Submitting a book to a publisher can be a harrowing affair. In addition to the stress that comes from awaiting a response, there’s the process of writing the submission itself. Many authors would sooner have a few fingernails pulled out than deal with one of the usual prerequisites. But we’ll get to that shortly. Let’s start at the beginning.
The first thing to keep in mind when writing a submission is that you are directly addressing the publisher, so the message is business correspondence and should be presented as such. This means you should provide your contact information (name, address, phone number, and e-mail address) at the top of the message. Next, skip a line and write the date before skipping another line and including the name of the person who is to read the submission followed by his or her title. You may then write your greeting.
123 Lakeview Drive
Jane Doe, Editor
Dear Ms. Doe,”
There. Very clean and businesslike, isn’t it?
Now that the formalities are out of the way, it’s time to get in there and pitch that book. And to do that, you need to let the editor know exactly what he’s getting into as quickly and painlessly as possible. While there are a couple ways to do this, I recommend starting with a very brief summation of the narrative (only a sentence) that includes both the book’s title and its word count.
“Dear Ms. Doe,
Please consider my 80,000-word novel, The Crack in the Vault about…”
You get the idea.
After this, you can skip a line and expand on the core of the story you just provided with an elevator pitch (about two sentences). I know. It’s tough to summarize all those months of work into a short paragraph. But remember, the more concisely you can pitch the story well, the more likely the editor will read it without his eyes glazing (the poor thing has probably read dozens–even hundreds–of subs before coming to yours).
Next, it’s customary for a writer to offer a little background on himself. Previous credits in the same genre and personal connections to the source material are commonly mentioned. Just keep it brief. Then, you should thank the editor for his or her consideration and end the message.
There. That wasn’t so bad, now was it?
Ah, but what about that really tough bit I mentioned? The one that really drives writers bonkers? That, dear friends, would be the synopsis.
Unlike the rest of the submission, the synopsis is usually attached due to its length. Here, the writer has to sum up every key event in the book in one to two pages. This allows the editor to get a solid feel for the material without having to devote hours to reading the manuscript. Unfortunately, this means that all that beautiful prose you wrote may go unread if the synopsis falls flat.
That aggravation I mentioned earlier is suddenly making a lot more sense, huh?
Needless to say, an author needs to approach the synopsis very seriously. While the summary must be concise, that’s no excuse for making it dry. These few pages offer the editor his first glimpse of a writer’s ability. A well-written, captivating synopsis is likely to spark serious interest. A boring play-by-play of events can leave it buried at the bottom of a slush pile.
Alas, there’s no amazing tip I can offer to help you with this last step. All I can do is tell you to roll up your sleeves and attack those blank pages like the writer I know you are and let your passion for your own work guide you.