What Not to Do When Submitting Your Work to Publishers..

As requested by @GavMaLav. Sorry it took me so long! I only just realized - thanks to another list! - that the little arrow on my profile is for requests!
  1. A caveat before we start
  2. Very few publishers accept unrepresented work
    I don't want to speak out of turn, so I don't want to name the ones who may (or may not), but in general, the rule of thumb is that the big publishers do not
  3. Which means I'm instead going to offer what not to do when submitting to an agent
  4. I've actually written a blog post (many years back) on this very subject, after speaking with a few agents I'm friends with
  5. So here are their thoughts, along with some of my own, from a writer's perspective.
  6. Some of them seem obvious (to me), but I'm including them because they evidently occur, since the agents make mention of them
  7. DON'T address the query to SIR/MADAM
    Agents will immediately delete. Make it personal.. When I was querying, I think I probably made a judgment call of first name v. Mr/Ms Last Name based on what I perceived their age/hierarchy/generational expectation to be.
  8. DON'T cc-all or send a mass email to a group of agents.
    Seriously. People do this. WHY????
  9. DON'T say you loved a book they represented that hasn't yet been published.
    Even though the sale has been listed on Publishers Marketplace, the book may not yet be out. Agents aren't dummies. Do your homework.
  10. DON'T submit to agents who don't represent your genre.
    This is easy to check for on PM or AgentQuery or via google. It's annoying to them.
  11. DON'T send attachments if not requested.
    Automatic delete.
  12. DON'T pin your hopes on one agent in particular.
    When I was querying, I initially ruled out my now-agent because I couldn't pronounce one of the names of her agency. How idiotic! There were plenty of big name agents on my list, but once I wised up and started a dialogue with my now-agent, I realized that we were perfect for each other (11 years and going strong), and she wasn't on my initial dream list.
  13. DON'T submit to just a few agents.
    The reality is that it will take you dozens upon dozens of queries to land an agent. (Most often anyway.) You should have ten or so queries out at all times.
  14. DON'T accept representation while other agents are still reading.
    The protocol is to give the other agents a heads-up that you have an offer and give them a chance to finish. If not, it's kind of an F U to their time and disrespectful.
  15. DON'T badger them.
    Look, submitting your work is crazy anxiety-inducing. A polite follow-up after a few weeks is totally reasonable. A follow-up after a week is not. Four follow-ups makes you crazy. At a certain point, like it or not, silence is your answer. Move on.
  16. DON'T pester them with questions if they have said no.
    This is a toughie because you want feedback, I get it. But if an agent passes, it's not his or her job to make your work stronger, and remember his or her reasons for passing are entirely subjective: maybe they have a similar client, maybe they don't love the genre, maybe, yeah, they hated it.
  17. DON'T send to more than one agent at the same agency at the same time.
    There may be exceptions to this rule, but in general, they are a team, not competitors.
  18. DON'T send your work before it's ready. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Multiple exclamation marks because this will kill you more than any of the above mistakes. VET YOUR WORK. PROOFREAD YOUR WORK. REVISE IT TWO MORE TIMES EVEN IF YOU WANT TO DIE OF AGONY AND BOREDOM. Asking an agent to read work that isn't truly polished means you are turned down more often than not. It also means you don't respect the work it takes to get it right. And you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. (Sorry for the cliche but true.)
  19. DON'T send more than is requested.
    If they ask to see the first chapter, send the first chapter. If they ask for 5 pages (a common request), it's okay to send them six, so you don't end in the middle of a sentence or whatever, but don't send them 20. Use common sense.
  20. DON'T submit before your book is complete.
    This is for fiction. For non-fiction, the general rule is a complete outline and the first three chapters, but I don't write non-fic, so don't hold me to that. For fiction, you absolutely 100% have to have the entire manuscript written in its entirety.
  21. DON'T accept shitty representation just to have representation.
    I always say that a bad agent is worse than no agent. A bad agent half-heartedly gets your work in front of editors but doesn't advocate for you and doesn't sell you, and then, you're fucked because you can't go out with the same work with a different agent. A bad agent can fill you with self-doubt and offer poor editorial advice, so really, please do your homework before accepting.
  22. Thus: DON'T be afraid to ask your potential agent questions and don't be afraid to ask to speak with current clients.
    I mean, after you've gotten an offer. This is good business acumen, and they like writers who know their shit.
  23. DON'T turn into a crazy person over this.
    This one might be the hardest one on the list. Sorry. It sucks. Waiting sucks. Being judged sucks. The process sucks. I get it; I feel you. Please know that if it doesn't happen with this manuscript, it may very well happen with another one. I parted ways with my first agent over my initial manuscript (ooh, I should list about that) and went through this all over again. It was serendipitous, of course, because that's what matched me with my now-agent/ally/friend. Keep at it!
  24. ETA: I wrote another list a while back on How To Find a Lit Agent. It's here if you want more: