I have often hear it said by writers that one of the biggest challenges they face is knowing what to send to an agent or publisher.
I have some sympathy being one of those who are looking for representation and publication of my books. However, help is at hand.
I know it is an old cliché but start at the beginning and that means books like The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and others of a similar nature. The writer can establish who are working in the field of your writing and from that you have a company name and a website. I know that a lot of publishers say in these books that they do or do not accept unsolicited MSS and I am not going to change the rules here, but it is essential for a prospective writer to look at their website and see the latest information.
Data in a book is fixed at the point when someone hits the “print it” command, a website is a living entity and circumstances can change. It happens all of the time.
Having navigated your way through all of that, you get to the nitty gritty, what to send, how to send it and to whom to send it. Some have lists of staff who specialise in a certain field, this is particularly so for agents and is very useful. Read their profile, see what they are looking for then check their submission guidelines for their specific requirements.
A word of caution and warning.
All agents and publishers want specific information from the writer and it is the writer’s job to comply. Not just a bit, not “well maybe they’ll like this too” no, no, and thrice no. Send them what they want and how they want it.
This will require the writer to spend time copying and pasting the required extract into a separate file and labelling it correctly. The list below is a sample of some of the submission requirements I have experienced recently
- The first 2 chapters
- The first 3 chapters
- The first 50 pages
- The first ten thousand words
- Two chapters from the beginning and one other
- The whole manuscript
In addition to the actual material, they may also wish for some or all of the following
- A 1 page synopsis
- A 2 page synopsis
- A 500 word synopsis
- A full synopsis
- A half page author bio
- A half page book blurb
- A detailed 2 page cover letter
- A summary cover letter
How they wish it presented is also important. Be sure to know whether they wish it as physical paper copy sent in the post or as an e-mail. If it is posted do you wish the material back, if so, make sure you have a SAE or a postal order or cheque to cover the return of postage. It is my experience not to send a self addressed post card of acknowledgement for them to send back, most don’t.
If they wish it as an e-mail, make sure you send it how they wish. I have experienced the following recently
- Cover letter in body of e-mail and one file of required text and synopsis combined
- No cover letter, one file of synopsis and one file of mss
- Cover letter and synopsis in body of e-mail and one attachment of the required text
You may think that “this is all very interesting, but if they like my work, then they’ll read it”. That is both true and false. As a prospective writer you have to get them to actually stop what they are doing and sit down for what, ten minutes, an hour and read your submission. Put simply but brutally, if it doesn’t come the way they want it, they will more than likely toss it aside, unread.
Most reasonable sized publishers get well over a hundred submissions a week. Some get close on five hundred. With e-mails, who knows how many they get so do the one thing that will give you a glimmer of a chance, send them what they want and how they want it.
This will mean that you will start to compile a folder of submissions on your computer that is specific to each company and you should save each as such with the date as well. It also means that you should keep a separate record of what you sent and to whom. I find a spread sheet is ideal for this. Make sure you have enough space in for columns for what you sent, to whom, when and so on. Keep it up to date for when you get replies and keep it to hand for when that phone call comes.
These and other TOP TIPS for managing your writing are given in my latest book, The Handbook Of TOP TIPS To Manage Your Writing.
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