Sunday, 8 April 2012

Submitting a novel aka your pride and joy

Well, there you go.  I’ve started the submission process and off Silver has gone, into the world.  Submitting to publishers and agents is incredibly scary but it is a necessity.  Most writers want to share their stories and this is the best and more credible way of doing this (other methods are self publishing or vanity publishing).

So how do you go about it?  Obviously I’ve not yet secured an agent so I wouldn’t dare try and tell you how to be success at getting an agent or publisher to accept your work, but I can give you a few hints or tips from my own experience.

There are two necessities for getting published;
  • Hard work
  • Luck
 Unfortunately you only have control over one of these, so it is worth doing as much as you possibly can and then hope that luck is on your side.

First of all, you must be happy with your manuscript.  Edit it, redraft it, play around with it and love it.

I then wrote a draft covering letter and synopsis.  Every agent/publisher wants something different, so I then used these draft versions as templates.  Generally they will want the covering letter, or query, a synopsis and the first three chapters, but make sure you check the requirements before you submit.

The query or covering letter needs to state the premise of your book, the genre(s) it fits into and the word count.  Then a little about you, any publishing or real life experience relevant to the book.  It needs to be professional, so stay clear of informal or chatty text. 
If you’re like me and need to read examples before you write something like this, here are some examples of query letters;

I’ve read a lot about what the synopsis should be.  Some people say it should only detail the main characters and conflicts, other want a breakdown of the entire book.  What you do need is to explain the overview of the book, beginning, middle and end (make sure you tell them the climax and ending) and include all of the major conflicts and characters.  You can also include a blurb at the beginning – remember, this is your sales pitch.

I constructed a synopsis by writing off the top of my head what happens in the book.  I ended up with ‘and then this happens and then this happens and then this happens’ which you definitely do not want.   Your synopsis needs to show your voice, all of your writing talent should be packed into the synopsis in case the agent reads this first.
So I then read through it and marked the major characters, conflicts and pivotal moments.  I used this to rewrite a more concise synopsis which hopefully reads a lot smoother and gives a taste of what I am capable of.
I also read through it trying to put all knowledge of the book out of my head.  This is incredibly difficult but I was attempting to read it as a member of the public – would I want to read this book?

I actually find this part very interesting.  I found myself taking my characters apart in trying to explain what they were going through.  I think for my next novel I will do this process after writing the first draft and see if it improves my plot.

So you have a covering letter and synopsis, next you need to get organised.  Compose a list of agents/publishers and record who you submit to, what you send and when you send it so that you know when you can chase them.  I did this as a spreadsheet including links to the agent and publishers websites.  I’ve also created a folder in my e-mail for all correspondence.

The best way to find agents/publishers is by using the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2012 (an annual book and it pays to buy it every year you submit work).  This includes details of agents and publishers for books of fiction and non-fiction, plays and articles as well as hints, tips and advice from people in the industry and authors.

Another useful website is

And that’s it!  It sounds so simple but it’s a lot harder said than done.  While going through this process, you may experience moments of doubt, fear and depression.  I recommend the following for these;
  • Exercise
  • Gardening
  • Making cakes
  • Phoning your mum in a mad panic
I did all of these over the course of this weekend.
I also recommend that you sleep on it.  Write your synopsis and covering letter, compose your spreadsheet, or whatever, and then leave it.  Mull it over, think about it, and wait until you feel ready and confident in your work again before you submit anything.

Another important thing to do is once you have submitted your pride and joy is to move onto your next project.  Keep writing, most people don’t get their first, or second, or third novel published straight away and your next project could be the winner.

Remember, all writers get rejected.  You may need hard work and luck to get published but you also need hope in order to survive.  Keep hold of your dream and don’t let it go, it’s the most important element and don’t let anyone take it away from you.

Happy writing and good luck!

Now that I’ve started submitted Silver, I’m going to celebrate by gorging on cakes, some made by me, and some gorgeous dark chocolate ones made by my lovely friend Gem.

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