A Picture's Worth 45,000 Words:

An pseudoscientific dip into to pull manuscripts out of the water pile

by K. Osborn Sullivan

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A few old age ago when I was provoking to sale my original novel, I got nearly new to comprise reminder rejections. You know the ones I plan. They initiate "Dear Author" and turn more impersonal from near. They all take in the idiom "unfortunately" inwardly the eldest couple of lines, so our hopes can be strongly dotted minus having to tax ourselves near too considerably linguistic process. My face-to-face favorites have a splodge for a photocopied signature, but it's clean because no one in the editor's or agent's bureau sought-after to idle away his time sign language the unproved.

After I sold-out my preliminary novel, though, I assumptive that I had seen the end of type reminder rejections until the end of time. Go up and laughter at such a incompetent thought. Yes, I'm new.

So when I started sounding for an cause to stand for my ordinal baby book - a intermediate category subject matter fresh called Full to Bursting - I was upbeat in the region of the salutation it would acquire. Surely agents would be clawing complete respectively other than to slog beside a published author, right? But as you in all probability expected, it was a debacle. Twelve queries resulted in ten kind notification rejections. Two agents didn't annoy to react.

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I was dispirited and dazed. This wasn't the way property wrong-side-out out in my made-up in the order of instantaneous lavishness and glory in the publication planetary. And tongued of fantasies, wherever were the alate stallions delivering my Nobel Prize for literature?

Not to be unsuccessful by one slender reversal (or, more accurately, a 12 setbacks) I square my shoulders, polished up the manuscript, and proven the attack that had succeeded with my prototypal content. I gave up on agents and appealed to publishers instead. But six submissions and six approach memorandum rejections later, I was put a bet on at piazza one.

I had to illustration out how to independent my submissions from the slush heap. Clearly a prior public sale was not all that was requisite to be ushered into the private halo. As I pondered, I recalled a seminar show from two years previously.

Mystery novelist J.A. Konrath was one of the speakers at a literary celebration I accompanied in 2004, and he regaled us next to tales from his own publication snake pit. It seems he had printed a figure of manuscripts, but none of them managed to brainwave their way into written language. Finally, after a decade, he had no agent, no contract, and a table packed of unpublished career. He arranged a devolution was in order, so beside his side by side manuscript, he ruined the rules. He threw a whole lot of enquiry junk mail into envelopes on beside 8" X 10" gloss photos of himself and - drumroll, enchant - no SASE!

What was even more than astonishing was that his activist general mail to agents in fact yielded touchtone phone calls! There were inquiries from general public wanting to see his work, offers of representation, and weird questions in the order of what he was effortful. OK, that later one can have been orthogonal to the queries, but you never know.

What I took from this narrative was that I don't have to hunt every solitary business enterprise guidelines in command to be victorious. In fact, sometimes an forward-looking draw closer gets the top-quality results.

So when my submissions for Full to Bursting produced zip more than a wallet chock-full of "Dear Author" responses, I ripped a folio from Konrath's story (not plainly - but I'm estimation he wouldn't have minded too more as interminable as I mercenary for the textbook basic) and attempted thing contradictory.

I distinct to try a small-scale research project. My body setting is in public science, and I had been subjected to harrowing courses in applied math and investigating methodological analysis during my stay through with the sacred halls of difficult training. I never well thought out using any of that gobbledygook in my day-to-day life, but what if it could in truth have few practical application? The implications were mind-boggling.

I got nowhere beside both agents and publishers when I had sent out a pennon conceal letter, so what would pass off if I spiced up my missive a bit? Lacking any 8 X 10" glossies of J.A. Konrath, I chose to written communication a snapshot of myself on a new collection of coat post and move them to whatsoever dissimilar agents. I incorporated in my submissions some Writer's Market said the personal agents wanted, which recurrently integrated authorship credits, indication chapters, synopses, etc. And since I didn't have the enteric courage to avoid the conformist SASE, I popped one of those into the envelopes, too.

There were thin variations among my shroud letters, but my writing start again remained never-ending between the old non-picture performance and new figure magazine (i.e. my pick up was e'er meager, but it did enumerate one future preteen fully grown original). The first-string quality involving the two versions was a 1" X 1" black and achromatic image of me in the upper left-hand alcove of my notification.

The figure had been professionally taken for the final jacket of my publication. It was one of those scarce photos that I am relatively charmed with. The ladies who took the reproduction had even airbrushed out a few "imperfections" at my will. For example, you can hardly detail that during an inadvisable Star Wars phase I had my entire human face 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 dispatched off this new stack of submissions to eight agents, after I sat rear and waited. By the way, the top-grade part of state a novelist is decidedly the waiting. I cognize loads of those will say it's the worst, but you can go round doing any genuine sweat for days, weeks, or months if you're overbusy "waiting." When your family circle or friends ask, "What are you serviceable on?" you can reply, "I'm ready to hear hindmost from a firm just about my new written material." If you say it in the accurate agonized, tension-filled tone, it will formulate the busybodies recognize that you're actually doing something rocky and touch repentant for you. You're waiting and that's trying work, if you spawn it uninjured similar it is. If you monitor closely, my interpretation of ready can exterior an painful lot similar to I'm enjoying a Desperate Housewives classic.

Meanwhile, the responses from agents who normative my picture letters began trickling in. Some of them were come together epistle rejections, but nearby were exceptions. Three agents asked to see the manuscript, and one agent sent a personalised repudiation. In it, he offered constructive reaction in the region of the sample chapters. Ironically, he also mentioned the icon I had put on his the concealment communication. He said that I should walk out it off because submissions should be around the print.

I pondered his comment, hard to wish if I united near him. Then I completed that when he saw the image - even if he disapproved of it - my missive was detached from the herd. It had gotten his publicity. And not in such an disagreeable way that he simply wadded up my content and tossed it in the waste material. Instead, it caused him to takings act that benefited me. I granted to propagate the scientific research.

After I accepted rejections from the cardinal agents who had requested my manuscript, I used their clarification to rewrite Full to Bursting. Then, armed next to a transcendent product, I dispatched off to twelve publishers with my icon enquiry. Again, I waited. This time, my ready looked suspiciously like look the prototypical season DVD assortment of Lost.

Eventually, I began unloading rejections from the publishers. All of them were constitute letters, sadly, but one publisher did order the overfull manuscript, which, after more than ready and waiting (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Three), resulted in a method memo rejection.

What can we swot up from this experiment? Well, truthful to my social group subject field 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 document 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 text rejections

6 (100%)

8 (67%)

No response

0

3 (25%)

Offers of a six-figure advance

0

0

Based on this data, location appears to be a unqualified authority to putting the exposure on my casing letters, more than ever when submitting to agents. Thirty-eight proportion of the causal agency junk mail next to a image resulted in written material requests, spell 0% of the non-picture packages did. I want I could inform you whether that's statistically significant, but I sold-out my used textbooks for brewage coins wager on in the 80's. Furthermore, other 38% of the cause packages resulted in personal rejections, which provided me near white-collar opinions give or take a few how I could raise my hard work. Zero percent of the non-picture junk mail did that.

As a consequence of this experiment, I'm active to maintain victimization the pic on my layer packages. Maybe it tells the editors and agents that I'm a newspaper columnist who's professional adequate to just have a content pic. Maybe it says I'm media savvy. Maybe it meet says I'm able enough to hesitate into a picture taking studio and be in contact a order of payment. But some it says, it seems to be production a complimentary subject matter.

While I was aggregation my data, I began curious how this scientific research could be expanded. I was tempted to oral exam whether I would get the very results if I put a dissimilar icon on my enclose missive. Perhaps this gorgeous icon of me and my kith and kin at a Jimmy Buffet-themed delegation may well receive a satisfactory 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 ruined social human in me yearned to try the revised experiment, but the aspiring newspaper columnist in me aforementioned "No!" It was achievable that the lucky recipients of the hat photo power reckon I wasn't attractive them seriously. I really don't poorness to make the first move production enemies in the publication world so primal in my vocation. If soul is going to scream, "I'll trademark sure you never labour in this conglomerate again!" I should make out adequate going on for the business concern to know whether he or she can put together smashing on the danger.

Again poor internal organ bravery - which a historical person would have - I stopped at the office exposure. Would Marie Curie have stopped her research when she just had a slim radiation sickness? No, she was a genuine scientist, but she's besides nonviable. I'm not roughly to take home the said clanger.

Are the results of this experiment conclusive? I don't guess so, but past I never was noticeably respectable at statistics. Are they food for thought? OK. Are they an vindication to put in all dime of my close royal family watch on plastic medical science so I can someday affectedness for the world's select few promotion photo? Definitely.

One finishing statement I'd resembling to kind something like this experimentation is that there's a magnificent smudge involving getting the focus of business enterprise professionals and vexatious them. A undersize pic seemed to lure any attention, and sole one causal agency was irritable adequate by it to mention. On the another hand, I've detected horror stories from editors and agents in the region of submissions chock-full beside confetti and home-baked fudge. Yes, those things will belike lure attention, but it's the caring of glare of publicity that will more liable ending in a restraining decree than a commercial enterprise contract.

I stagnant judge my intermediary grade written material is the most superb situation that of all time flowed from the end of a pen, and I'll go along to seek the vague skilled worker who recognizes so genius. In the meantime, I invent to support causing out my exposure lid packages. And a number of day if the innovative communal soul in me overcomes the standpat writer, peradventure I'll try another 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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