Put Your Best Foot Forward


By Cindy K. Sproles


It’s your last chance. Have you crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is?

Hitting the send button on a manuscript is both a relief and a frightening experience. Every word must be right. Every comma is placed perfectly. All the spelling is correct.

Unfortunately, this seems to the be step writers trip over by either physical or mental exhaustion. You’ve worked hard on that manuscript. Read it a minimum of twenty times and passed it through your critique partners. What could be wrong? Well, it’s the little things. Below, you will see the most common mistakes to search out before you hit the send button.

Is Your name is on the work? – You’d be surprised at the manuscripts editors receive without this valuable information. Name, email address, phone number – vital information.

Is the publisher, agent, or editor’s name spelled correctly? – Just a personal note here: My last name is spelled S-P-R-O-L-E-S. Not Sprawles or Sprolez, or worse, Spritz.

Did you follow the guidelines? – It’s vital that every guideline is followed when you submit work. Also, you’ll find every publisher or agent is different. Pay attention to details. This can make or break your submission.

Does the publisher, agent, or editor you are addressing work in your genre? – Often, we assume the professionals we speak to at a conference work in our genre. Do your homework. Ensure you submit to an editor or agent that reads, sells, or publishes the genre you write. Otherwise, it’s like pouring water down a drain. The work will never be seen.

Did you catch the typos – Check and recheck for typos. Editors can look over a slip occasionally, but when you make repeated errors, it tells them you are not ready for publication. I’d like to exclude autocorrect in texts here. There are times when autocorrect changes text after you hit send. If you notice an autocorrect boo-boo, resend a one-line note stating you noticed autocorrect changed your work after it was sent. Most folks understand this, and I can’t say there is an industry rule on this yet. If it were up to me, I’d shoot autocorrect. 😊 Simply try to read before you click send.

Check your attitude at the door – Be gracious and express your appreciation for the time editors, agents, and publishers give you. Don’t assume your work is the best they’ve seen. Make it the best.

Be mindful of protocol – Understand your work is not the only work professionals are looking at. After a spring and summer of travel, editors, agents, and publishers will have acquired double digits in manuscripts. It takes time to read through. Follow the protocols on their sites to know when it’s appropriate to contact them.

Follow the chain of command –Once you land a contract, follow the protocol and the hierarchy. Work with your editor, allow your agent to intervene on your behalf if there is an issue, and do not email or call the publisher. That is not your job. Publishers are at the top of the chain and extremely busy. If you contact them over something like a book cover you don’t like, they will ask you if you contacted your agent or if you talked to the designers who sent you the cover to review. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of publication, but it’s important to remember that yours is not the only work in the pipeline, and chances are, the publisher won’t know where your work is in the process. Stick with your editor and agent, and only in desperate times should you contact the publisher. The best advice here is don’t burn bridges.

Remember, editors and publishers are your friends. They are not in the business of trying to make you fail. They’ve invested a good sum of money into publishing your book. Don’t come across as an entitled author or be demanding and pushy. Once again, don’t burn bridges. Your attitude and willingness to work and play well with your publishing team play a big part in whether a publisher is willing to offer you another contract.

Publishing is a long, tedious process, and learning to work through that process is vital to your career. My personal rule of thumb reverts back to the golden rule: Treat others the way you’d like them to treat you. It’s a good policy.

Now, put your best writing foot forward and move ahead.

Cindy K. Sproles is proud of her Appalachian Mountain heritage and loves to share it with others. She is an author, speaker, and conference teacher, teaching across the country. Cindy is the co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries, and she has served as a managing editor for two publishing houses. Cindy is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, held each February at the Cove, Asheville, NC. She is married and has four adult sons and two grands. 

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash


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