Anna has almost 10 years experience working in the publishing industry. Currently an assistant editor at a major international publishing house, Anna has also worked with leading literary agencies Conville and Walsh and Curtis Brown.
1, Never ever address a letter to 'Dear Publisher', 'Dear Curtis Brown' or 'Dear Literary Agent'. This will not only make you look incredibly silly (not least because Curtis Brown died in 1945) but it will also show that you haven’t done any research into where you are sending your book. If you are to be taken seriously you must approach each submission as a job application, look up who you are sending your book to, and tell them in your letter why you have chosen them.
2, Almost worse, but not so common: pleasepleaseplease don’t send out blanket letters with no proper address or greeting. Again, why would I want to read your book when you haven’t even bothered to address your submission letter properly? Each submission letter must be tailored to its recipient, in content as well as form.
3, Professionalism is key and so anything that detracts from your standing as a potential client is a no-no. Opening submission envelopes can be rife with shockers. I’ve seen sparkly ‘please’ confetti stuffed amongst the pages, smears of chocolate on manuscripts after someone has tried to bribe with Quality Streets, and glitter was even put in one envelope. Funky coloured ink and paper is also a screamer. This is not cool, it is infantile.
4, Never, and I mean never, send in your ‘favourite’ chapters- what the Simon Cowell does this even mean? And how am I supposed to glean anything from them, except that you are as mentally bouncy as a box of frogs?
5, Speaking of submissions procedures, many publishing houses now have a total no-go policy. And I have always recommended to any unsolicited author that they seek out a literary agent. The usual form will be 3 chapters, a synopsis and a covering letter. The chapters shouldn't be individually bound and the synopsis must not be more than 2 pages long. Also, be brief and to the point in your letter, mention why you've chosen that specific company, a paragraph about your writing and any relevant information, such as writing experience, competitions and so on. It doesn't matter to the agency where you went to primary school. Always send in what is desired, no more, no less, certainly not the 1,000,000 word novel that once arrived at the agency I worked at. 1,000,000 words, double spaced and single-sided. Poor poor trees. And just to reiterate, 3 chapters does not mean chapters 4, 17 and 33.
6, Try not to get over-excited and splurge your load of marketing, publicity and cover ideas in your opening letter, it shows a level of presumption that does not impress. You are asking for a professional service, you wouldn't tell the electrician how to wire his plugs, would you? In addition, comparable markets and authors do help, but it's not a good idea to say that you write like a more cogent Ian McEwan and that your book will be the most important text since the bible. This has been said, don't make the same mistake.
7, Self publishing is an interesting one and something that I suspect might be irksome to some more than others, but I never get round to reading them. Instead they sit around on my desk making me feel guilty, which in turn makes me resent them, and they always look awful. Again, send in what is asked for.
8, Do make sure that the manuscript and more importantly the covering letter are as clean of errors and oddities as possible. The occasional one is nothing, but if you are repeatedly spelling simple words incorrectly, mixing sentences and smattering poor grammar like a sneeze then it will grate.
9, If you would like the manuscript returned to you then please do make sure you enclose a stamped, addressed envelope. But rest assured, if the manuscript is not returned to you it is out of error and it will have been recycled, so don't then call up and demand to know where it is, harping on about copyright and defamation, because we won't have done anything naughty with it.
10, And finally, remember, the publisher or literary agent is your gateway to publishing, any contact you have with them will be a step on the staircase, so be professional, happy and garrulous. Sell yourself and your product and be tenacious. I have rarely said bog-off to anyone who has made me laugh or piqued my interest over the telephone, but I remember the rude and testy callers, those that abuse and rage. Nothing makes me want to read a book more than being told I'm an ignorant twat at 10 in the morning...