Alright, so you’ve finished your book. You’ve spent months, maybe years going over each and every word until it sings. Great job.
Now, it’s time to get your submission packet together. Don’t panic, you’re going to get through this.
See, most agents and editors ask for the same things. A query letter, one page synopsis, maybe an author’s bio and a certain number of pages. Usually the first ten pages, first two chapters, something like that.
Are there agents that will ask for other things? of course. I’ve had agents that wanted me to fill out a specific questionnaire instead of sending a packet at all. I’ve had agents that were very specific about what they wanted in their query letter. But for the most part, I send some combination of those three pieces. So, let’s look at these each in some detail.
The Authors Bio
Interpret this as resume. You are giving your potential business partner information about you that will help them decide if they want to work with you. How long have you been writing? What were your inspirations? What have you published? Do you have a website? What has happened to you in your life that might tie into your writing? Do you have any formal writing training?
Do not list where you went to school unless you went to school for writing. Do not give a list of all of the jobs you’ve ever had. Do not make it more than one page, whatever you do. Remember, this is a snapshot, not a photo album.
The synopsis of the story
When you’re writing your book synopsis, just remember to K.I.S.S. You might have heard of this before, but the first time I heard it was from my ROTC instructor. It means keep it simple, stupid.
Your synopsis should give an outline of your story. You should meet the main character, the antagonist, and get a general idea of what’s going to happen to those people. You might even give away the ending. Remember, the agent is reading your book to decide if they want to sell your book, not to be super surprised by your killer ending. She should be super impressed by your killer ending. And since she’ll read your synopsis before she reads it, you should start impressing her as early as possible. And again, this should be one page long. Agents are busy. If you can’t explain your story in one page, they do not have time for you.
And finally… The query letter!
I have never sent a piece without a query letter. It is possibly the most important piece you will ever write, because it must be stellar to get anyone to read anything else.
The query letter should be three paragraphs.
* “Hello. I am blank, and I’ve written a book that I think would be a good fit for your agency. Here are some reasons why. I read a book that your sold, and it was the same genre. I see by your website that you’re eager to represent books about rabbits in space, and that’s just what I’ve written. I notice that you often sell to this publisher, and here are some books in my genre that they’ve published that I really liked.” That should be your first paragraph. Show the agent that you did some research, and didn’t just throw darts at a copy if Writers Market. Show them you know the genres, know the field and you’re not going to waste their time with a book in a genre they don’t represent.
* Paragraph two gives a real quick overview of your story. Condense your synopsis. Here’s the main character, here’s how his life goes to hell, here’s how he fixes it again. Then shut up.
* Paragraph three is your credentials. Any published credits you have, any good things you’ve done worth mentioning. Things like that. If you have a website that has something to do with writing, this is the time to mention it.
Now, when it comes to your bio and your synopsis, you can pretty much write those and send them to any agent who requested them. The query is different. Paragraphs two and three can stay pretty much the same. But you’ve got to rewrite that first one for every single new agent.
Before we go, here are just some over all tips for your submission packet.
* Proofread everything. Every single line on every single part, I mean it. If an agent sees a misspelling or grammar issue in your query letter, they know your book is going to be full of them.
* Keep in mind that your packet, and especially your query letter, will be the difference between an agent who reads your work and an agent who deletes it.
* I say this every Friday when I post a market. Read the submission guidelines. Often an agent wants some specific piece of info, or they only accept submissions certain months out of the year. Read the guidelines, and follow them to the letter! Otherwise there’s no sense wasting your time sending your packet at all.
* Take your time on this. You’ve got no deadline other than that you give yourself. There’s no sense rushing something this important to your writing career.
* If at all possible, get someone to read over it for you. A second pair of eyes will catch what you missed because you’ve read the damn thing fifteen times already.
Any other tips for submissions? What do you send when you’re pitching to an agent?