Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No-Name Submissions by Andy Scheer

Last week I wrote about how titles can help pre-sell your writing. 

But any acquisitions editor also knows the frustration of receiving material from people who fail to  create an appropriate title for the attached documents that contain their queries and proposals.

Consider these titles, a sampling from ones I've received in the past couple weeks:
Full Proposal for Hartline Literary.doc
Book Proposal.doc

Yes, most of these file names at least identify the content's genre. But I get no clue who sent them—or what kind of project they're for. So after downloading the file, I have to rename each one so I can later find them in my computer.

When naming a file to send to an agent or editor, the rule of “reader first” applies. These people receive emails from countless people, so don't camouflage your attachment with an anonymous file name. A title like “Full Proposal for Hartline Literary” may help you identify that document, but in the computer of a Hartline agent, it sticks out like one more penguin on the iceberg.

Instead, I suggest something like this: Becky Smith fiction proposal.doc (assuming your name is Becky Smith and you're proposing a novel) or Ira Roth proposal on Retirement Savings Myths.doc.

I'll let my colleagues check in with their own file name preferences. But my advice is to apply one of those great life principles we all learned in kindergarten: Put your name on your paper.


Normandie Fischer said...

Andy, I'm going to quote you on Wayside's website. I can't tell you how many submissions I receive with the title: Proposal.doc or First three chapters.doc. As if the sender were my only correspondent! And when I ask for more? Full.doc.

Thanks for a well written post on the issue.

Yvonne Blake said...

Thanks for the reminder.
(*raising my guilty hand*)
It's easy to think, "My name is on the email address, so he/she knows who it's from."

Joanne Sher said...

I did a LITTLE better than they did - at least I put my title. Sorry, Andy :) Name next time!

Diana Flegal said...

"one more penguin on the iceberg" Love it and oh so true!
Thank you for sharing this Andy, just another peek at what an Agent experiences that lengthen our days.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Like Diana, I love the "one more penguin on the iceberg." But so true, so true!

Joyce Hart said...

Great post. I have had to throw proposals away because there was no contact information on the cover page or anywhere else. And the file name gave me not a clue. Headers and page numbers on each page of the proposal are important too. Seems elementary, but I have to check every proposal or query that comes in to make sure it has contact information, headers and page numbers

Kathryn Elliott said...

This happens? I live in a bubble. Maybe it stems from my 16 years of Catholic School rule following -but remembering to properly name, save and address a proposal seems like a farily simple task. Then again, we are all human.

Marlene Bagnull said...

Weighing in as a conference director, I've had faculty attach their "Workshop Topics.doc" or "bio.doc" or "photo.jpeg." :(

Wendy Delfosse said...

I know this is quite a late comment but maybe it'll still help someone. :-)

I can certainly understand those titles. I want to be able to identify my files and my name and title doesn't quite identify it to me as well as titling it for say the person to who I'm tailoring it.

My work around is folders. Make a folder for queries or proposals or whatever (with the generic) and then in that folder make subfolders titled by the agents name and inside put the tailored document with the title the agent wants instead of the one you want.