Leave Your Gimmicks At Home

I opened up a submission the other week, and a tennis ball came rolling out. It rolled under my desk and got caught in the wires of my computer. I had to get on all fours to retrieve it. A spider had taken up residence there and darted across my hand in its race to safety. Freaking out, I smacked my head on my desk as I lurched for my own safety of my chair. Can you imagine my frame of mind when I finally got to the submission? To add insult to injury, it was poorly written, and I rejected it immediately. The month before that, I received a chocolate bar. Had it not melted all over the manuscript, rendering it unreadable, I would have eaten it before almost certainly rejecting it.

This sad state of our media driven world has leeched its bad self over to the publishing industry, and authors are under the impression that the more outrageous or unique the presentation, the better. Nothing could be further from the truth. Success deriving from stunts such as these are the exception, not the rule, and no one should confuse the two.

For every story we hear about how Jane Writer got the attention of an editor or agent by having a male stripper deliver the manuscript, or Joe Writer wrapping his manuscript in Christmas wrap, there are thousands whose submission are dumped into the trash unread.

Why do they get tossed? Because we see it for exactly what it is; schlocky and desperate. Friends of mine who are reviewers, agents, and fellow editors have the same complaint.

Submissions 101 teaches a number of Golden Rules. Number 2 is “Never Look Desperate.” Ever. That you’re submitting or querying initiates a forgone conclusion that you want your work read. But for crying out loud, keep a firm grasp on your dignity. Inserting tennis balls, chocolate, sticks of chewing gum, a package of Cheese Whiz, or a Micro Machine does not scream to me, “I’m a serious writer.” It screams that you depend on gimmicks because your writing isn’t up to standards. What’s sad is this many not be the truth at all, but this is what you convey.

Look at it from my point of view; I’m not an ad person, I’m an editor. This means that the only product I review is the manuscript; not tie-in toys or food that you think is cute and will capture my attention. It’s not cute. It’s annoying and unprofessional. Like the tennis ball writer, is this the frame of mind you want an agent or editor to be in when they begin reading your cover letter? Sure, you may happen to find the one in a thousand editors who find this effective. But are you willing to take that chance?

Repeat after me: What you have to sell is your writing. Only your writing.

What’s the Number 1 Rule in Submissions 101? Write a great book.

My recommendation is that you keep your gimmicks for friends and family and stick to presenting a professional demeanor…unless you have access to a male stripper…

3 Responses to Leave Your Gimmicks At Home

  1. luv2write says:


    Sorry, but that’s hilarious! I once read a story where a guy rented a helicopter and flew it around the windows of the publishers with a banner attached to it (crazy!) I can’t say the gimmick approach has ever crossed my mind; since I write police/crime novels I don’t think the publishers would take too well to having a gun/badge/bullets or, worse, a fake corpse in a body bag holding the manuscript, delivered to their offices. A tennis ball? Chocolate bar? I’m assuming the manuscripts weren’t from Anna Kornikova or Willy Wonka so I can see why they were pitched. It’s only my opinion but, I think from here on out you better shake the box before you open it; if it rattles–be safe and call the bomb squad. Best wishes and safe reading!!

  2. Lynn Price says:

    I’d definitely forgive Anna and Willy. Alas, these were from writers who need to do a tad more research about the industry before crossing the street.

    Shaking the package isn’t a bad idea. I also make sure to open them away from my desk and leave the spiders be.

    Note to self: Call Orkin

  3. Anonymous says:

    What??? You mean that new box (that’s brand new!) of the 64 Crayola crayons that I bought especially to use for my query letters isn’t going to help me? Man, you editors are tough. Damn.


Tell me what you really think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: