from the mixed up files of Agent Manners – old connections

Dear Miss Manners,

An acquaintance from college with whom I am no longer in close contact is an assistant editor at an imprint that publishes the kind of books I wish to publish. I would love to send her a copy of my manuscript, but am unsure if this is a good idea, or how best to do so. Do you have any advice on how best to leverage this stroke of good fortune?


Hopeful in New York

Dear Hopeful:

One can certainly appreciate the temptation to use any advantage in the competitive world of publishing where submissions vastly outnumber available publishing spots, particularly for new writers.

Agent Manners has had this experience herself, and numbers among inquiries received: ex-boyfriends, former professors held in great esteem, childhood friends of siblings, and so on. In Agent Manners’ experience, a professional letter which casually mentions the past connection in passing is the most considerate approach. This gives the other person the opportunity to respond without any awkward feelings with regard to expectation, and also the ability to judge the work on its own merits. To presume upon the relationship (former, or otherwise) can put unwanted and unwarranted pressure on the individual in question, and cause the opposite effect desired.

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