Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grabbing the Editor’s Attention: Is the attention you’re attracting positive or negative.

First let me say that while I am a Senior Acquisition Editor and author at MuseItUp Publishing, everything within is my own opinion. We all bring to the table our experiences and life baggage and for this I am forever grateful to you all.

I’ve been thinking on this topic for a number of weeks, even started writing a few days ago. However, here I sit at 8:23 p.m. the night before I’m to upload my piece and I don’t have anything finished. Adding here that at 9:38 a.m. the day this is due, I’m still writing and tweaking.

The first piece started with guidelines and checking you’re submitting your genre piece to the correct genre publisher, but that should be common knowledge by now. And if you’re following the rules then surely your manuscript and opening email is grabbing the editor’s attention…positive attention, right?


I’ve read submissions which were perfectly composed, followed every guideline to the “t” and still left a sour note in my mouth. There have been a few submissions which did a hit and miss…and totally out of the ballpark no idea about guidelines…and they sang to me.

So, what was the difference?


Yes, that’s the word I’ve been searching for…attitude. Your positive, believing in your dream, faith in you’re taking a chance attitude. I’m not talking ego. I don’t mean a stiff professional voice that has me picturing a formal boardroom meeting. I mean the simple “Hi, I’m so-so and…”

And, no, not the “Hi, I’m so-so. Please read my manuscript.

The submission emails I remember were all ones where the author talked to me, not at me. They didn’t drone on like a form letter…oh how I hated sending form letters when I was a secretary. Now, some form letters like…congrats here’s your contract…those I don’t mind. I love sending those.

You’re introductory email speaks volume. Your personality, creativity, passion, even future work habits do show through; they should shine through.

You don’t need to embellish or get all fancy. We want you. We want you to talk with us, be friendly. Give us what we’ve asked for, but share yourself, too. Whether you’re a newbie or an author with hundreds of books under your name, we’re here waiting to yell “Welcome to MuseItUp!” We want you as part of our family.

That’s it? That’s what it takes to grab positive attention from an editor? It’s been a common denominator in conversations I’ve had about submissions. Even when we’ve had to send out a decline (rejection, but that’s such a harsh word) the impact of the author’s email has left its imprint on us.

Those who have left that sour taste, I don’t remember their rejections. No they were not rejected for a bad introductory email attitude. But how one comes across in this first contact is a pretty sure gauge of how their manuscript reads. Allow me to rephrase, their voice of this first contact is a pretty good gauge. Not whether they’ve rambled or were concise or missed a detail…their voice.

Quickest way to put me in your corner? Follow the guidelines (hey, you knew that was coming). Be polite (no, not as common as you might think). Be friendly professional (I know you’re not a robot and neither am I). Share your nerves…been there, too. Actually, I get those excited nerves opening each and every submission.

Be yourself.

As I look at my current word count…754 and growing…I’m going to stop here and ask you three questions.

Question 1: Whether regarding writing or not, what attitude has anyone’s email or social media comment, directed to you, left that sour taste for you?

Question 2: Has there ever been an email or social media comment you have made, which you now believe may have caused that sour taste?

Question 3: What do you, as authors, believe are assessing editors’ pet peeves.


And, thank you for reading.

Chris Speakman

The writer: Christine Irene Steeves – writer:
ChrisChat Talks Creativity
ChristChat Indulges:
Editor Chris Speakman lives here: MuseItUp Publishing
Reviewer Chris Speakman, well, the easiest address is ChrisChat Reviews at
Still reading, you can always reach her at


Author Bob Nailor said...

Great blog/article. Spot on! When I was Poetry Editor for The Emporium Gazette (now defunct) - the submissions where a person revealed themselves was usually much better than the stiff, starched formal letter. Of the five yrs with EmpGaz, I only remember one distinct sour submission and the attempting "p"-ing match that the author wanted to pursue. We didn't. Even the misguided erotica article was a fun read and reject -- and not because it was erotica. The author was truly embarrassed to having sent it but she'd found our guidelines at a place they shouldn't have been. (Uh, we did get them removed!) But we looked forward to another non-erotic article by the author and received it. When I submit, I attempt to be myself, yet maintain a little business attitude. After all, writing is a business.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Chris! I've had some requests from authors for reviews/interviews on my blog, and have been amazed at the lack of simple courtesy from some of them. It does indeed leave a sour taste, as you say. All great advice - thanks!

Unknown said...

I totally agree with passion. For awhile I lost my passion. Life interfered rather painfully. I have found it again and am enjoying what I'm writing. In fact, I'm enjoying it so much I've been walking around all day with a huge grin on my face. I think when you have that joy, that passion, it will come through even in the form letters. No one else may like what I've written, but I do and that is all you can do. Write for your own joy and eventually someone else will enjoy your work too.:-)

ChrisChat said...

Thank you, Bob, Helena, and Kat.

I love opening an email and smiling, even laughing with the's how we relate to each other. Makes an individual click in our memory.

Passion...yup, when you sincerely love what you're doing or your topic nothing can slow you down. Well, maybe the hours in a day...never enough anymore ;)

Marsha said...

Hey, Chris. Good post. I'll be sharing. Before I send my next submission to y'all, I'll see if I can't lighten up my query. I'm basically a wordy writer. (Even here in this post. LOL) My efforts to restrict that tend to wind up being a bit staid. I'll try to write it more like my blog posts which are much more "chatty." For the query, I'm shooting for that one page deal. Is that maybe not so important now that almost everything is handled digitally?

ChrisChat said...

Hi, Marsha.

Thanks and thanks.

That's a great does one count one page when we're digital? Seriously, I've never thought about it that way before.

Wordy that. My nickname is Chatterbox, actually Chatterbox II. I ramble.

For me, and it's not so much lightening up, but just be you. I know some people who by being formal are being themselves.

Thinking out loud right now...write what makes you comfortable. I know sometimes when I've sent either a contract or a no-thank-you email, it just doesn't feel like me. So, now, I can't help but include me in those letters. Hoping I don't come across like a nutcase ;)

But, I'm going to take your page digitally...and see where it takes us.

Thanks...and again, great question!


Susan Royal said...

Very good advice for newbies as well as those who've had lots of practice trying to pen the 'perfect' query. I'll never forget when it all started 'clicking' for me. The realization hit me like a brick. If I can't get my reader to share my excitement over my story and see what I'm trying to show, then I need to find another approach. And the same thing goes for an agent or an editor.

ChrisChat said...

Exactly, Susan!

If we're not excited and talking up our books why would anyone else. Let's face it writing isn't easy. Okay, some points might be easy, but we, the book's author, will forever be the biggest cheerleader.

As an editor, and answering submission emails, I love hearing the this in each author's voice.

Thanks for dropping by

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Chris, you have identified the one thing I think every editor is looking for: voice. At almost every SCBWI Conference the main thing editors talked about was voice. Now you talk about the voice of a query email. I think if a writer is honest and believes in the story. If the writer has a great pitch because they love their characters and the story itself, then I think that will be what the editor will see.

I agree with you that being polite is something some people don't seem to know how to do. However, I think basic common sense should guide you as to how to submit your manuscript. The whole process of submitting a manuscript is very nerve wracking and many people concentrate too much on having the right query letter. I like what you said and I will remember it when I send in my second novel to the Muse. :) Good article!!

Wendy said...

Nerves, Chris. That's the first word that comes to mind at the thought of grabbing an editor's attention. It's actually a case of 'I want so badly to have the editor do what I want, that is to accept my manuscript come hell or high water, but I mustn't let her know this because then I'll be at her mercy.' Sour taste?
So, I Google all the 'query letter' tip sites and spend weeks trying to get it right. Eventually, I have to forget about winning over the editor, keep the letter as simple as possible and just hope the ms speaks for itself.
Once into the editing process, I'm a different person. That's when the banter gets to be really enjoyable and no nerves.
It's great to hear that editors really do want to accept you and feel disappointment when they can't. Next time I need to send a query I'll feel more relaxed. Thank you!

ChrisChat said...


Thanks Barbara and Wendy.

Barbara, you're right about voice and it's how your voice comes across. Emails, like all electronic media lacks the facial and body language, so it's vital to re-read your words and look to see how they could be taken...different than your intentions. Polite common sense...a dying concept?

Wendy, you sound like me. I finally gave up LOL. I never get the sour taste when I read upbeat excitement and belief from an author. The sour taste is more when it's that annoying in your face approach...thankfully, few of those.

I'll be sending decline/rejection email-letters not looking forward to it.

Thanks again

Unknown said...

This was a very interesting post. I'm usually too scared when subbing/querying to be more than polite. I'm afraid if I write too much I'll inadvertently use one word the agent/editor doesn't like and bang!, rejected.

In response to your first question, I find a sour taste often comes from exclamation points. Not the points themselves -- the lack of them. Sounds weird, right? If someone is truly happy, I expect, "OMG! That's wonderful! Congrats!" But if someone writes: "That's wonderful news. I'm thrilled for you. Congrats." I don't believe them. And even though it's awful technique, I especially love comments like this, "Wow!! Congrats!! I'm so excited for you!!!!!!!" Silly, I know.

I'm sure I've left some comments that didn't go over well... Haven't we all?

Great post! :-)

ChrisChat said...

Thanks, Lexa.

You know, I've never thought of it...! points...this way before. But, I have to agree...a little. There is a time for them, and we shouldn't be afraid to use them...they work like facial/body language, don't they.

Yup, we all have.

There's nothing wrong with being polite...sincerely polite (oyy, my editor would like that one ;)

Just remember, here at MuseItUp, your query letter won't get you rejected/decline...we've all tried writing those things and they're not easy.

Keep writing and be yourself

Thanks again

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J.Q. Rose said...

When writing a cover/query letter, I always wonder who will actually read it. Is the reader a type A personality, a right brainer or left brainer, inflexible or open-minded? So I try to find a balance between professional and friendly hoping to please EVERYONE! Ha.I wonder if the time of day and the day of a week affects how an acquisitions editor perceives a query letter. Hmmm..except I know you guys work 7 days a week anyway!! Really enjoyed this thoughtful post and all the comments.

Sherry said...

question 1: temperament in a post affects everything. I know I've written things which just came across as terse when I meant them to be funny, but I forced the funny and thus, it was not funny.
I've also read things that came across as terse and thus I felt predisposed not to deal with whatever it was, even if it was reasonable.

question 2: Yes. See answer to question 1.

question 3: Probably our keen desire to get that yes that can come across like a desperate car salesman or over enthusiastic cheerleader...that our nerves might cause us to overpaint or overstate/oversell.