A popular post from June 2009
By Julie Wright
I can't cook. It's just not something I'm any good at. I'm guessing it has something to do with my lack of recipe literacy. My life is busy enough that I skim directions. I do a lot of guesswork and substitutions because I don't prepare enough in advance to know what ingredients I needed before actually cooking the meal. This is why my food ends up overcooked, undercooked, soggy, dried out, not exactly like the picture, and not exactly edible.
I have found that when I take the time to thoroughly read the instructions and actually follow them step for step, my husband smiles at mealtime and my kids don't complain and comment on how they wished Daddy had done the cooking. So I've found I actually *can* cook if I'm willing to take the time and follow the directions on the recipe.
I was able to attend a writing conference geared toward teens this last weekend and it was awesome. Teens are so filled with life that it's contagious. On one of the panels, someone asked about the query letter. Another person asked what, exactly, do editors/agents want to see when you submit to them. Do you submit one chapter? Five chapters? The whole thing?
I think it was J Scott Savage who said, "Submit whatever they ask for." And it was Jessica Day George who added, "But not more than they ask for."
In short: follow the directions. It takes a little more time to research each agency and publishing house to find out their individual submission guidelines, but the result is much preferred than you taking a guess at what might need to go into that envelope. Submission guidelines are important because they prove you are flexible, easy to deal with on a personal level, and they prove that you can take direction. Being an independent thinker with your submissions might make you feel empowered, as you enclose full manuscripts that weren't requested or 8X10 glossy portraits, but it won't make you look like you'd be easy to work with.
It's a first impression thing. Make your first impression count and follow the submission guidelines when you submit.