huge difference to editors.

2. Untargeted submission. Many cover letters begin “Dear Sir or Madam” yet it is sent to my email address. It is an instant red flag. You want to write a particular editor or agent and address them in your submission.

3. Not specific for my publishing house. Every agent or editor is looking for certain subjects and types of books. Research online (big hint: use then follow their guidelines.

4. Incomplete with the basics. An email address is not enough contact information. Many writers forget to include their mailing address and phone number. Without  this information, I can’t get the submission into our system nor can I easily reach you to engage you about your work.

5. Lack a memorable title or opening sentence. We read the opening and if compelling, we continue. If not, it is rejected. It is business and not personal but one way to handle the volume of submissions. Some of my agent friends receive hundreds of pitches every day. Make sure you start with a bang.

Every editor and agent is actively looking for the next bestseller. Your manuscript or proposal will stand out if you are professional with quality work. If you follow the basics and persist, you will be published.
W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. A former magazine editor and literary agent,

Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. To help writers, he has created 12-lesson online course called Write A Book Proposal. Get his free Ebook Book Proposal Basics and teleseminar at His website is located at: Terry has over 161,000 twitter followers and lives in Colorado. 

Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Writing Career: Be Grateful

I often receive emails from young writers asking for advice and help in various aspects of their writing, and I am always delighted to help in any way I can. To be a writer is to be a part of a community, and I am so grateful for all the writers who have offered me advice and encouragement over the years. Being a mentor and cheerleader for other writers is the best way I can think of to "pay it forward" to those people who have bettered my life with their generosity and support.

However, I am not always the quickest to respond to emails, especially when life gets busy. Like this summer: I am in graduate school working on my thesis, taking a summer literature class, and teaching a creative writing class to college students. I feel like I'm barely managing to keep my head above water by trying to write a little of my own work every day, reading and working on papers for the literature class I'm taking, and grading papers and responding to emails from my students!

Most writers I hear from are beyond patient and gracious. But occasionally, I'll receive an email from a young writer that startles me with its rude tone and unprofessionalism. Often the email will include capital "shouting" letters, strings of exclamation points and/or question marks, and phrases like, "are you ever going to get back to me????" or "hellooooo???"

I consider myself to be an advocate for writers, and young writers in particular. I love teaching writing camps and working with mentees through Write On! For Literacy. Publishing Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing is a great source of pride and good feelings for me. So when I get an email from a young writer that perpetuates the negative stereotypes that society foists upon teenagers, it makes my skin crawl.

I believe the very first and most important lesson in regards to being a writer and getting published is this: respect, gratitude and professionalism are a must.

If you send an email with a rude subject line to a publisher, editor or agent, I can guarantee you it would be deleted without even being read. When you send your work to a publisher, it may take six or eight months for them to get back to you about it. That's just the way publishing is -- editors are very busy and they receive hundreds of emails every single day. And if you ever do email them to ask if they have had a chance to read your work, you need to make sure you have a tone of gratitude, graciousness, and respect of their time and busy schedule.

Here's a great article with tips and examples on writing professional emails:

But I think all you really need to remember is just to be respectful and to treat everyone with common decency. When you adopt a rude tone, you send the message that you feel entitled to the person's help, rather than that you are appreciative of any time and help they can give you.

I think it comes down to this, not just in writing but in all areas of life: people will be more eager to help you when you treat them well and are humble and appreciative of their time, knowledge, effort and support.

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review. Many of her short stories are compiled online here.

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