#15: HELP! They Requested a Submission! What Do I Do NOW?

Breathe. I wrote this for my local Romance Writers’ chapter newsletter after my first request:

“Ah, crap.” Mail waited on the counter. Another SASE had found its way home, thick with unwanted words and unloved characters. Lives were in limbo

‘Ah, crap?’ I’m a writer! Surely I can do better than that! How about: “Her heart sank when she spied the missive in its white shroud of innocence, lying lifeless on the smooth surface of cold, unfeeling granite.” Or maybe: “This paper jailer of dreams held her characters captive. They were sealed; transported in windowless darkness, and hostage to the whims of an overworked judicant.” (Judicant? Did I just make up a word?)

Determined to postpone the ugly truth, I sat down to the day’s email, opened a new message, and typed in the name of my critique buddy. After a sincere, “How are you doing?” and a reiteration of, “We have to get together!” I typed the words: “I received another rejection today (Number 19) from…”

The curser blinked at me, one eyebrow raised and lips pursed – well, if it had facial features, that’s how they would have appeared – and I knew that I must present my cheek for its latest slap. To delay, I opened my Excel chart of agents I had queried, wondering which lucky name I would “highlight” in obliterating gray that day.

I grasped the envelope by the throat and ripped. Pulling out the stack of unremarkable sheets, I scanned the top one for a name. It read:

“Dear Author, Please accept our apologies for the use of a form letter… We only accept manuscripts that…” Yes, yes, I know. What’s your point?

Then I saw words that didn’t make sense. So I read them again. And one more time, to be sure: “If your manuscript meets all these criteria, please send it in its entirety to…”

What? WHAT?

My hands began to shake and I couldn’t breathe. I grabbed my phone. Contacts. What’s my critique buddy’s name? There. Call.

I paced around the house, counting rings. When she answered I managed to say, “Hi, this is Kris” in an only slightly hysterical tone. I think she said something in response. Probably, “Hi.” She’s polite like that.

I, in contrast, verbally steamrolled her.


Bless her encouraging heart, we talked for a quite a while. Well, she talked. I made words… my mouth… out coming…

Believe this: your turn is coming! So it’s time to format your document. Whether you submit electronically or hard copy via snail mail, the parameters are the same.

You have already done the following:

  • Used a 3-5 space indention.
  • No double spaces between paragraphs or sentences.
  • No words broken (hyphenated) at the end of a line.
  • Used the # symbol centered in the blank line to indicate a scene break.

Now apply this format to your entire document:

  • Size 12 font – Times New Roman (A few old-school agents/editors might still request Courier font, but they are rapidly diminishing.)
  • Double spaced, left justified
  • 1-inch margins all around
  • Insert Page Numbers.
  • Insert a Header: The Book Title / Your author name.
  • Insert a Footer: Your real name / Email / Phone number.
  • Insert a Page Break at the end of every chapter.
  • Underline words to be italicized.
  • Spell out all words and all numbers (except year dates).

Create a Title Page.

  • Upper right corner: Your REAL Name, Address, Phone, Email, Total Word Count
  • Centered on the page: Book Title, Genre(s), By Your AUTHOR Name

Let’s take a minute to discuss AUTHOR NAMES. Why do authors use pen names? There are four basic reasons:

  1. Your real name is already “out there”; Nora Roberts and Dan Brown cannot be the ONLY ones in the world!
  2. Your real name doesn’t convey who you are. If your parents named you after Grandma Gertie and you married Mr. Schniezerle you might want to choose a name more – um – accessible.
  3. You want to hide your identity to protect your family’s privacy. Or maybe you’re experimenting with dark paranormal erotica and don’t want the PTA to know.
  4. You write in multiple genres. Use Mary O’Malley for your Celtic romances, Misty Mallory for your paranormals and Mandy Max for contemporary crime dramas.

I am actually a Kristin but writing as Kris because, while Kristin was an unusual name in 1953, in 1983 you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting one. I don’t want people to see “Kristin” and think I’m in my twenties. I earned this life experience, darn it, and it shows through my characters!

So, Google various possibilities and decide on your name. Go through your document and get your manuscript ready. The next installment will explain how and what you actually submit.

5 Responses to “#15: HELP! They Requested a Submission! What Do I Do NOW?”

  1. 1 Paisley Kirkpatrick 01/21/2010 at 4:35 PM

    This is great, Kris. I have an agent interested and asked for a phone number to chat so I am excited to speak with her.

  2. 3 Annabelle Ambrosio 01/23/2010 at 6:24 PM

    Liked the blog. I just sold my first one and it’s a scarry feeling.

  3. 5 TSwain 02/06/2010 at 9:15 AM

    Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

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