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Tips for Writers

Our editors' top tips for writers before sending your work to publishers or agents:

1. Your Voice: Your voice is all important. A tangible personality, whether it's your own for non-fiction or the characters you write, must connect with the reviewer.

2. Query: The query is your opportunity to get our attention. If you spend years on a book, don't write a cover letter as a throw-away. Put your voice in it.

3. Format: Format does matter. It doesn't have to be perfect, but standard manuscript style helps. Typos or deviations from the standard won't, on their own, cause a rejection, but they do influence perception.

4. Submission requirements: Review the submission requirements. It's a good idea to show you're thoughtful and disciplined enough, as a writer, to check them out. Don't send in for fiction that's not completed unless the requirements allow that. Make sure your non-fiction has a professional proposal and that you have enough of it ready to give samples if requested.

5. Market yourself: If you have the ability to market yourself; if you have a following, (legitimate) awards, an online presence, some way of reaching people, let us know. Use numbers if you have them. Don't make things up. We will find out. Make sure your bio is authentic and engaging. Again, it's an opportunity to share your voice.

6. Market your project: If your project is timely for the marketplace; if there's an target audience for your project, make that point in your query.

7. If it's a pass: It's a subjective business. The publisher or agent who passed on one project might pick up another from a writer who thanks them for considering their work. Don't be angry if a publisher or agent doesn't respond. If they do, take any feedback as constructive. Most publishers and agents don't have time to give feedback and they risk angering people who are passionate about their work, so, if they do give feedback, ask them what they think you can do to improve.

8. Negativity: Don't let negative feedback undermine your passion. Again, it's subjective. Look for ways to improve your craft.

9. Be ready: Is your work is ready to pitch? Have someone read it. Read it aloud to yourself. Step back and try to hear the voice, the flow, the transitions, the viability of the subject or story.

10. Infodumping: As important as voice: show vs. tell. Watch the exposition. Does your story build a world that unfolds for the reader? Over-explaining in narrative will get an editor to put a manuscript aside where a story, if not cluttered with unnecessary verbiage, might engage them.

Good luck!