Before You Leap (or hit send)

In recent days, it’s happened a bit too often. Maybe it’s a continual problem without a solution (yet I’m going to suggest a couple at the end of this entry). It will give you another glimpse into the life of an editor and writer.

I received a fiction submission from an author—yet it was missing a couple of key ingredients. I could have responded with a form rejection (which will usually happen—since editors don’t have time to hold the author’s hand in the submission process). Instead I wrote a short personal note to this author asking for the missing information. A first-time novelist, he neglected to say if his manuscript was complete (almost a universal requirement for first-time, unpublished novelists). Also if his manuscript was complete, he didn’t tell me his word count.

In my brief response, I tried to anticipate his possible response (and it didn’t work since obviously he didn’t read my response carefully). I explained the limited opportunities, the massive amount of submissions, queries and proposals. Then I outlined the specifics of what I was looking for—and the word length of these novels at Howard (full-length 80,000 to 100,000 words). His almost instant response proved he didn’t read my email. His novel was complete and it was almost 150,000 words in length. Because this author failed to look before he leaped off the cliff and submitted his manuscript (or hit the send button), he received the form rejection letter.

Also this week, I received an email from a literary agent. I’ve never worked with this particular agent yet I’m always open to exchanging information and listening to the pitch. Repeatedly in this email, the agent made a homophonic mistake. [Webster’s defines homophone as “one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (as the words to, too, and two).] This misspelled word appeared numerous times in the email. It made an impression but not the one the agent wanted to make with me. In her rush to send a response, this literary agent should have taken a couple of minutes to recheck the short email before she hit the send button.

I belong to several online writer’s groups and enjoy the opportunity to help new writers. Some times I ignore the questions but if I can find a few minutes, I will often craft a response with some suggestions. Many of these questions have been answered repeatedly over the years. Several of these groups are on Yahoo. There is a rarely used feature of these yahoo groups—but valuable if you know it. Normally all of the messages from the group are stored on Yahoo. Every member of that group when logged on to Yahoo can go to groups and search the old email messages. Use a keyword related to your particular need. You will be surprised how often you will find it—and you will not have to send a message to several hundred people.

Another basic resource for questions is Google. If you are looking for a particular bit of information, type some keywords into Google and see if you can easily find it. It doesn’t always happen but you would be surprised how often the information will be right on your screen. If you find the information on your own, you’ve avoided the necessity of asking a colleague or a friend or an online group. You’ve suddenly gained some independent (and valuable) research ability.

Finally, if your topic relates to writing or publishing, I’d encourage you to use the little search tool on The Writing Life. The tool is in the lower right-hand column and you can scroll down until you reach it. For almost an entire year, I’ve been writing on different aspects of publishing. Put some keywords into that search engine and see if I’ve written on it. Again depending on your topic, you will be surprised at the wealth of available information. If you have a blog, consider adding this free search engine from Technorati to your blog. For a free registration at Technorati, you can add this tool to your blog.

Each of us have many resources at our fingertips. If we will only use them wisely.

6 Responses to “Before You Leap (or hit send)”

  1. Sarah Anne Sumpolec Says:

    Great points Terry, and I agree about editing. We all make a typo now and then but taking those extra few minutes are critical if we are going to show ourselves as professionals.

    I wonder if these writers know how many editors and agents lurk on those boards and loops, and the kind of impression they might accidently make.

  2. Camy Tang Says:

    That story amazes me, Terry. If I receive an email from ANY editor, I usually read it over a couple dozen times, basking in the glow of a real personal correspondence from a real person in the publishing house. 🙂

    I did once send a requested proposal to an editor and forgot the SASE. She must have forgotten me or forgiven me because she spoke very kindly to me when I talked to her again at a conference.


  3. Sprout Says:

    Terry, Thanks for the Technorati info. I’ve added it to my blog.
    Lisa Crum

  4. Full Contact, Savior-centric Livin Says:

    Hmmm…I’m convicted – though I keep learning to be more careful – especially in the area of writing, I find myself guilty of clicking send before I’ve thought everything through. I usually edit my work carefully – learned that from my MIL – but, I don’t always research like I should and rely too much on memory – thanks for the wake-up call.

    As to research, I just discovered a terrific source – for biographical information, quotations, and more.


  5. martini Says:

    Ah, finally a blog from someone who not only knows the art of writing, but is willing to share his insights, as well!

    Shall definitely return to these parts soon.

  6. Lynetta Says:


    Thanks for sharing such great insight on your blog. I look forward to reading it often, gleaning info for when I’m finally ready to submit my novel to editors (and submitting magazine articles). I appreciate you taking the time to do it!

    I agree with Camy. I definitely savor any personal contact/info I can get from an editor.

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