First Impressions and Publishing

Everyone has heard the saying ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression.’ Well, unsurprisingly this is also true in publishing. You only have one chance to show an agent or editor you are serious about writing, that your work is of high quality and that it deserves to be published.

Here are a few examples of when first impressions matter:

  • Submitting your work to editors before you have an agent. This can be problematic if/when it’s rejected and it wasn’t in top form. Depending on the circumstance an agent may have to cross that editor off the list if they’ve already seen it, and even if the agent does resubmit to that editor the first impression has already been spent on a manuscript that wasn’t ready.
  • Submitting your manuscript to agents. First impressions with agents are equally important. If you have the wrong name at the top of your query letter, email an unprofessional rebuttal to your rejection letter, or have glaring mistakes in your manuscript agents will take this into consideration. If you cannot properly address a query letter how will you address a potential editor? If you dispute a rejection from an agent, how will you respond when your editor has revision comments? This all sets the tone for whether an agent wants to work with you and represent you. When an agent submits material on behalf of a client and introduces a client to their editor the agent’s reputation is also involved. We want to work with clients who are professional in their writing and interactions, always.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?
  • NaNoWriMo also known as National Novel Writing Month: Don’t query December 1st if the manuscript is freshly written. You only have once chance to make a first impression with an agent so if the work you’ve been doing over November hasn’t been edited or fully flushed out early December is not the time to query. Save it for when it’s ready.

Take your time, publishing is not a race it’s a long process so use strategy.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

3 thoughts on “First Impressions and Publishing

  1. This is all very useful advice. I think a lot of people tend to forget how important first impressions are, even in the publishing business. They look for professional people, not people who can’t accept simple revisions.

    As for NaNoWriMo, I am participating, but I’m using it to finish a novel I started last December, rather than for the 50,000 words. My estimate is that I’ll end up with roughly 85k (I started NaNoWriMo with 52k). After that, I’ll let it settle for a little while and then buckle down for some heavy editing.


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