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Delilah S. Dawson @DelilahSDawson
, 22 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Let's talk about something fun in publishing: FOLLOWING THE DANG RULES. 1/
"But Delilah!" you say. "I am a rock star. Rules are not made for me!" And I just kinda laugh, because this outlook will get you nowhere. Every successful writer got where they are by learning the rules and following them until they had enough clout to break them. 2/
When it comes to querying, submitting, pitching, or writing homework, your reaction to the test is part of the test. If they ask for 1000 words, they mean 1000. Maybe 1012. Not 1679. Don't make their life harder; it doesn't make you look fun to work with. 3/
If they ask for 1 chapter in a .doc as an attachment and you copy/paste 3 chapters into your email, that's a huge red flag. If they ask for a first chapter and you cleverly combine your first 3 chapters into a giant, 5k first chapter, WE KNOW. It's a bad look for you. 4/
I don't care if you read that article in Sassy in 1992 that suggested making your resume stand out by writing it on a pair of jeans. The person reading your submission/query has a lot of work to do and they want to work with people who don't make their life harder. 5/
What makes a great professional writer:
1. Mastery of storytelling, plot, character, and theme
2. Hitting deadlines and doing what you say you'll do
3. Being easy to work with/not a diva
What doesn't:
1. Thinking you're the exception to every rule 6/
I teach writing classes, so I only see a slice of what agents/eds must find in their inboxes, but let me tell you: I set parameters, and the students who ignore or flout them are not the ones who level up and get published quicker. 7/
Apply the energy you might use to "stand out" to leveling up. Follow the directions. Absorb the criticism. Carefully consider how to up your game. Spend the time it takes to fix your story. The people who send me 20k first chapters are never the ones who impress me. 8/
Your genius doesn't show in how you get around the rules or attempt to push to the front of the line in publishing. Your genius shows in your voice, in how you twist the trope to delight the reader, in how you sweep me away with words. Put your energy THERE, in the work. 9/
When you break the submission rules, you're saying, "I value my genius over your time and expertise. I will prove you wrong." That is not a statement that makes professionals anxious to work with you. We know it will trickle/gush down into your every interaction/task. 10/
Gimmicks are often a sign that you're not ready to be published, that instead of trusting your story and voice to stand out, you're hoping to hook someone through a performative act. That doesn't work. It's about the story--and if that person wants to work with you for years. 11/
Here are things that do not get a publishing pro's attention in a way that will benefit you:
* sliding a manuscript under the bathroom stall
* pitching in costume/in character
* monopolizing their time at the bar
* mailing the agent/ed a gift
* showing up at their office 12/
Another trick I see that not only doesn't work but actually makes you look bad: When they ask for chapter 1 and you send chapter 16 instead because you think it's the best sample of your writing. No. We want chapter 1. Make it better and send that. 13/
If you are feeling desperate to get noticed while querying/pitching/submitting, and you have an outrageous idea that you are sure will get attention, let me stop you there. You are not the first person to do it. And the agent/ed is DREADING it. You will not impress them. 14/
When it comes to networking, everyone in the area notices if you suck up to agents and eds. That's not how debut book deals happen. Being friendly is great, but you're not gonna sell a book at the bar. Following query guidelines with a reminder of the bar mtg. That's profesh. 15/
Your best bet is to be you, be genuine, and just follow the dang submission rules. It's so obvious when an aspiring writer is in performative mode, seeking out the biggest writer/agent/ed at the con and trying to impress them. Slush works bc it's 100% about the writing. 16/
So what do I mean by "the rules"?
1. Follow the submission guidelines when querying or submitting.
2. Do what you say you're going to do/hit deadlines.
3. Be pleasant to work with.
4. Don't badmouth people/the industry in public.
5. Don't try to jump the line.
6. Be genuine.
17/
And don't say, "I'm friends with X," or "X recommended I contact you," or anything that suggests you have a relationship with someone in publishing when you don't. Meeting someone at a con or chatting on Twitter is NOT a relationship. We always double check such claims. 18/
All this talk of following the rules funnels into the big factor: TRUST. Your agent/ed must be able to trust that you will write a great book, turn it in on time, be easy to work with, and represent them well. Lying, pitching fits, not being able to deliver a story = NOPE. 19/
Must be said: Part of playing by the rules is looking professional when meeting agents or editors in public places. You've gotta be showered, with clean hair, and not wearing something offensive. Probably not a business suit. Be you, of course, but be the best version of you. 20/
And if you're querying, please remember that the gold standard for following the rules when writing a query comes from @QueryShark. I have read every single query there, and I did not write my first query until I'd done so. Janet is doing us a great service. 21/
In conclusion, follow the rules. It shows you'll be easy to work with, you're reasonable, and you don't think you're the exception to every rule. If you truly believe in your book/art, let that show in the work, not in gimmicks or acting out to skip the line. 22/
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