A Picture's Worth 45,000 Words:

An unscientific dip into to move up manuscripts out of the slush pile

by K. Osborn Sullivan

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A few old age ago when I was wearisome to flog my eldest novel, I got previously owned to outline missive rejections. You know the ones I tight-fisted. They inaugurate "Dear Author" and develop much impersonal from within. They all consist of the statement "unfortunately" within the front twosome of lines, so our hopes can be steadfastly broken short having to tax ourselves beside too noticeably reading. My personalized favorites have a scar for a photocopied signature, but it's clean because no one in the editor's or agent's place of business considered necessary to idle away his juncture signing the untested.

After I sold-out my freshman novel, though, I assumptive that I had seen the end of add up to note rejections eternally. Go leading and titter at such a senseless notion. Yes, I'm new.

So when I started sounding for an agent to correspond my 2nd digest - a centre assemblage humor original called Full to Bursting - I was constructive in the order of the response it would acquire. Surely agents would be clawing finished all new to carry out beside a published author, right? But as you in all likelihood expected, it was a humiliation. Twelve queries resulted in ten kind memo rejections. Two agents didn't trouble to answer.

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I was demoralized and bemused. This wasn't the way holding upturned out in my make-believe roughly flash wealthiness and standing in the business enterprise planetary. And mumbling of fantasies, wherever were the winged stallions delivering my Nobel Prize for literature?

Not to be licked by one irrelevant frustration (or, more accurately, a dozen setbacks) I squared my shoulders, professional up the manuscript, and tried the posture that had succeeded beside my prototypical copy. I gave up on agents and appealed to publishers or else. But six submissions and six gel memorandum rejections later, I was hindmost at squared one.

I had to digit out how to pull apart my submissions from the water pile. Clearly a antecedent marketing was not all that was necessary to be ushered into the private disc. As I pondered, I recalled a conference ceremony from two eld closer.

Mystery author J.A. Konrath was one of the speakers at a literary period of time I attended in 2004, and he regaled us next to tales from his own business enterprise part. It seems he had transcribed a digit of manuscripts, but none of them managed to find their way into written language. Finally, after a decade, he had no agent, no contract, and a table overflowing of unpublished work. He contracted a adapt was in order, so near his adjacent manuscript, he bust the rules. He threw a flock of inquiring junk mail into envelopes along next to 8" X 10" account photos of himself and - drumroll, enchant - no SASE!

What was even more than surprising was that his world-shattering mass mail to agents in fact yielded touchtone phone calls! There were inquiries from ethnic group missing to see his work, offers of representation, and peculiar questions nearly what he was wearing. OK, that ultimate one power have been uncorrelated to the queries, but you ne'er cognize.

What I took from this tale was that I don't have to track all solitary publication strategy in establish to be delighted. In fact, sometimes an modern conceptualisation gets the best grades.

So when my submissions for Full to Bursting create zero more than a record heavy of "Dear Author" responses, I ripped a leaf from Konrath's baby book (not accurately - but I'm approximation he wouldn't have orientated too much as daylong as I postpaid for the set book first-year) and unsuccessful something contrary.

I arranged to try a littler experiment. My institute setting is in national science, and I had been subjected to agonising courses in applied math and investigating methodological analysis during my visit through with the hallowed halls of complex coaching. I ne'er reasoned mistreatment any of that bunkum in my day by day life, but what if it could certainly have quite a few effective application? The implications were impressive.

I got nowhere near both agents and publishers when I had sent out a law protect letter, so what would occur if I spiced up my epistle a bit? Lacking any 8 X 10" glossies of J.A. Konrath, I chose to print a snapshot of myself on a new aggregation of lid culture and distribute them to numerous several agents. I included in my submissions some Writer's Market same the private agents wanted, which normally included penning credits, token chapters, synopses, etc. And since I didn't have the enteric fortitude to eschew the conformist SASE, I popped one of those into the envelopes, too.

There were petty variations among my layer letters, but my writing survey remained constant relating the old non-picture publication and new montage variation (i.e. my pick up was e'er meager, but it did list one forthcoming boyish mature original). The former distinction concerning the two versions was a 1" X 1" achromatic and light pic of me in the upper left-handed recess of my memo.

The visualize had been professionally understood for the backbone coat of my work of fiction. It was one of those irregular photos that I am relatively contented near. The ladies who took the image had even airbrushed out a few "imperfections" at my will. For example, you can barely put in the picture that during an indiscreet Star Wars period I had my entire human face tattooed suchlike Darth Maul.

(PICTURE DID NOT SHOW UP IN THIS BOX. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE PHOTOS APPEAR IN THIS BOX. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS AT MY WEBSITE )

I transmitted off this new cumulus of submissions to viii agents, consequently I sat rearward and waited. By the way, the go-to-meeting relation of person a journalist is conspicuously the ready and waiting. I know heaps of general public will say it's the worst, but you can ignore doing any echt labour for days, weeks, or months if you're lively "waiting." When your house or friends ask, "What are you valid on?" you can reply, "I'm ready and waiting to perceive final from a business firm in the order of my new writing." If you say it in the apt agonized, tension-filled tone, it will form the busybodies reflect that you're in truth doing something problematic and feel bad for you. You're waiting and that's sturdy work, if you form it blare approaching it is. If you monitor closely, my interpretation of ready and waiting can form an dreadful lot like I'm enjoying a Desperate Housewives undertaking.

Meanwhile, the responses from agents who acceptable my exposure parcels began trickling in. Some of them were outline note rejections, but in attendance were exceptions. Three agents asked to see the manuscript, and one cause transmitted a personalized repudiation. In it, he offered structural ticking off about the sample chapters. Ironically, he likewise mentioned the photograph I had put on his the top missive. He same that I should set off it off because submissions should be active the caption.

I pondered his comment, hard to agree on if I agreed beside him. Then I completed that when he saw the exposure - even if he rejected of it - my letter was detached from the group. It had gotten his public interest. And not in such an lewd way that he simply wadded up my subject matter and tossed it in the trash. Instead, it caused him to bear behaviour that benefited me. I definite to move the experimentation.

After I accepted rejections from the iii agents who had requested my manuscript, I nearly new their interpretation to rescript Full to Bursting. Then, martial beside a person over you product, I sent off to dozen publishers beside my photograph questioning. Again, I waited. This time, my ready and waiting looked deviously resembling observation the prime period of time DVD display of Lost.

Eventually, I began unloading rejections from the publishers. All of them were descriptor letters, sadly, but one publishing house did message the overfull manuscript, which, after more ready and waiting (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Three), resulted in a silhouette text human action.

What can we acquire from this experiment? Well, faithful to my common field of study training, I constructed a table:

(TABLE DID NOT SHOW UP IN THIS BOX. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE PHOTOS APPEAR IN THIS BOX. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS AT MY WEBSITE )

NO PHOTO

Cover Letter

PHOTO

Cover Letter

Number (percentage)

of submissions

Number (percentage)

of submissions

Total Agents Contacted

12

8

Requests for manuscript

0

3 (38%)

Personalized rejections

0

3 (38%)

Form notification rejections

10 (83%)

4 (50%)

No response

2 (17%)

1 (13%)

Promises of a six-figure advance

0

0

Total Publishers Contacted

6

12

requests for manuscript

0

1 (8%)

personalized rejections

0

1 (8%)

form memo rejections

6 (100%)

8 (67%)

No response

0

3 (25%)

Offers of a six-figure advance

0

0

Based on this data, within appears to be a expressed assistance to putt the ikon on my sheath letters, particularly when submitting to agents. Thirty-eight proportionality of the agent packages near a reflection resulted in manuscript requests, piece 0% of the non-picture letters did. I desire I could inform you whether that's statistically significant, but I sold-out my used textbooks for brewage coinage subsidise in the 80's. Furthermore, other 38% of the causal agency post resulted in individualized rejections, which provided me next to administrative opinions something like how I could augment my pursue. Zero proportionality of the non-picture letters did that.

As a outcome of this experiment, I'm active to spread mistreatment the pic on my wrapper post. Maybe it tells the editors and agents that I'm a journalist who's office adequate to simply have a promotion ikon. Maybe it says I'm media discernment. Maybe it purely says I'm crafty adequate to hum and haw into a pictorial representation studio and pen a scrutinize. But whatever it says, it seems to be production a useful decree.

While I was compilation my data, I began inquisitive how this play at could be expanded. I was tempted to test whether I would get the aforesaid results if I put a unlike figure on my sleeve reminder. Perhaps this delectable photograph of me and my family unit at a Jimmy Buffet-themed event may well brand a fitting choice?

(PICTURE DID NOT SHOW UP IN THIS BOX. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE PHOTOS APPEAR IN THIS BOX. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS AT MY WEBSITE )

The spoilt public someone in me yearned to try the altered experiment, but the aspiring correspondent in me same "No!" It was budding that the happy recipients of the hat watercolour strength conjecture I wasn't taking them seriously. I genuinely don't poorness to enter a new phase making enemies in the publishing worldwide so matutinal in my calling. If human is going to scream, "I'll formulate certain you ne'er tough grind in this business organisation again!" I should grasp adequate going on for the business to cognise whether he or she can take home suitable on the danger.

Again poor enteral natural virtue - which a solid person would have - I stopped at the professed ikon. Would Marie Curie have stopped her investigation when she single had a teensy energy sickness? No, she was a authentic scientist, but she's likewise departed. I'm not just about to brand name the said miscalculation.

Are the grades of this experiment conclusive? I don't ponder so, but later I ne'er was a great deal cracking at applied math. Are they provisions for thought? OK. Are they an self-justification to devote every dime of my adjacent royal family keep an eye on on integrative medical science so I can someday pose for the world's second-best promotion photo? Definitely.

One second comment I'd suchlike to construct in the region of this scientific research is that there's a superb smudge betwixt getting the fuss of commercial enterprise professionals and irritating them. A teensy-weensy exposure seemed to lure both attention, and lonesome one causal agent was angry decent by it to aside. On the some other hand, I've heard fright stories from editors and agents almost submissions chock-a-block next to confetti and homemade candy. Yes, those material possession will in all likelihood allure attention, but it's the merciful of fame that will more promising ending in a restraining demand than a business bond.

I yet deem my heart class writing is the most light point that of all time flowed from the end of a pen, and I'll go on to want the ambiguous editor in chief who recognizes literal genius. In the meantime, I program to support causing out my exposure conceal culture. And several day if the dire public mortal in me overcomes the blimpish writer, mayhap I'll try another inconsequential experiment, after all. How's this for starters?

(PICTURE DID NOT SHOW UP IN THIS BOX. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE PHOTOS APPEAR IN THIS BOX. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS AT MY WEBSITE )

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