The Importance of Lists

March 19, 2008

If you regularly read my column here, in the Scruffy Dog Review zine, and my blog Ink In My Coffee, you know that I talk extensively about making lists before submission.

My column in the last SDR dealt with the importance of researching agents/editors, etc. BEFORE you query. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of reading posts on the writing boards from a newbie squealing about a positive response from an agent or publisher and then wondering if the rate being charged to read/edit/publish is fair.

In other words, the person is being scammed. And, if the writer spent more than five minutes on any of these boards paying attention, not only would the writer know that WE are paid for our work to be published, we do not PAY, but the newbie would already have bookmarked the Predators & Editors site and the Whispers & Warnings site.

Research FIRST. That way, you know the place to where you submit is legitimate. And you also send them the materials they want and need to make a decision. Some agencies want a query letter. Some want a query and a synopsis or outline. Some want all of the above with sample chapters. If you want your manuscript accepted and published, learn to follow the guidelines.

Taking the research process a step further, if you take the time to make a list of potential agents and publishers for each project, you save yourself an enormous amount of time and sanity. It keeps you from repeating work.

In other words, while you’re in the revision stage of your manuscript, take out your Writer’s Market or go on the site or go to whatever agent or market listing you most trust. Read through potential markets for your work. I make three lists: An A list, a B list, and a C list (this is detailed in my last column; I don’t want to repeat too much information). I also jot down which materials each agent or publisher on the list requires in the initial contact.

I cross-check my choices with Predators & Editors AND with Whispers & Warnings. I go to the agent or publisher’s site to see if any information is different.

And then my research is complete. I polish the manuscript, I take out the “A” list, and I begin. I set up my tracking sheet, I send out my first batch of queries, or make my first submission or submissions. I keep careful notes. If a further request is made, I send off the requested materials THE SAME DAY ON WHICH IT IS ASKED. The longer you wait, the more likely the agent or editor has moved on to someone else’s material.

If I get a rejection, I make a note and move on to the next one on the list. I don’t have to pull out the listings and get online and start the research all over again. I do double-check online to make sure the person still works for the agency or publisher if the list I created is more than two months old, because people move from job to job quickly in this industry. But I don’t have to start from the beginning.

The more efficiently you streamline your submission process, the more quickly you get your materials out, and the better chance you have of landing a contract. If you have to start over each time you make a submission, not only do you lose valuable time, you lose momentum. Also, on a psychological level, having a list of potential markets helps in the rejection process. Instead of having to heave yourself out of bed to find another potential market, you just shoot it off to the next one on the list. It helps you treat it like a business, and keeps each rejection from being as much of a personal hurt. Some of that rawness will always be present, but creating an efficient submission machine will help you keep track, publish more, and keep up your spirits.

–Devon Ellington


One comment

  1. Wow! Devon, this is a great article! I’m getting ready to research a piece that I want to send out, I will take your ideas to heart!

    Thanks! L.L.

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