For any unpublished writer the submission process eventually becomes a headache. Exactly how many submissions do you send out, and to whom, and how, and why, and when, and what. And oh yeah–did I say what???
Now, I hope you had a little laugh, because you’re going to need that light relief as you battle through the process of perfecting your submission. Below I have addressed these issues briefly because there is a ton of helpful advice floating out there on the web, but in a nutshell this is the way I see it.
Firstly, the “Query Letter.” This is a nice and precise letter addressed to the literary agent, and I mean personally addressed to the agent with their full name. This means you need to do your research on the agency and only submit to an agent who is looking for exactly what you’re selling. Now google or bing a search on “query letters” and see what everyone else is writing, because at this point in the game, you’ve got to stick to the status quo. Don’t go reinventing the query letter, because there is a standard and you must meet it.
Secondly, the “Synopsis.” This is sometimes referred to as the “sucknopsis,”–clearly because it’s incredibly sucky to write. Basically what you have to do is chop down your novel into easy to read paragraphs, ensuring your synopsis comes out at around 5-8 pages. (Ironically I always had 9, so don’t fret if you go a fraction over or under.) Now, when I say your novel is chopped down, I truly mean it. You must include the entire story’s plot, and don’t leave the ending out as a lure. Within these 5-8 pages the agent needs to be able to grasp the entire story from beginning to end and feel satisfied that they know exactly what’s going to happen within your book. Again google or bing a search on “synopsis” and see how other winning ones are written. Do not veer away from the norm.
Thirdly, the “Manuscript.” Please edit, edit, edit. No typos, and follow the industry’s standard protocols for 1 inch margins and double spacing, along with Times New Roman typeface. No pictures, no colors, no fancy gimmicks. Have your name and title of the book and recurring page numbers within a defined header at the top of every page. Do a search on “formatting your manuscript” to get this right.
Now, if there’s any advice I would have loved to have received, it would have been within the field of writing in POV 3rd person,and DEEP POV 3rd person. There is a distinct line between the two, and your work must be either written one way or the other, not a variation of both. Please search “DEEP POV 3rd” to discover the differences. Also a major no-no is Head-hopping. Sure, there are well-known authors out there who head-hop, but don’t go there. If you move from the heroine’s POV to the hero’s, ensure you section mark the change with **** and do not head-hop within these scenes you write. Again do a search on “head-hopping” for further clarification.
And lastly, I would recommend you begin submitting to around a dozen agents, following each agency’s submission guidelines to the precise letter, and of course you will find these on their websites without any problem. Once you start seeing some responses (and expect the negatives because that is inevitable) then begin the second round of 12. While you’re waiting for a positive response begin working on your next novel, and the next, and the next. Don’t stop writing, because what you’ll find is your work improves over time. You may even go back to an earlier manuscript and touch it up and begin the submission process on it all over again. For a good search tool on agents I used www.agentquery.com although there are many others out there, so have a good look around.
In writing this post, I’m hoping to provide the basics, because in truth I could write ten pages on the submission process due to how in-depth it is–so let your fingers do the walking and use the web as your guide. Check out what your favorite authors say regarding their road to publication, and soak in the information. For me, my first yes took three years–but I’ll tell you what, it was totally worth the journey. I’m so pleased with how my writing has developed, and I’m sure you will be with yours too. So in closing, if you have any particular queries, just use the comment feature below and I’ll be sure to respond.
The best of luck everyone! And I truly mean that!