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Delivering the Goods
by Kathleen Ewing
Finally! After all that market research and querying you've done,
an editor has requested that you send your manuscript. Don't go
out and spend the money just yet. And don't celebrate, either. You've
merely dangled the hook. You haven't landed the fish. There are
still at least a half dozen ways you can blow it.
1. E-mail: You forget to convert your beautifully
formatted document to plain text. When it arrives on the editor's
desktop, it looks as if a committee of gremlins has edited it, with
ampersands, tiny rectangles and other strange symbols sprinkled
throughout. Your editor's first reaction is, "Yuck!"
Solution: After you convert your document
to plain text format, e-mail the piece to yourself to get a better
indication of how it will appear electronically. True, it may not
look the same on the editor's computer system. But this beats just
throwing it out there in whatever format you created it.
2. Spelling: You are an excellent typist and you
won the county spelling bee when you were ten. Confident of your
ability, you send your manuscript on its way without that one last
spell check or proofread. You look at it the next day and discover
three grammatical errors in the first page.
Solution: The very last thing you do before saving your
file should be a computer spell check to catch those errors your
eyes refuse to see. Follow that with a final proofread-out loud.
You are so familiar with what you think you have written you tend
to overlook what is actually in print. If you can't stand the sound
of your own voice, go to www.readplease.com
and download the free software which will allow your computer to
read the document aloud to you.
3. Enclosures in snail mail: In your cover letter,
you tell the editor you are enclosing photos or a CD, and then you
forget to do it.
Solution: Below your signature on the cover letter, type
"Encl:" and a list of all the items you are including
with your submission-article; sidebars; photographs with captions;
a CD with your article in electronic format. Place all your enclosures
on top of your cover letter as soon as you print it. Check off those
items as you place them in the envelope.
4. Electronics: I recently lost a sale because
I forgot to double check a CD to be sure the photos I thought I
had burned onto it were actually there.
Solution: Always check those CD's to make sure your content
arrived. Open each item to be certain it is intact and usable.
5. Critical information: Does your article have
a title? Your byline? A brief mini- bio? All your contact information
clearly printed at the top of your manuscript? Provide editors every
possible way to contact you: address, P.O. box number, home phone,
cell phone, fax and work phone. Editors can't buy when they can't
Solution: As the final step, go back through your piece
and make sure all those crucial peripheral items are there.
6. Snail mail: You forgot to identify the envelope
and now your piece is lying in the darkness in a pile of unsolicited
submissions cuddling up to a warren of dust bunnies.
Solution: Go to Vista Print (www.vistaprint.com)
and design yourself a self-inking stamp that says "Requested
Material" in a simple font as large as possible. Request red
ink. Stamp your envelope one time about three-quarters of an inch
above the editor's name. Pre-stamp your entire stack of submission
envelopes. That eliminates the problem and obligates you to fill
those envelopes with manuscripts.
The ultimate solution to nagging mistakes that can cost you a sale
is to create a simple checklist of all the processes you must complete
before you send in your manuscript. At the end of your list, leave
a blank space where you can write in the reward you will buy yourself
when you receive that juicy paycheck.
© Copyright 2008, Kathleen Ewing
Kathleen Ewing is an award-winning freelance writer headquartered in Central Arizonas high country. Among her credits are feature articles for Art Calendar, American Falconry, Bend of the River, TrailBlazer and Hobby Farms magazines. Visit her blog at www.rodeowriter.blogspot.com
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