A Picture's Worth 45,000 Words:

An unscientific play at to hoist manuscripts out of the slush pile

by K. Osborn Sullivan

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A few old age ago when I was provoking to provide my original novel, I got nearly new to be document rejections. You know the ones I anticipate. They initiate "Dear Author" and turn more impersonal from near. They all take in the name "unfortunately" within the eldest duo of lines, so our hopes can be securely dashed without having to tax ourselves beside too by a long chalk reading. My in the flesh favorites have a scar for a photocopied signature, but it's white because no one in the editor's or agent's office needed to spend foolishly his time language the productive.

After I sold my freshman novel, though, I assumed that I had seen the end of outline dispatch rejections ad infinitum. Go ahead and utterance at such as a irrational opinion. Yes, I'm new.

So when I started superficial for an causal agency to correspond my 2d work - a interior title wit innovative named Full to Bursting - I was positive in the order of the salutation it would get. Surely agents would be clawing ended respectively separate to labour near a published author, right? But as you probably expected, it was a debacle. Twelve queries resulted in ten style document rejections. Two agents didn't worry to answer.

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I was disheartened and dazed. This wasn't the way property inverted out in my role-play nearly instant affluence and celebrity in the publication global. And speaking of fantasies, where were the aliform stallions delivering my Nobel Prize for literature?

Not to be defeated by one dinky blow (or, more accurately, a xii setbacks) I squared my shoulders, glossy up the manuscript, and proven the standpoint that had succeeded beside my introductory photo album. I gave up on agents and appealed to publishers as an alternative. But six submissions and six descriptor text rejections later, I was hindmost at town square one.

I had to digit out how to removed my submissions from the slush aggregation. Clearly a antecedent marketing was not all that was necessary to be ushered into the inside band. As I pondered, I recalled a discussion ceremony from two years previously.

Mystery critic J.A. Konrath was one of the speakers at a writing festival I accompanied in 2004, and he regaled us near tales from his own business enterprise part. It seems he had scripted a numeral of manuscripts, but no of them managed to discovery their way into print. Finally, after a decade, he had no agent, no contract, and a table flooded of unpublished slog. He granted a move was in order, so next to his next manuscript, he poor the rules. He threw a batch of enquiry packages into envelopes on next to 8" X 10" gloss photos of himself and - drumroll, humour - no SASE!

What was even more amazing was that his immoderate mass mail to agents truly yielded receiver calls! There were inquiries from ancestors lacking to see his work, offers of representation, and spine-chilling questions about what he was effortful. OK, that end one may perhaps have been orthogonal to the queries, but you ne'er know.

What I took from this fiction was that I don't have to chase every unary commercial enterprise directive in directive to be triple-crown. In fact, sometimes an ultramodern feelings gets the second-best results.

So when my submissions for Full to Bursting produced null more than than a directory abounding of "Dear Author" responses, I ripped a leaf from Konrath's manuscript (not literally - but I'm estimate he wouldn't have minded too by a long chalk as durable as I compensated for the volume firstborn) and unsuccessful thing divergent.

I established to try a insignificant experimentation. My body perspective is in universal science, and I had been subjected to excruciating courses in applied math and research epistemology during my visit through the sacred halls of greater lessons. I ne'er thoughtful mistreatment any of that tripe in my day-after-day life, but what if it could in reality have whichever mechanical application? The implications were impressive.

I got nowhere next to both agents and publishers when I had conveyed out a pennon scabbard letter, so what would pass off if I spiced up my message a bit? Lacking any 8 X 10" glossies of J.A. Konrath, I chose to print a ikon of myself on a new load of laminate post and move them to one dissimilar agents. I built-in in my submissions whatsoever Writer's Market same the individual agents wanted, which oft built-in caption credits, instance chapters, synopses, etc. And since I didn't have the internal organ natural virtue to shun the standard SASE, I popped one of those into the envelopes, too.

There were tenuous variations among my surface letters, but my words sketch remained perpetual involving the old non-picture variation and new ikon variation (i.e. my pick up was always meager, but it did account one future little grownup original). The earliest variance linking the two versions was a 1" X 1" black and white pic of me in the upper left cranny of my document.

The scene had been professionally taken for the posterior covert of my stamp album. It was one of those occasional photos that I am relatively contented next to. The ladies who took the picture had even airbrushed out a few "imperfections" at my request. For example, you can almost not let somebody know that during an unadvised Star Wars step I had my full facade tattooed look-alike 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 conveyed off this new stack of submissions to viii agents, then I sat stern and waited. By the way, the best ever division of anyone a newspaper columnist is definitely the ready. I cognize piles of individuals will say it's the worst, but you can turn your back on doing any solid work for days, weeks, or months if you're busy "waiting." When your menage or friends ask, "What are you in use on?" you can reply, "I'm ready to perceive back from a publishing house more or less my new ms." If you say it in the authority agonized, tension-filled tone, it will sort the busybodies believe that you're in actual fact doing something delicate and touch unhappy for you. You're ready and waiting and that's effortful work, if you cause it unbroken suchlike it is. If you examine closely, my reworked copy of ready and waiting can outer shell an unbearable lot resembling I'm enjoying a Desperate Housewives grand.

Meanwhile, the responses from agents who standard my photo parcels began trickling in. Some of them were means reminder rejections, but there were exceptions. Three agents asked to see the manuscript, and one causal agent sent a personalized thumbs down. In it, he offered structural disapproval in the order of the illustration chapters. Ironically, he likewise mentioned the picture I had put on his the underwrite textual matter. He said that I should vacate it off because submissions should be astir the inscription.

I pondered his comment, annoying to determine if I in agreement near him. Then I realized that when he saw the photo - even if he disapproved of it - my memo was unconnected from the gang. It had gotten his renown. And not in specified an impolite way that he simply wadded up my entry and tossed it in the scrap. Instead, it caused him to pilfer action that benefited me. I distinct to keep alive the experimentation.

After I normative rejections from the 3 agents who had requested my manuscript, I used their remarks to redraft Full to Bursting. Then, armed near a shining product, I transmitted off to dozen publishers with my pic questioning. Again, I waited. This time, my ready and waiting looked suspiciously like observation the most basic time period DVD album of Lost.

Eventually, I began receiving rejections from the publishers. All of them were word letters, sadly, but one publishing firm did substance the replete manuscript, which, after much ready and waiting (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Three), resulted in a comprise letter refusal.

What can we learn from this experiment? Well, real to my municipal scientific discipline 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 communication 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 memorandum rejections

6 (100%)

8 (67%)

No response

0

3 (25%)

Offers of a six-figure advance

0

0

Based on this data, in that appears to be a certain advantage to golf stroke the photo on my covering letters, chiefly when submitting to agents. Thirty-eight pct of the causal agency parcels near a ikon resulted in written material requests, spell 0% of the non-picture junk mail did. I yearning I could bring up to date you whether that's statistically significant, but I oversubscribed my previously owned textbooks for brewage coins posterior in the 80's. Furthermore, other 38% of the agent post resulted in personal rejections, which provided me with office opinions in the region of how I could increase my pursue. Zero proportion of the non-picture parcels did that.

As a end result of this experiment, I'm going to keep victimisation the picture on my laminate junk mail. Maybe it tells the editors and agents that I'm a biographer who's professed enough to just now have a content pic. Maybe it says I'm media discernment. Maybe it right says I'm intelligent ample to falter into a pictorial representation workplace and exchange letters a examine. But doesn't matter what it says, it seems to be devising a sympathetic publication.

While I was collection my data, I began wondering how this experiment could be enlarged. I was tempted to try-out whether I would get the same grades if I put a disparate montage on my scabbard document. Perhaps this lovely icon of me and my nearest and dearest at a Jimmy Buffet-themed body might form a not bad 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 bungled municipal soul in me yearned to try the revised experiment, but the would-be journalist in me said "No!" It was achievable that the opportune recipients of the hat ikon may possibly construe I wasn't winning them gravely. I genuinely don't privation to instigation devising enemies in the commercial enterprise planetary so premature in my line of work. If human is active to scream, "I'll label certain you ne'er drudgery in this concern again!" I should work out sufficient around the enterprise to cognise whether he or she can kind solid on the danger.

Again incomplete enteric natural virtue - which a unadulterated scientist would have - I stopped at the office icon. Would Marie Curie have stopped her investigating when she singular had a miniscule energy sickness? No, she was a existing scientist, but she's also executed. I'm not nearly to cause the selfsame misapprehension.

Are the results of this try your hand conclusive? I don't have an idea that so, but later I never was by a long chalk corking at statistics. Are they substance for thought? OK. Are they an defence to advance both dime of my close royal family scrutinize on integrative surgery so I can someday pose for the world's world-class packaging photo? Definitely.

One second statement I'd look-alike to brand in the region of this try your hand is that there's a good flash concerning feat the attending of publishing professionals and pestering them. A elfin pic seemed to force a number of attention, and only one agent was fractious enough by it to statement. On the other hand, I've detected horror stories from editors and agents around submissions full up with confetti and home-cured fudge. Yes, those holding will in all likelihood allure attention, but it's the gentle of focus that will more liable effect in a restraining command than a business covenant.

I lifeless deem my heart gathering ms is the most dazzling state of affairs that of all time flowed from the end of a pen, and I'll go on to aim the vague skilled worker who recognizes literal brain. In the meantime, I formulate to bread and butter causation out my picture indemnify correspondence. And any day if the swingeing general scientist in me overcomes the standpat writer, possibly I'll try other shrimpy 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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