After many years, my novel is finally done, now comes the hardest part yet… it’s time to submit it. I have to admit, I’d rather write another entire novel from scratch then do what comes next, but paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, “anything worthwhile never comes easy.”
This summer I’ve been taking the first steps in getting my novel ready for submission by writing a cover letter (or sometimes called a query letter) and a handful of synopses (because it’s not good enough to have just one synopsis, but that’s another post!).
The first step I took in writing the cover letter and synopsis was to do research and see how the professionals were doing it. And I was also lucky enough to take a workshop about cover letters and synopses from science fiction author Gray A. Braunbeck last September. After a frustrating search, I finally managed to find my notes from his workshop. Yay!
One thing upfront, a standard submission to a publisher must be a completed novel. Some already published authors with a solid track record may submit proposals, which is a letter showing an idea for a novel that is not finished yet. But if you aren’t part of that crowd, then make sure the novel is all the way done before even thinking about submitting it.
One of the first things I learned from Mr. Braunbeck is that the cover letter and synopsis should actually be treated at a package deal. You can’t submit to a publisher (or agent) without both along with a sample of your novel. So what exactly should be in a query package?
Basic Components include…
- Cover Letter
- Short Synopsis (1 to 3 pages)
- Sample Chapters (2 to 3 or about 30 to 50 pages of finished text)
- Note: You must submit the first few consecutive chapters.
Contents of package may vary depending on specifics that the publisher (or agent) is asking for (I know several publishers who ask for the first 5 chapters). But be sure to follow their submission guidelines closely.
And make sure to also follow formatting (how the manuscript looks) guidelines as well! Here’s are some articles on how to format your manuscript…
Most publishers require Shunn formatting. Here are specifics and samples of what that formatting looks like…
Before submitting a query package do your research. Decide how best to approach your submission, and have a list of publishers you think would be a good fit for your novel. Decide also if you will be finding an agent or submitting directly to the publishers. Keep in mind that some publishers don’t accept submissions without an agent, and it’s always easier to submit to someone you’ve pitched to in advance. That’s why it’s important to get to writer conferences and workshops to seek out publishers to talk with in advance about you novel.
Here are some fabulous sites I found that discuss more about novel submission and what to do before and during the process…
Ten Steps to Finding a Book Publisher by Moira Allen
And that last thing you want to do is make a publisher or agent mad, which will lead to an automatic rejection. Here is a site that gives some things to look out for…
Now that the research is done, let’s look at the separate elements of the query package. Check out Novel Submission Part 2: Writing an Effective Cover Letter and Novel Submission Part 3: Creating Multiple Synopses.
Do you have an advice to give or great websites with information on submitting a novel, please feel free to post it below!