Sneaky Submission Stumbles

Last year, I wrote about some common query missteps that I often see in submissions, and for this year’s post, I thought I’d tackle some oft-overlooked, smaller snafus.

  • Including the copyright year in the manuscript (unless it’s the current year): I know that a common fear for newly-querying authors is that an agent might steal their work, and including a copyright notice (in a prominent place in the manuscript) might seem like a good way to protect against this. However, according to the United States Copyright Center, your work is already protected “from the moment the work is created.” Instead, including a copyright year will let me know how long an author has been working on a manuscript, and it can be a red flag if an author has been working on the same project for 3- 5 years, without yet finding success. If you feel that it’s essential to still include a copyright notice in your submission, make sure that the year is the current year (and remember that for most published books, copyright is registered the year that the book is published, so a manuscript written in 2017 but published in 2019 will still have a copyright year of 2019).
  • Being too open about the submissions history of your manuscript on social media: If I’m interested in an author or illustrator, one of the first things that I will do is to check out their social media pages (be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on) so that I can get a better sense of their persona. It can be disheartening to see a detailed submission history for a manuscript that intrigued me, especially if I see that I was very low on your submissions list, and that many other people have already passed on it. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t work with an author if I believed in the project (and tons of blockbuster books have a long and rich history of rejection), but I would caution against being too specific when discussing the submissions history for an active manuscript.
  • Unnecessarily re-sending a submission: This is more of a mild annoyance than an automatic dealbreaker, but unless you’ve forgotten to include an attachment (or made another catastrophic error like addressing it to the wrong agent), it’s often not necessary to send a corrective email for a small typo or insignificant error. I’ve made them myself (I once spelled Brooklyn as “Brooklenn” to a Very Important Author, and have even mangled my own name to “Sena”), and I know how irritating they can feel after you’re aware of them, but it’s usually better to let it be than to send out a corrective email right away. There’s a chance that the agent won’t notice the mistake, and all the second email will do is alert them to it and clog up their inbox.
  • Different email name/author name: This also goes to the mild annoyance category, but it’s been surprising to me how many authors query me with a different email name (e.g. how your name will appear in my Outlook inbox) than the name that they’re writing under. And while I use Outlook for my email, I’ve also heard that agents and editors that use Gmail will be able to see any photos or biographical information that are included in a querying author’s public Google account (which might include that hilarious and slightly embarrassing photo that you added to your profile a decade ago, and never got around to changing). I’d strongly recommend using a dedicated email account just for querying, to keep things as clean and professional as a possible.

7 thoughts on “Sneaky Submission Stumbles

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  1. I’m always surprised at how open people are about their MS history on social media. I understand that authors are trying to emotionally support each other through the somewhat demoralizing querying process, but letting everyone know your MS has been rejected by all and sundry doesn’t seem like the savviest move to me. 🙂

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  2. Can I ask about the email name thing? Is an email address that corresponds to your pen name okay, even if you’re signing the email query with your real name? (I add “writing as [pen name]” underneath.)

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    1. Great question, Robin! If you write under a pen name, it’s absolutely fine to use an email that corresponds to it, even if you sign the query with your given name. As long as it’s clear why you’re using two different names, I don’t see an issue. Good luck!

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