You've spent a year working on the masterpiece that's going to catapult you to success as a published author. You've read every sentence five times. You've tweaked and rewritten, corrected the typos and filled a minor plot hole you didn't notice before. If you polished it any more then you'd only be changing, not improving.
The book is ready for submission.
So what do you do with this piece of your soul that you've spent so much time and care on? You print it off any old how, stick it in an envelope and post it to your favourite publisher without even bothering to find out the name of the editor in charge. Why not? Submission guidelines are for wimps. The quality of the writing will speak for itself.
It sounds crazy, yet it seems to be what many writers do. I've heard countless publishers and agents say, over and over again, that a large proportion of the submissions they receive don't follow the guidelines they set out. And what happens to those submissions? They go in the bin. There's no point even considering working with a writer who doesn't have the courtesy to follow simple instructions.
I'm always amazed by these stories. I can't understand why someone would spend so many hours of their life writing a book, then not be willing to spend just one more hour making sure they're supplying it in the format required. And it doesn't stop there. People write covering letters with spelling mistakes in them. They produce synopses that are stilted and confusing. They don't even bother to find out which agencies and publishers are interested in their genre.
All this is a mystery to me. It's like baking the world's best cake, then covering it in sloppy icing and presenting it in a battered old cardboard box. Why wouldn't you give your book the best possible chance to shine? Your chances of being picked up by a publisher are slim enough already, without giving them ready-made reasons to reject you.
I've been talking about the traditional publishing route, but the same principles apply to self-publishing. Taking the time to create (or have created) a polished-looking cover, writing a blurb without errors, formatting your text so that it looks right on Kindle and epub as well as in print - all these things are part of showing yourself to be a professional author.
Because that's the point. Whatever route we're taking with our books, or hoping to take, none of us like being thought of as amateurs who dabble in literature in our spare time. We're professional writers, and that means we ought to act accordingly. From how we behave in chat rooms to how we deal with rejection, we're presenting ourselves to the world in a certain way. And if we want other people to take what we do seriously, it's time we started taking it seriously ourselves.
The A to Z Challenge continues tomorrow.