Thursday, 30 July 2009

Why You Shouldn't Use Submissions Services

There are many submissions services out there and they will do just about anything for you, so long as it's related to submitting work to publishers, and you pay them for their efforts.

They'll send out query letters by email or post; they'll print up your submissions package if you want to send it by post; they'll provide a list of agents and editors for them to go to; they'll even write your query letter for you if you're happy to pay extra.

There are plenty of things they don't do for you, though. They won't target the best agents and editors for your work; they won't write you a mouthwatering, irresistible query letter; and they won't be able to show you that their service is effective because in most cases, a query sent via one of these services won't even get read. You don't believe me? Then perhaps you'll believe some well-respected industry professionals.

From Jessica Faust at Bookends Literary Agency:
I stop reading when... the query is sent through a query service, your husband, your grandmother, your daughter, your lawyer, your doctor, or your dog (and yes, it has happened). Nearly instant reject. I’ll read the query, but I go in skeptically and you darn well will have to knock my socks off and throw them across the room before I can be convinced you can actually do the rest of the work on your own.

From Janet Reid, Literary Agent:
These are the very few things that make me stop reading: 1. The query isn't from the author. That includes query writing services, cover letters from your assistant, free-lance editor, etc. You have to write and send your own
query letter.

Bolding mine. There are plenty of other similar comments on the internet if you want to go and look for them; but I've not been able to find a single agent or editor speaking out in favour of them. Don't waste your money: write your own submissions and send them out yourself, and remember: there are no shortcuts worth taking.

23 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

The stopwatch is running. Come on, you sockpuppets!

Sally Zigmond said...

Excellent advice, as ever, from Ms Smith.

And I'm not holding my breath, Buffy.

Nicola Morgan said...

Excellent advice - I'll add it to the workshop I'm doing on perfect submissions. Thanks, Jane. (Hope you're surviving being without a proper internet connection! We miss your actual presence!)

Nicola Morgan said...

Woah, Sally - you and I posting at identical time! Let's stalk her together!

BuffySquirrel said...

Yeah, they'd get here faster if Jane had named an actual service.

Helena Halme said...

Thank you for this advice. There are so many different agencies preying on us unpublished writers it's good to know what works and what doesn't. And yes, I know good writing always wins. (Today is one of my optimistic days.)

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

Thanks for the advice but I would never even consider someone else writing my query. Come on people if you can write a book then you can write a query. Geez.

Sue Houghton said...

Great advice as usual. Thanks!

DanielB said...

They're just one example of a wider phenomenon. All of its manifestations can be lumped under the general heading of "False Shortcuts" - every myth which is peddled to new writers about ways of circumventing "the system". There aren't any. It's all about the writing. Write a great book which an editor wants to buy and submit it, either yourself or through a literary agent. It's so very simple. And so very hard.

Anyone who tries to tell you there are ways of making it easier (without work, patience, talent, luck and pain) is just a snake-oil salesman. Jane knows this well, which is why she quite rightly keeps exposing these people. I do hope some of them turn up.

Nicola Morgan said...

I just googled "short-cuts to publication" and guess what? There were only 6 results and ALL of them said "there are no short-cuts to publication". At last, google speaks sense. (Mind you, a different version of my search did come up woth some seriously rubbish and deceitful short-cuts ...)

behlerblog said...

Nothing makes me quit reading faster than a query a la submission service. I call them canned tuna and can smell them a mile away. I would have a smidge of empathy for the author because these services aren't free, but then I remember that they believed taking the short cut would be to their advantage.

Most of these services are so horrible that they cram twenty editors' names right there in the CC window! The gall! What's sad is the author never knows, either.

Jane Smith said...

I'm back! Not all the way home yet, but at least within range of my blog.

Tell you what. I'd appreciate the names of a few of those submissions services, and will gladly put up a new post with all the names listed, along with a link to this post. We can run a sweepstake on how long it will take them all to turn up and get all shouty. If you have any names just email them to me or leave them here, and I'll write up a whole new post about it some time next week. I'll start the list off with Wordhustler. Does anyone else care to add a name or two? Email is fine if you'd rather do so privately.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

oo, good point. if we can't write our own query letter, why would the agent/company have any confidence that we can write a book?

behlerblog said...

if we can't write our own query letter, why would the agent/company have any confidence that we can write a book?
I heart you.

Not all the way home yet
Smith, are you on vacation? As in having fun and ignoring all responsibilities? The nerve!

catdownunder said...

As a kitten I was told to learn to clean my own fur, groom my whiskers and keep my paws pristine. It is hard work. There is no alternative. (Being washed by a human is a supremely uncomfortable experience. I do not recommend it. Paying for that privilege most definitely would not suit my Scots ancestral instincts.)
I need an agent, not a submission service. The problem is finding one. (I can transform myself into a human for the purpose but nobody seems to notice.)

Charlie said...

Let's just assume an author has a service compose the perfect query letter and the dream agent loves it. Now what? Hire the service to write the book?

Every voice is unique to the individual, whether it good or bad. That's what you're selling; a well written story with a compelling narritive.

Maggie Dana said...

Writing the book is the hard part; writing the query can often be even harder, but since the submission services don't offer to handle either of these two chores, why pay them to do the easiest part? Sending these letters or emails to agents.

Any writer who gets sucked into these schemes is not, IMHO, smart enough to own a keyboard. Send it back.

That said, what we REALLY need is a synopsis-writing service. I'd be seriously tempted to pay a reasonable fee to have that chore taken off my hands.

Dan Holloway said...

Glad you found this. I know I mentioned it to a couple of people in the wake of your earlier post. A lesson for all!

Quillers said...

I must confess that until I read this, I didn't even realise there were submission services. Thanks for the heads up.

BuffySquirrel said...

http://www.equeryonline.com/

http://www.scriptblaster.com/bookblaster.php

http://writersreliefblog.com/?tag=/submission+services

Marian said...

I checked Scriptblaster's "Query Tips" and even those would probably not be helpful or effective. "A brief synopsis of several paragraphs should follow that identifies the theme..." In a query letter?

Yonah said...

Lurker here :)

I checked out Writer's Relief (I needed a giggle) and this article especially is marvellous (I would love to see you eviscerate it, honestly, heh) - it's suggesting ways of bulking out your cover letter in order to impress a potential editor or agent, and dear goodness it's jaw-dropping.

Two gems they suggest should form part of your cover letter:

Attend writing workshops: By being able to write “I attend a weekly writing workshop meeting,” you show that you’re resourceful and diligent...prove your devotion to writing technique and craft.

And volunteer: By volunteering for the spring cleanup at your local library...you demonstrate that you care deeply about literacy...it doesn’t hurt to mention volunteering in your cover or query letter when you’re listing your publishing credentials.

O RLY?

Marian said...

Hi Jane,

I decided to check out the information which BookBlaster and eQuery Online were providing for free, to see if this would be any good. Plus, a brief look at the testimonials of authors who used their services.

http://marianperera.blogspot.com/2009/08/query-submission-services.html

Thanks for the inspiration. That was a blast.