There are two major pieces of advice I can offer to any writer when it comes to submissions:
1 – Proofread. Have someone else proofread. Proofread again.
2 – Read and follow ALL submission guidelines.
These two steps can save you from automatic rejections before an editor/agent even gets past the first five pages.
Editors realize writers are human and sometimes typos happen. But if your query letter and summary are riddled with grammatical errors and misspellings, odds are the editor/agent isn’t going to bother to read your manuscript it. And above all else, make sure you spell the name of the editor/agent/publishing company correctly.
Submission guidelines exist for a reason. Agents, editors and publishing companies expect you to read them and comply with them. Usually submission guides are three-fold: guidelines on what the editor/agent/publisher is looking for, accepts or will represent; how they want you to send the submission; and formatting guidelines.
The first part is extremely important. Do not waste your time and the time of an agent/editor/publisher by sending a manuscript that doesn’t fit the posted criteria. If they don’t represent fantasy, do not send an agent your latest vampire novel, no matter how literary you think it may be.
Try to familiarize yourself with the agent/editor/publisher. What other titles have they acquired/represented? What authors do they represent? Does your manuscript fit in? Is it a genre they publish/represent? If it is a literary journal, check out a back issue to see if your story is appropriate. Also pay attention to word count. If they only publish flash fiction, don’t send your 3,000 word story.
People in publishing can get annoyed when writers don’t bother to read the submission guides and send work that isn’t appropriate for them. Don’t get into the crapshoot mentality of thinking that even though your manuscript isn’t what they typically represent/acquire, that the agent/editor will fall deeply in love with it that they will just have to grab it up. It won’t happen, because they won’t read it if it doesn’t fit the type of work they represent/are looking to acquire. You are better off spending your time looking for agents/editors who are appropriate for your manuscript then simply blanketing the publishing world.
The second part of submission guidelines usually entails preferred formatting submission. Sometimes these rules are extremely detailed in regards to fonts, margins, spacing, point size, etc. Sometimes, they simply say use Times New Roman and double space.
If you are submitting work to someone who has a list of formatting rules, be sure to follow them exactly. The publisher/editor/agent has reasons for this and some will summarily reject your work if you don’t abide by these rules.
Editors/Agents/Publishers also specify how they want to receive a manuscript. Some use online submission programs, others request attached documents in a specific format, and still others may want a hardcopy mailed. Whatever the agent/editor/publisher states is their preference, follow it.
Remember, first impressions count. Don’t do yourself a disservice by setting yourself up for an automatic rejection by not having another set of eyes look over your manuscript or by not taking a few minutes to read and adhere to submission guidelines.
Finding the right editor/agent/publisher is worth the extra effort.