1. Please DO NOT send a query letter or manuscript written by hand. This has two effects: If your handwriting is tiny and scratchy, you may look somewhat crazy. Also, this makes you appear like you’re afraid of technology. The problem is that if you’ve sent me a hard-copy (for example) we would have had to correspond, and that’s usually by email.
2. Please DO NOT send a printed/bound softcover version of your book. Yes I know there are GREAT services out there that allow you to produce a book with minimal investment. And I’m glad you made use of them. The problem is that you didn’t send me a manuscript (which I work on), you sent me a book, which is not the same thing.
3. Please DO NOT send photos of your children/pets holding signs saying I should read your work or take you on as a client. When I get a stack of photos in the mail, I usually look for the ransom demands or the photo that includes the line, “Or else I’ll be beaten” and then consider calling the police. Do not play on sympathies to get your work advanced.
4. Please DO NOT include rejection letters with your work. Okay, you’ve been rejected. But sending your emotional baggage along with your work is not the best way to start a relationship if you want the relationship to be healthful and helpful. And for the record, I shred those letters, especially if you’ve added commentary like “Stupid bitch” or “Damn faggot” in the margins after I write the original sender a note.
5. Please DO NOT offer me favors that are in fact threats on other people. Do not tell me you’re “going to take care of X person or Y person” for me if I take you on. I might not like X or Y person, they may not like me…but that’s not really for you to worry about (this is especially troubling if you happen to mention people I’ve dated, who I KNOW don’t like me now). Basically, threatening others to incent to me work with you is not happening. I just call the police.
6. Please DO NOT include hateful things about my friends along with your manuscript. (This is not me reverse bragging, I do have a point here) I know a lot of celebrities and semi-celebrities. Yes, many of those people may have different sexual, racial, religious, political or alcoholic preferences than you do. You don’t have to disparage them (or their opinions, lifestyles or beliefs) to prove you’re a tough person. It won’t encourage me to respond.
NOTE – If you’re going to question my sexuality or habits (insisting that I must enjoy the company of same sex partners or that I am in fact a person who has sex with female parents or that I lack ‘racial purity’ if I don’t take you on as a client) you’re absolutely not getting a response.
7. Please DO NOT include “things you think I might like” along with your submission. I am a nerd. I do not hide this fact. Lately, I’ve stopped hiding the fact I enjoy really good food. And I remain an ardent Xbox enthusiast. If you want me to work with you, just send the work. You do not need to go out of your way to include new Xbox games, thumb drives, pens, mugs, catalogs for bathrobes, sex toys or whatever else “you saw and it made you think of me”. Let’s just talk about work, shall we?
NOTE – I will likely not send the thumb drives or pens back.
8. Please DO NOT send daily follow-ups. I receive mail everyday. I do my best to take about 2 hours to go through my mail and sort from it packages and manuscripts and all kinds of not-bills from it. After paying the bills, everything else gets prioritized and either delegated or answered. I do this DAILY. The mail here locally is known to be slow. I cannot predict when I’m going to get your package, let alone what specific time of that day I’m going to have time to sit down and respond to it. Calling me EVERY DAY after you’ve sent it is NOT going to encourage me to move faster towards your material. (You should though follow up about 3 to 4 days later with anyone you’ve sent material to but not heard back from).
9. Please DO NOT send “art” along with your manuscript. I put art in quotes because I’m not talking about book covers or graphic files. I mean the map of your fantasy world made out of cheese or the sausage shaped like your protagonist. If you want to hook me into the “feel” of your work, let your pitch, query and manuscript do the talking.
10. Please DO NOT send feces, urine or other bodily fluids. Seriously. Just don’t. Ew. (This did not happen to me, but rather to an industry friend of mine, and she will be closing up shop for a few months because of it).
The moral of the story? When someone (an editor, a publisher, an agent, somebody) says “Send me X”, that’s all you send them. And if you’re confused what ‘X’ is….ask.