This is a guest post by author Lynda Rees
SUBMISSION PROCESS: 7 Things New Authors Should Know Before Submitting
1) How to write a killer synopsis.
A synopsis is a one-to-two page double spaced pages which gives a complete overview of the key elements and conflicts of your story as well as how they are resolved. It should be concise and direct and in present tense, whether your manuscript is in present or past tense. The title and author name should be the title. For example: Synopsis: Gold Lust Conspiracy by Lynda Rees.
Who—name main characters, hero and heroine as quickly in the description as possible. For example, in Gold Lust Conspiracy a marriage of convenience left Jessie Blackstone a young widow with virile lumberjack, Logan Pace in her employee.
What—description of the storyline. For example: In Gold Lust Conspiracy Jessie is taxed with instigating the Alaskan Gold Rush and caring for many people depending on her for their livelihood.
When—timeline of the story. For example: Gold Lust Conspiracy was set in the 1890’s at the end of the California Gold Rush and beginning of the Alaskan Gold Rush.
Where—set location of the story. For example: In Gold Lust Conspiracy Jessie lands in savage, lawless Skagway, Alaska facing severe weather, brutal landscape, her sordid past, and a growing attraction to virile lumberjack Logan Pace. She must learn to thrive in a man’s hostile business world
2) Composing a winning query letter.
A query is a business letter to an agent or publisher. This is an extremely busy professional who may enhance your business writing future greatly. It should be crafted carefully and stay in a business manner. It’s okay to be crafty, funny or creative, but keep it to the bare minimum and only where it shows your personality without interfering with the professional presentation. The inquiry should follow strict formatting, so it won’t waste the time of the receiver searching for pertinent information.
Address it Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. and the person’s last name:
If you had previous contact with the agent/publisher in person or writing, remind them that they asked to see sample chapters, your manuscript, or whatever they agreed to look at for you.
The first paragraph should explain why you are writing them. Give the number words, genre and type book you wrote and tell them if it is finished. Explain why you picked them in particular to query and what you want from them. This requires research to learn about the person, their likes, dislikes, and want list. Example:
Dear Ms. Agent:
I would like you to represent my completed 92,929 word, historical romance fiction, Gold Lust Conspiracy. I understand you enjoy great stories with strong protagonists and narratives. I believe you will enjoy Gold Lust Conspiracy.
I wish to form a long-term relationship with an agent who can help sell my work to a big-name publisher. I am seeking someone who will take my work seriously as I do. You sound like that sort of agent.
The next paragraph or two short paragraphs should give a strong, short blurb about your story. Example:
Sold to wealthy Everett Blackstone in a marriage of convenience, Jessie seeks respectability, home and family. His slave, she caters to his brutal whims. He drags her north to unsettled Alaskan frontier to perpetrate an elaborate hoax—the Alaskan Gold Rush. Widowed in a violent confrontation, Jessie becomes responsible for the welfare of many depending on her for livelihood in lawless Skagway, and she must gain respect in a hostile man’s world. A growing attraction to virile Logan Pace, a lumberjack in her employ, is undeniable. Before allowing herself true love, Jessie must find independence and forgive the sins of her past.
Write a paragraph about your publishing career. Include experience, awards and professional memberships. Think of this as a paragraph of resume information.
I am a freelance writer, member of RWA and several RWA chapters. I wrote advertising copy and training manuals for Procter & Gamble, publish a newsletter and manage a website. I left a global transportation and marketing career to pursue writing romance. I have seven published romance novels at this time. One is an award winning historical romance. The others are romantic suspense.
Explain what you are including and how, and what action you want them to take. Be sure to tailor the attachments and insertions to what they request on their profile. The best place to find this is on their website.
Inserted below are a brief synopsis of Gold Lust Conspiracy, my BIO and the first three chapters of my manuscript.
I hope you enjoy it and the story interests you. I look forward to sharing my manuscript with you. Thank you for your time and consideration. Let’s talk soon.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
website : http://www.lyndareesauthor.com
3) Agent or publishing house?
Many small-press publishers now allow authors to direct submit. Most large-press publishers do not. Keep in mind that if you are offered a contract, you are on your own or you must hire an entertainment lawyer to help you through the negotiation and contract phase. This can be a slippery slope with long-lasting consequences if not handled properly.
4) Who to submit to?
If you belong to a professional writing organization, you have access to lists of viable agents, their companies and publishers. Go through these and research the ones that look like good fits. Best place to check is their online websites. These are generally up-to-date with accurate information and submission requirements. Follow instructions to a fault, or your submission will be tossed aside. They are looking for professionals who will do their end of the work. So do the background work and choose who to submit to wisely.
5) What happens now?
Usually an agency or publisher website details approximately how long it takes them to get through their slush pile to review your manuscript. This can be anywhere from two days to six months.
Don’t sit and wait. Submit to others at the same time. Unless they detail in the instructions they don’t take multiple submissions, they expect you to be submitting to others. Keep records of who you submitted to, what and when. Note when you expect an answer. Many of them explain that they do not answer at all unless they wish to see more of your work or contract it. So if you haven’t heard from them in six months, they probably didn’t want it. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes it’s the work, but sometimes it’s the market, genre, their backlog, or they are looking for something different.
If an agent or publisher takes the time to provide you feedback it’s a gift. Use it wisely. They see potential in you. These folks are totally swamped and don’t waste their time giving individual feedback unless they see merit in doing it. So be grateful. Be professional. Thank them for their response, regardless whether it’s a form letter or detailed feedback note.
6) Handling the agent call.
The call finally comes. “I’m interested in representing your and your manuscript Gold Lust Conspiracy. Can we chat to get to know each other and see if we’re a good fit?”
“Of course,” you say, swallowing the lump in your throat and stifling the urge to jump up and down.
“So I assume you’ve shopped it around to other publishers/agents. If we form a working relationship, I would expect you to notify them the book is under representation. Are you planning more books? I’d like to understand your marketing experience and knowledge.”]
They will tell you something about them and maybe offer client referrals. You should ask if they don’t provide them. Ask any pertinent business questions you have about them, the way they work with clients, what plans they have for your work, and anything you don’t understand about the company. They will Google you and check your online profile and website/blog if you have one. It is assumed authors will have pre-established some type of online forum if they are expecting to publish. If things go well, you might schedule time to get together in person during the next few weeks.
If representation is offered, they will send you a boilerplate contract. Take what time you need to review it, have an attorney go over it and get questions answered by the agent/publisher on the terms, rights and conditions. What exactly do they want? Worldwide rights, English speaking countries, US only, eBook and print, audio, etc. This is when you ask for changes, removals of clauses or additions. Their boilerplate is designed to give them the best deal, not to protect you.
If you accept their offer, it should be pretty straight forward. However be sure to ask any questions you have about timing, process, money, payments, liquidity of the company and their marketing plans for your work. Most companys put little to no marketing toward unknown, first-time published authors.
Be sure to celebrate the call when it comes and the contract when signed. This is exciting.
7) Is Indi-Publishing for me?
Maybe, maybe not—and this may change as your career progresses. Traditional publishing has its perks and drawbacks, the same as Indi-Publishing does. Indi-Publishing is not difficult, but it is time consuming and a process that requires learning specific skills either for you or someone you hire to help, or surrounding yourself with a team of professionals who do well what you don’t choose to do for yourself. These can be editors, copyeditors, illustrators, cover artists, formatters, public relations experts, marketing companies or companies with particular marketing expertise (e.g. Blog Tours).