So, you have been writing and revising and polishing and editing. You also attended an SCBWI conference or two, and printed out the highly coveted faculty submission guidelines. You poured over editor and agent names, highlighted deadlines, and bookmarked MSWL. And then you stuffed the guidelines in the bottom drawer along with your manuscripts, and climbed under the covers with a flashlight and a book. Because putting your precious story OUT THERE is just too much.
Or life got too busy. It was spring, and then the school year ended, and then it was summer, and then the school year started, and phew! And now you’ve missed all the deadlines. Oh, well, next year after the conference you will do better.
Make a plan. Today. Because your beautiful story, your heart spilled onto the page, will never ever see the light of day if you don’t send out those submissions. Lots and lots of submissions. And if you don’t cowboy up and deal with those rejections. Lots and lots of rejections. And keep on sending out submissions until you get the call or the email. And then there’ll be dancing. But first. Submissions.
So, here’s my plan: (Because yeah, this is totally me.)
- Pages and pages of printed words make me nervous (except if it’s a story, then it is awesome). I need summaries, lists, and calendars where deadlines are clearly marked. I drew up a sheet to summarize the basic agent/editor info. On the calendar section, I mark each editor’s deadline, so I don’t miss any.
- The final column on this sheet, is where the real work begins. I pour over all my submission-ready manuscripts, and research each agent, or editor and their publishing house to find possible manuscripts matches. It’s okay to have more than one manuscript next to someone’s name at this stage. The more research you do, the clearer it will become which agents/ editors are good matches for your work. Some agents or editors will NOT match any of your work, or your personality. It’s okay. You don’t have to submit to everybody.
- Please, don’t submit to everybody.
- Make information cards for each person you research, marking down what they represent, what they like, and when and how you connected with them (e.g. NESCBWI 17). As I narrow down my choices, these cards are invaluable. I check and recheck them until I know which one (because “There can only be one") manuscript to send to which editor or agent.
- Next, I used this page:
- Here all my submission ready manuscripts are listed, along with the agents or editors I plan to submit to, and their deadlines. This page makes it easy to focus on one manuscript, finalize that specific query letter, and then send out a batch of personalized queries.
- Write and polish the query letters, following the exact submission guidelines as given on the conference printout, and submit. Yes. Click send.
No more excuses. This year, grasp the wonderful opportunities provided by SCBWI. Put the flashlight down, creep out from under the covers, and send your stories out into the big wide world of publishing. We promise, we will hold your hand when the rejections come in. But one day you’ll get the call. And then there’ll be dancing! Lots and lots of dancing.