Submissions, 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 printed (or formatted) 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 was this book: Your Novel Proposal From Creation to Contract, by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook. I followed every thing Camenson and Cook suggested, and it really helped me. It is a bit dated, so you might want to check out this book: Formatting and Submitting your Manuscript - 3rd Edition by Chuck Sambuchion.

Here’s a quick and dirty explanation of each one:

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 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.


DON'T call in a few days to ask an agent if he/she received your submission. (Never call editors unless it has been past the time they estimated to reply, which will be written in their guidelines - then only a quick call to see if they have received it. Or if you have sold it somewhere else and you can call to let them know.)

DON'T calling your work a fictional novel (All novels are fictional - the redundancy shows amateur status).

DON'T pay reading fees or jump to bite at a contract that comes asking you for money.

-- From Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract, by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

DON'T state in your cover letter that you're the next J. K. Rowling/John Grisham/Ernest Hemmingway. Say your writing style is similar to those authors. Also good is if you find another book the publisher has published that is similar in style/format to your novel, but point out where it's different. Publishers like to know where they can market your book.

DON'T let rejection stop you. Most published authors (99%) have been rejected - (Danielle Steel wrote for 10 years before having a book published). When a rejection arrives, DON'T take it personally - editors/agents are looking for novels that will sell. Just because one doesn't like your story doesn't mean they all will.

DON'T let anyone call you a "Wannabe writer." If you write - You are a WRITER!

-- From, Maria


DO send your work to reputable publishing houses and literary agencies. Know the scams and what to avoid.

DO show from your correspondence or phone conversations that you are a professional and flexible. Agents take personality into account when deciding whom to represent. Editors can be put off from accepting a book if the writer is impossible to deal with.

DO learn the jargon. For example, know the difference between a multiple submission (different stories to the same magazine editor or publisher) and a simultaneous submission (same stories to different magazines and publishers).

-- From Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract, by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

DO wait a few days after finishing a project before you start a rewrite. Time helps you distance yourself from the creative process of a first draft, and allows you to see the areas that need work.

DO ensure that your manuscript has been revised and polished and as typo free as possible before submitting it.

DO follow the proper manuscript format. Despite the different cool fonts that your word processor is capable of, editors/agents like a font that is easy to read because it's easier on their eyes. Plus if it's too difficult to read, they'll reject your manuscript because they have a stack of other manuscripts waiting.

DO join a writer's critique group (either online or in person) when you are ready. Not only do you receive great feedback about your story/novel, but they help brainstorm ideas, and give suggestions to improve you story. Also great for commiserating over those rejections mentioned earlier. For advice on finding a critique group go HERE

-- From, Maria

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