This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to getting published. However, I will offer some material that supplements the ideas discussed in my program, "How I Kept My Day Job and Became a Published Author—and You Can, Too!"
Shaping Your Query
I once bought a book that promised to reveal all the secrets of manuscript formatting, but, unfortunately, I found out the hard way that it was riddled with errors. It's important to remember that presentation is important but ultimately counts for less than content. If your query is succinct, your grammar is good, and your idea seems promising, you will probably be forgiven for having uneven margins. A few rules of thumb:
- Single-space query letters, double-space manuscripts
- Margins should be at least 1" wide, wider if possible
- No funny fonts, ever
- Query letters should fit on one page
- Never send a whole manuscript unless you are asked to do so
- Know who you're writing to, and why
- Don't use hyperbole to try to make an agent enthusiastic about your idea. A good idea, well executed, will make them enthusiastic.
The following samples may or may not be "by the book," but they've worked fine for me:
Submitting Your Work
NEW! If you want to steel yourself for the inevitable first rejections, send yourself a rejection letter.
NEW! In "10,000 Hours (Failed Writer Series #11)," Yuri Zalkow has some great thoughts about the balance between submitting your work and actually writing.
On Galleycat's Media Beat, Johnny Temple of Akashic Books talks about the importance of joining the literary community and says that the best way to submit is to do an "end-around": get your manuscript to him via someone who knows him. Sounds a lot like the Literary Ecosystem to me....