Thursday, 14 August 2014

Top Three Things to Get A Publisher’s or Agent's Attention

Have you written the next best-seller but are struggling to get it published, or even picked up by an agent?

Is each submission being met with rejection?

Are you at whit's end trying to figure out why your work isn't getting an offer, even though comments are good about your story?

Or is your work just simply not getting a look-see?

It might not be editing, plotting, characterization or anything to do with the book itself, but it could have everything to do with presentation!

Here are some suggestions that may help your work get the attention is deserves.

1)     Following Submission Guidelines
·        Why are guidelines so important?
§  Publishers receive hundreds of submissions ever month, and because they each have their own unique needs, guidelines have been established to help their offices expedite submissions more effectively.

·        Why is it important to follow the guidelines?
§  Show’s the publisher you can follow instructions;
§  Following instructions means you pay attention to detail;
§  If you can follow instructions, chances are good you’re easy to work with;
§  No matter how good your book might be, if you’re a difficult author to work with, the publisher won’t contract the book.

·        Where can you find submission guidelines?
§  All publishers’ sites have submission guidelines. Look for links for ‘submission guidelines’, ‘submissions’, or even ‘for authors’. When in doubt, go to Google and search ‘submission guidelines’ and the publisher’s name. A direct link will usually come up. * If you can't find submission guidelines for the publisher, query them; make it short and simple -- "Dear editor, I'd like to submit my completed novel to you. Please tell me where I can find your submission guidelines. Thank you." and sign off.

2)     Effective Cover Letters, aka covering page or query letter
·        Must contain vital information about the book and the author
§  Salutation – Always use the editor’s Mr./Ms. Name (only use Mrs. if you know for sure the editor is married and NEVER just use the first name. Ever. Even if you met them at a conference);
§  Short Blurb – Stick to 1-2 short paragraphs about the story;
§  Introduction – Tell the publisher about yourself; stick to salient points;
§  Writing Credits* – Included any previous credits (publishing, awards, regular blogs, newsletters, writing clubs, etc);
§  Thank you – Be polite. Always thank the publisher for his/her time to consider your work.
·        Try sticking to one page — Because of the number of submissions annually received, publishers must stick to time schedules. With the salient points on the one covering page, the publisher has an instant glimpse about you and the story.
·        *If you have a lot of writing credits or your cover letter exceeds one page, put writing credits onto a separate sheet — NEVER just list web addresses and tell a publisher to go look. Everything must be in the submission.
·    Be sure to list all of your social media sites — Be sure to give links to your pages (don't just say Facebook and make them look; give the full URL to your page, and be SURE your author page is not set to private so the publisher or editor can see how active you are for promotions) * If you have a lot of social media sites, you can list them on a separate sheet also.
·        Note: Don’t forget — In the header section, include your name, address, phone number, email and web addresses.

3)     Overall Presentation, including editing, formatting, etc
·        Cover Letter — See above. Make it neat and clean. Avoid word overuse; don’t embellish or overuse adjectives.
·        Synopsis —
o   What is a synopsis? — A synopsis is your book's summary.  It introduces your protagonists in greater detail and to some extent the most important secondary character(s). The synopsis should tell the concise plot of the story, and if a romance or thriller in particular, tells how your hero and heroine or protagonists work together to the ‘happily ever after’ or solve the crime by the end of the story.
§  We must know the end . . . no cliffhangers.
§  Keep it within the publisher’s guidelines, usually 3-5 pages depending on book length; for short stories and novelettes, 1-2 pages.
§  In the header, put the title of the book and author’s name.
§  Include your contact details in the body at the top of the first page, including title, series title if applicable, author name or pen name, word count and genre
§  Page numbers not required
§  Single line spacing OK
·        Sample Chapters — Read the publisher’s guidelines thoroughly. Some want the first three chapters, some the whole book, some just chapter one and the last chapter. Include exactly what the publisher asks for.
§  Like the synopsis, your header should have the book title and author name;
§  Include page numbers in the upper right corner of the page;
§  Contact information in the body at the top of the first page, like on the synopsis;
§  Under your contact information, you can include your blurb but not required;
§  Use page breaks between chapters (hit ctrl and enter);
§  Use Word’s paragraph option to set page style for auto indents, as well as line spacing (right click on a new document and chose Paragraph and set parameters there, including auto-indent on every new first line, etc);
§  Most publishers require double spaced pages, which can be set by the above method;
§  Start Chapter One on the next page;
§  Start chapters 6-7 rows down from the top of the page.
·        Editing — This is very important, not just for your book, but also your cover letter and synopsis.
§  Be sure your spelling is correct — Donut relay on Word. Line edit yourself, as Word can miss correctly spelled words that air used in the wrong content. (example given here!);
§  Be sure your visual formatting is consistent — If you italicize chapter headers, for example, be sure they’re all italicized, etc.;
§  Use proper grammar;
§  Use publisher’s suggested fonts and font size.

A last bit of advice   If the guidelines say to ONLY send Word Doc or RTF, then send that. Do not send PDFs. If you only write on WordPerfect or another program, you can do a "save as" and chose Word. Some publishes do not want DOCX extensions so be sure the document you save is for DOC only. * Most editors, freelance and with publishers, use Word's Track Changes option for editing, so Word is the preferred word processing program today.

Your submission is the first impressions you give a publisher.
Make it a good one and a contract could be yours!