Submission Requirements, By Maria V. Snyder

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I’ve been harping on submission requirements and sending editors and agents EXACTLY want they ask for. So what will they ask for?? Every editor and agent asks to see something different. Some just want a query letter, others a cover letter and synopsis and three chapters of your novel (you might be tempted to send them the best three from your entire novel – Don’t! Send the first three and only the first three). You may be asked for a plot outline or a chapter outline. And they’ll want everything typed and in proper manuscript format.

When I finished writing Poison Study, I had no clue what to do with it. I couldn’t tell you what the difference was between a cover letter and a query letter. But I learned all this from my "bible," which is this fabulous book: Your Novel Proposal From Creation to Contract: The Complete Guide to Writing Query Letters, Synopses, and Proposals for Editors and Agents, by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook. I followed every thing Camenson and Cook suggested, and recommend this book to everyone who has a completed novel.

Here’s a quick and dirty explanation of each one – I hope to expand on each one in other articles.

Cover Letter: Introduces you and your submission. A friendly hello to say who you are and why you’re submitting your novel to this editor/agent.

Query Letter: A letter in which you must SELL your novel idea to an editor or agent. Most editors that want query letters don’t want a synopsis or chapters so this must be the best letter you’ve ever written. Include your novel’s idea in one paragraph, who you are, the length of the novel, and the genre. You don’t need a cover letter when sending a query – it’s all included.

Synopsis: A synopsis is a summary of your entire novel with feeling. It is not a blow by blow laundry list of actions. (He did this, and then he did that) The main characters motivations and desires must be shown, and the obstacles they face to overcome them, and how they triumph over the obstacles. Yes, you have to give away the ending. Requirements can be for a one-page synopsis, a 6-page and a 12-page.

Chapter Outline: An extended version of the synopsis. This document summarizes each chapter in your novel. Usually one paragraph per chapter.

Proper Manuscript Format: Everything must be typed and double spaced. Use a big non-proportional font like Courier New 12 pt. 1 inch page margins all around. Page number in upper right - title and your name in upper left. Indent paragraphs and don't right justify the text - i.e. the right side of your text should be jagged and not all perfectly lined up like the left side is. Use a # sign to indicate a scene break – don’t add in blank spaces.

Submission Do’s and Don’ts can be found listed in the article The Publishing Labyrinth.

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