Monday, November 16, 2009

Preparing to Submit: Part One

Writers are not all on the same path. Some are published. Some have been submitting for a long time and are ready to be published. Some want to be published but aren't ready to submit their work yet, and others may not desire to be published and will never submit their work.

How do you know if you're ready to submit your work? Here are a few basic tips I've learned on my journey.

1. Complete the book. Editors and agents expect unpublished fiction authors to have a finished book before they submit. That does not mean they want to see the writer's entire book, but if they like your query and request either a partial or the full, you should have your book 100% complete.

Also, do your best to fit your word count into their requirements. Young adult books have different word counts than category romance. Single title mysteries have different word counts than single title fantasies. An agent may not request your 125,000 word romantic suspense, whereas the same agent might jump on your 125,000 word fantasy novel.

2. First drafts are just that--drafts. Get a great self-editing book, read blogs, and find every editing tip you can find. Then apply the knowledge to your book. Go over your manuscript until it shines.

When I started writing, I barely edited due to two big problems: arrogance and ignorance. The books I wrote weren't garbage, but they certainly weren't at a publishable level either. Only after I began studying the writing craft, asking for feedback from fellow writers, and entering a few contests, did I gain enough perspective to produce a good book.

3. Know the market. It's never to early to start researching agents and publishers appropriate for your writing. Create a list of possible targets and add to the list whenever you come across new possibilities.

As you get closer to submitting, check their websites to find their submission process. Many agents want e-mail queries; others only want snail mail queries. Some have a policy that no answer means they aren't interested, while others state a range of when you can expect to hear from them.

4. Prepare a synopsis and query letter. There are tons of great blogs that break down how to write them. Do some research. When I found Camy Tang's blog, The Story Sensei, I devoured her tips. The Seekers blog gives great advice too. You can find samples of a synopsis and query letter at eHarlequin.com.

Your query letter should not be more than one page. A good length for a synopsis is two page, double-spaced. I often write two versions: a two-page, double-spaced and a four-page, double-spaced synopsis. You may need a much longer synopsis or a chapter outline, but that depends on who you're submitting to.

These are the most basic steps of preparing to submit your work.

On a side note: a warm welcome to all the new followers!

Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss part two of preparing to submit.

41 comments:

  1. This blog is always so rich with insight!!! Getting ready to dig in soon.

    LOVE that picture.
    ~ Wendy

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  2. I wish I'd known about your blog a year ago, Jill! I'm definitely going to read carefully this week, even though I won't re-submit until Spring. Have a great day!

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  3. A great guide to getting started here. It's really a fun time to get immersed in, lots of anticipation.

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  4. Jill, Your blog is just full of great information! Hope you had a good weekend!

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  5. As an artist, I'm constantly amazed at the parallels between writing and art. So much work and energy happens before anything is produced or created.

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  6. Great tips. I agree with all of them.

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  7. Oh, I'm supposed to EDIT my manuscript!!! lol - just kidding. considering I just "submitted" I was a little afraid to read your blog in hopes I hadn't forgotten something. So, far so good - so be nice and don't spring something on me that i should've done and overlooked! :) hee hee

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  8. Good Morning!

    I know all of you who commented are old pros at this stuff--thanks for the kind words!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  9. Great tips. I love Camy and the Seekers...lol, that sounds like a the name of a band. :)

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  10. Good tips! I love that your blog caters to all writers out there at every stage. Have a great weekend!

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  11. Yeah, when I was first writing I didn't do a lot of editing either. Who knew? LOL

    Great advice and links!

    I don't follow the synopsis criteria too closely though. (I'm such a rebel- LOL!)
    Mine always seem to come in around 4-6 pages.
    I really have TRIED to trim but I can't. It's something I need to work on.

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  12. Great tips! Thank you for breaking them down:)

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  13. Thanks--and I'm laughing at a few of these comments! :)

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  14. Great post, Jill! I'm editing now, but I always have in the back of my mind what I want to know about certain agents and find myself researching and saving info in my favorites from time to time. Like yous said, it's never too early to start researching.

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  15. I'm so grateful to all the helpful people out there willing to share tips. Thanks Jill!

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  16. Getting the guts to send your work out is a major milestone. Once something goes out, seems to be more places to grasp onto the mountain toward publishing.

    Very helpful post to many, I'm sure.

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  17. Helpful stuff Jill. Where are you in the process at the moment?

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  18. Wow, did I seriously tell you have a great weekend? Oh boy...I need some sleep! My hopes are showing, right?

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  19. Thanks for the link luv, Jill! I'm glad my website was helpful for you!
    Camy

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  20. Excellent advice, as always! Now I just need to buckle down and TAKE your advice! lol I have that 2nd draft that needs more editing! Alot more!

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  21. Tabitha: Where am I at now? I'm starting my (gulp!) eighth book! I just rewrote a book but I won't edit it until I'm finished with this first draft. So it will be a few months before I'm submitting again. Thanks for asking!

    Cindy: You crack me up!! I wish it was the weekend! :)

    Sherrinda: You have a leg up with your editor family member! And I always feel my books need more editing!

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  22. Camy: Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my site. Your blog was more than helpful to me last year--it made such a difference with my writing.

    Thanks very much for stopping by. I hope anyone not familiar with The Story Sensei will stop by. It's wonderful!

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  23. I have bookmarked your past few blogs...they are a really easy and clear breakdown of what a writer should accomplish and look for. I appreciate it very much!
    In addition...I do like your picture in your front "window" of the Thanksgiving table...I think that is what mine will look like this year...haha.

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  24. I feel part of the process is to emotionally prepare. It's scary to put your work "out there" and to face rejection. I've gotten plenty of those and, although all have been very professionally written, and many with helpful feedback, it still stings to hear "no"--however it is worded. I like to think of querying as "putting hope in the mail" and I always like to have a little "hope" out there. So, for me, part of submitting is always having at least one submission in the works, either a query, a partial, a contest, something. Patrice

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  25. Great points, Jill. I think it's important to know that everyone is different and respect that. We'll not all be ready to submit after x number of years writing or x number of novels written, either. We need to seek advice from fellow writers and published authors, or go to conferences and run your stories by an editor or agent to hear several peoples opinions before deciding to send out.

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  26. Realizing when we're ready to submit is important. Like many newbies, I sent in early works that were nowhere near ready for a professional's eyes. I wish I'd had the on-target tips you've shared here. I could have avoided needless pain and embarrassment.

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  27. Great tips. I'm taking notes of those. You share so much usefull information.

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  28. Good practical advice. Until as recently as last year, I didn't know any of this and I know I messed up a lot!

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  29. Great advice! I've found belonging to writer's groups really helps. For romance and young adult romance authors, Romance Writers of America can be a great resource as it has local chapters all over the country. There's something about going to a roomful of people who love this as much as you do...people who "get" you in a way your friends and family can't.

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  30. Loving all these great tips coming in! Thanks for sharing them!

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  31. Very wise advice, Jill.
    Have you submitted anything lately?
    Jen
    Audience of ONE

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  32. Great advice. I think it's also important to let your manuscript sit for a while. I queried too early with my first novel and wish I would have locked it in a drawer while I worked on the second novel. I learned so much from one to the next.

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  33. It was extremely interesting for me to read the article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon.

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  34. Jeanette: For the first time in two years, I have nothing out there. I plan on submitting in late January, and next year should be a high submission year for me. I've got quite a few projects lined up!

    Roni: I still do that--excellent advice!

    Anonymous: Welcome! I'm happy you came by and glad you're enjoying the tips.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  35. Jill, I am so happy that I found your blog while I'm in revisions. This is a fantastic post. I'm sure I'll come back to it again and again.

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