Spelling and neatness count. How often have we heard about the editor who automatically rejects any query that has her name misspelled on the address line? Or the agent who despises typos in the first three chapters because it shows the writer didn't take the time to proofread? And really, can you blame them? If you don't care to send out your very best work, why should they care to represent you?
Mind your manners. Ah, yes, the very first anecdote that comes to mind here is the wanna-be writer who slipped her manuscript under the bathroom stall to get an editor's attention. Some in the writing community dismiss this as urban legend, others swear it really happened. Regardless, would you look twice at a work that was delivered to you in this bizarre fashion? Would you buy a car from the salesman who slipped a set of keys under the stall and insisted you take a test drive just as soon as you pulled up your pants? 'Nuff said.
Do your homework. Whether you write historicals set in ancient Rome or contemporaries set in a Wall Street boardroom, research is a writer's best friend and nemesis at the same time. It's a necessary evil. Trust me, if your hero ties the wrong knot in his toga or invests in the wrong currency market in Ecuador, there'll be a reader out there who knows it. Learn how to find the information you need and don't ever think you can slide by with a little bluffing. If Mrs. Kellogg could see through the con jobs in your essays, you can bet Ms. Regular Romance Reader will see through it in your novels, too!
If you don't understand something, ask. Romance writers are the most supportive, generous people in any career field. And thanks to the Internet and hundreds of listserves available at the click of a mouse, if you need help, you can find it in no time. For an obscure example, you could pose the question, "What did the caveman wear when his only outfit was in the laundry?" I guarantee someone somewhere in the world who writes Neanderthal romances will have an answer for you within twenty-four hours. Want to know about a specific agent or editor? Post a question on one of the numerous links available. You'll get everything but their hat size!
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