Tina Wainscott

You can judge a book by its cover

by Wendy Lindstrom

What do you do when you receive an anonymous letter in the mail? I’ll bet you look inside to see who it’s from, then scan a few sentences before you decide to continue reading or toss it out.

Like anonymous letters, the human resources department I worked for receives over 1500 unsolicited resumes a year from people hoping to gain employment. When I was screening resumes, I could immediately tell by that single piece of paper who was an amateur and who may have potential – a process similar to what an editor or agent does with your synopses and query letters.

So, what is the secret to getting an interview or a request for your completed manuscript? It’s simple. Do your homework. Make sure your writing gives the reader a vivid portrait of you and your work. The only insight an editor or agent will have about you and your qualifications will come from your introduction letter (query or proposal).

A resume or query is simply a piece of paper that is scanned for the purpose of qualifying and categorizing: reject pile or potential candidate for a job or book contract. Unsolicited resumes or submissions elicit no emotional response in the recipient unless they are different, well-written and a reflection your own author’s voice (professional please, but not dry and lifeless). Simple right?

Why then are so many people unable to gain employment or make a sale to a publisher? Mostly because they are lazy or uninformed. Resumes or submissions that are received with typing errors, missing information, or for a position the company doesn’t have (a publishing house that doesn’t publish your type of book), are all rejected. Companies and publishers want educated, competent professionals who have the gumption to research and understand their business needs and goals before soliciting them. Unfortunately, most authors or job candidates don’t take the time to do this. That’s why sorting the desirable professionals from those who are just blindly seeking a job or a sale is a quick knee-jerk decision by the editor or agent. Believe me, facing a deluge of mail every day turns even the most receptive reader into a cynic.

This is why it is so important to research and polish your proposal before you send it out. When you have finally completed your manuscript it is extremely tempting to rush it to an agent or publisher. Don’t do it! You have only one chance to impress the editor/agent/manager. Don’t waste your opportunity by being impetuous or unprofessional.

Remember, people do judge you by your appearance. Make sure your written introduction is a vivid, glowing representation of your work that will encourage that editor/agent/manager to put your query in her request basket or the special file she checks when she has another job opening.

For more articles by Wendy Lindstrom, check out her site at www.wendylindstrom.com!