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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 contact you.

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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