It’s New Year Resolution time and for many of us, it’s time to start that new novel we’ve been thinking about. Or if you’re already working on your masterpiece, especially if you’re near the end, you’ll probably be also thinking about getting it published.
If you’ve decided to self-publish your book, I would suggest reading my column from a few weeks back. But if you want to go the more traditional route of getting a publisher, maybe HarperCollins or Poolbeg, to get your book on the shelves, then the next few paragraphs will definitely be of interest.
To start approaching the publishing industry, you need, of course, a perfect and polished manuscript ready to go. This will mean several rewrites, probably some research and maybe getting others – friends or your writing group – to read the book and give feedback.
What it should also mean though is getting your novel professionally edited.
A lot of writers baulk at this because, as soon as the word ‘professional’ is mentioned, it means spending money. And most of us don’t have much of that these days, especially if our writing is a full time thing.
A read by a professional editor will cost between 500 and 800 euros (you really shouldn’t pay any more than that) but will give you comprehensive feedback on plot, character, pacing, language, and dialogue, consistency and chapter- and book-length. Spelling, vocabulary and grammar (aka proofreading) are not included in this, although most editors will offer it for an additional fee. Chuck Sambuchino gives us great advice on what to do when you’re thinking of employing the services of an editor. (You can find freelance editors right here on writing.ie, in the Services for Writers section.)
When we do have that perfect manuscript ready to be submitted, the next logical step might be to contact a publishing house. One slight hitch there. Unfortunately, most publishers won’t actually deal directly with writers. What might be a better move is to get a literary agent, who will approach publishers on our behalf. Have a look at our interviews with two of Ireland’s leading agents, Faith O’Grady and Marianne Gunn O’Connor.
Before making first contact, it might also be a good idea to have a look at literary agent Karolina Sutton’s page on the Curtis Brown Agency website, who went to the trouble of putting together a list of submission tips.
There is a standard process to go through when submitting to an agent but it’s also worth noting that some agents have their own submission guidelines.
Cornerstone’s Kathryn Price tells us the value of following specific submission instructions. And if you have a specific agent in mind, check out their website, in case their process differs from the standard.
The first step in approaching some UK agents or for the US market is the query letter, a one-page letter which introduces us and our book to an agent – a succinct and efficient way of making first contact. Some UK agents look for this – check their websites to be sure. It helps the agents as query letters cut down on the amount of full manuscripts landing on desks – they just have a mountain of one-page letters to go through instead.
The website AgentQuery.com gives us a breakdown of what goes into a query letter, the kind that will make an agent sit up, take notice and ask us for more. There are also some examples of query letters that worked.
For most agents here and in the UK, (or if we’re successful with our query), the agent will want to read sample chapters and a synopsis. The ‘S’ word makes most writers – myself included – recoil in terror. Fear not, Jeff Gerke will tell us it might not necessarily be the un-climbable mountain that we think it is. Via CritiqueMyManuscript.com, Jeff offers some invaluable advice on creating the synopsis, including a few different methods to do so. Sally Clements has also posted for writing.ie on writing a synopsis.
As well as the synopsis, the sample chapters that we’re asked for will be the first three-to-five chapters of our book, not chapters cherry-picked because we like them. So we need to make the start of the book ‘sizzle’, because they’re what will sell the rest of it.
The only thing to do then is wait. But hopefully our patience and hard work will be rewarded and we’ll be asked to send through the rest of the manuscript. Make sure to send it quickly, address it specifically to whoever asked for it and mark the envelope ‘MANUSCRIPT REQUESTED’.
“Writers are the lunatic fringe of publishing.” – Judith Rossner
Trust me, I’m a Professional.
Editor with Writers’ Digest Chuck Sambuchino advises us on employing a freelance editor.
“People need outside perspectives on their writing to show them the flaws they cannot see.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak).
Curtis Brown’s Karolina Sutton has compiled a list of tips on submitting your book.
“Good writing is the best way to grab our attention. We are not interested in tricks, gimmicks or marketing ideas.”
Sir Yes Sir!
Literary Consultant Kathryn Price on the value of following submission guidelines.
“Guidelines are a good way of whittling out authors who might be tricky to work with, and they can help to flag up potential problems with a manuscript.”
Their own way of doing things.
Some agencies, such as Bonomi Associates, have their own specific submission guidelines. And Curtis Brown’s process is definitely an interesting one.
Dear Mr. Agent…
AgentQuery.com’s advice on writing the perfect query letter.
“Agents take queries very seriously, and yes, they really do read them.”
The Dreaded ‘S’ Word.
Jeff Gerke’s advice and methods of creating that book-selling synopsis.
“We should be nice to those who can write speculative fiction like nobody’s business but couldn’t write a 1-page synopsis to save their life.”
And while we wait…
While you’re waiting for that ‘Please send me your book now!’ request to arrive, it might be a good time start building your author platform. Actually, I might have talked about that a few weeks ago….