How to Make a Good First Impression

Dont' PanicOn November 2, I’m going to be answering questions for new writers at the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference.  It’s one of those things that I always volunteer to do because newbies are eager, excited and sometimes just a little intimidated when it comes to asking questions.

What is the biggest piece of advice that I offer them?  Follow instructions.

When an editor asks for no more than 500 words, that’s what you submit.  500 words at the most.

When a publisher says that they don’t want writing on a given topic, don’t send it.  Send what they do want instead.

Sometimes the directions will seem a little off because they are simply different than what everyone else wants.  Some editors want you to indicate the page breaks in a picture book manuscript and actually ask for illustration suggestions.  It doesn’t happen often, and I always pinch myself to make sure I’m awake, but it does happen.

Follow the instructions.  That’s why they’re there.

Sometimes there will be something that isn’t in the instructions.  There’s nothing you can do about that.  But you can, and should, follow the instructions that they give you.  It will put you way ahead of the people who single space their 5000 word romantic paranormal picture book for 12 year-olds.  Why?  Because they obviously did not  follow the instructions.