Inaccurate information has a longer shelf life than Velveeta. It hangs around forever, or so it seems, especially on the Internet. For example: articles/blogs/columns that advise writers how to submit snail-mailed query letters. Oh Puleeze! Snail mail is so yesterday!
Submission misinformation also lives in books, even those with current publication dates. Information in any published book had been assembled at least one year prior.
This can be deadly for writers.
If you follow out-of-date formats when you submit your project, you'll be shooting yourself in the foot. You’ll appear to be an out-of-date writer. Plus, your work, since it requires effort to open and read, will be thrown onto the slush pile (like the one on the left), or tossed into the circular file, unread. No writer wants that!
It’s time to reboot and discard everything you thought you knew about submitting your work to an agent (editor or publisher).
The drip, drip, drip method is long gone. Prior to 2014, you’d submit your query, and wait for a reply. Then, if the agent requested to read your synopsis, you’d mail it in, and wait for a reply. Finally, if the agent requested sample chapters, you’d mail these, and, as usual, wait for a reply. Yawn!
Welcome to the digital age. The documents in your submission (query, synopsis, and sample pages) are cut and pasted inside one very looooooong email, and fly into agent inboxes. The following five (5) steps will help you make the most of your device-and-agent-friendly submission package.
ONE: Become technically aware
Your work may be read on small screens, including smart phones, so don’t waste space or the agent’s time. Remove all blank lines between paragraphs. Because all browsers are not created equal, how your materials look when you submit them is not necessarily how they will be received. What looks like a comfortable blank line on your computer translates into a huge (and wasted) space between paragraphs when your work is being scanned on a smart phone screen.
TWO: Win the battle for attention
Write a snappy subject line. Capture the agent’s attention with one “CLICK,” so your submission will be opened. However, if the agent requests the word “query” and/or their name in the subject line, do it! Then, unless your title is uber fascinating, substitute a few clever, enticing, well-thought out words that pertain to your manuscript and will garner attention.
(The ease and inexpensive nature of email submission has created an unintended consequence. Hundreds and thousands of typing-enabled non-writers now submit their sure-to-be-best-sellers to every agent with an email address. This tsunami will engulf your submission unless you win the battle for attention by crafting a subject line that demands “open me now!”)
THREE: Reveal your story core quickly
Jump right into your story on the first line of your 350-word query. No headings, no addresses, no date, etc., unless the agent specifies title, genre, and word count on your first line. Give them what they ask for, then begin your query on the 2nd line.
Note: Make certain your first paragraph reveals the story core. Who wants what, why they can’t have it, and the terrible “or else” that will occur if they don’t get what they want.
FOUR: Edit, edit, edit
Before you begin the submission process, perform due diligence and determine that your work is, indeed, ready for prime time. Self-edit to revise writing mechanic errors. Same with “red-flag” words: purge these rascals out of your documents.
FIVE: Testo! Testo!
Send your submission to yourself and read it on your phone or tablet. Right away, any formatting issues will be easy to spot. Fix them!
If you need assistance with any aspect of landing an agent or getting published, CLICK HERE to check out my various writers' services or drop by MolliMart a valuable resource of low-cost tutorials.
Once upon a time, six Talented Writers joined a critique group. They expected business as usual: a bit of manuscript evaluation and lots of chit-chat, often unrelated to the quality/focus/context of the manuscripts being critiqued.Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! The volunteer group leader (a hard-core critiquer and former acquisitions editor) had other ideas and was determined to poke, prod, push, and encourage the Talented Writers to mature their story telling skills and get the heck published!
Chit-chat became the first casualty.
One smartphone timer and a Talking Stick (formerly known as a Magic Wand) helped
Talented Writers stay on track, and listen to critique comments without speaking (since
they were not in possession of the Talking Stick).
Next came a radical change in manuscript evaluation. As the Talking Stick was passed around the circle, each critiquer first shared what "worked" for them and why. Two sentences max. Next, they shared what "didn't work" for them and why. Two sentences max. They passed the Talking Stick to the next critiquer. The Talented Writer who was being critiqued, listened and did not respond unless they were able to arm wrestle the Talking Stick away from a fellow critiquer (which hardly ever happened).
After everyone shared their perceptions, left-over minutes were used by the Talented Writer to make comments, ask questions, defend positions, or indulge in meaningless chit-chat. However, as you might expect, in the early days of the process,most of the Talented Writers couldn't refrain from interrupting, responding, defending, explaining etc., etc., etc.
This resulted in their evaluation time running out before everyone shared their "what worked" and "what didn't work." Whine. Whine. Whine. Tuff beans. Very quickly the Talented Writers evolved to listen instead of talking.
The intended consequence of Talking Stick has been the elevation of a group of pretty good Talented Writers to become pretty darned good Talented Writers. They've become better listeners, more focused critiquers, and have strengthened their writing skills (the goal all along). They've increased their potential to become published authors.
Moral of the story: Focus. Listen. Think. Make a Talking Stick. Use it.
Does your critique group have a Talking Stick? Or, how do you handle the issue of evaluation time wasted by chit chat? Or is it even an issue with your group? Leave your comment below.
What is the second-most jaw dropping, intimidating, terrifying word to most writers?
(The #1 most dreaded word? . . . you guessed it, the QUERY.)
Telling to selling~
Writing a synopsis is like venturing into the unknown. You already know (or are learning) how to "tell" a story. Once your manuscript is edited, polished, and ready to be sent out into the publishing world, it becomes time to shift from "tell" to "sell." (And no, I'm not suggesting to park at the mall, pop the trunk, and strong arm shoppers to buy your manuscript.)
In this situation, the word "sell" means convince. Your task is to convince an agent that you are the real deal: a skilled writer with a salable story. Your fabulous manuscript, along with your query and synopsis are sales tools that help you make the case.
Are you ready for some really good news? Once you understand query letter what, where, and why, you have the information you in order to write a synopsis. You know what the protagonist wants (goal) and who or what stands in their way (obstacle). You know the driving force behind their emotion-driven actions. You know the outcome of their struggle to get what they want. (Resolution).
Your query letter second paragraph ends with a "tease" and causes the agent to wonder, "Hmmm, what happens?"They keep scrolling and read your synopsis, looking for five vital elements.
Happy News~You can learn to write a synopsis that tells agents what they want to know. Your synopsis five-paragraphs (350 words) motivate them to read your manuscript. My latest tutorial, "The 5-Step Synopsis Solution," will help you achieve that goal. Check it out at MolliMart.
Thanks to the digital age, your submission documents (query, synopsis, first pages) can be sent inside one looooong email. But first, your submission adventure begins with an attention grabbing SUBJECT line.
If it motivates a "CLICK" to open, the agent reads your query first paragraph (often the only one ever read). Your "tease ending" of this paragraph generates the desired reaction of "Hmmm, interesting."
The agent reads your second paragraph.
If you've crafted a slam-dunk "tease" at the end of your second paragraph, (tease endings are further explained in my Query Tutorial) the agent will shift from interested to curious and wonder. "So, what happens?"
TAH! DAH! That's exactly the response you want.
Motivated by curiosity, the agent scrolls down the screen to read your synopsis. Because you have wisely expanded the emotions and actions of your protagonist (main character) and revealed the resolution of your story, the agent has their answer to "what happens?"
Next, they'll scroll down to read your sample pages.
Give yourself a high five! Mission Accomplished!
In less than two minutes, you've achieved your submission goal. The agent reads your manuscript.
Why does it seem so challenging to write a query and synopsis? On the surface, it appears simple. You only need to create two, 350-word documents. Easy-peasie! NOT!
Here's why. You've shifted from "telling" to "selling" and moved into unknown territory. You know how to tell your story. But, sell is an entirely different animal. There is no way to compare tell to sell. It's like comparing apples to orangutans. Not the same.
Many of you are preparing your query, synopsis, and first pages to convince (sell) agents that you are the real deal: a talented and capable writer with a salable story.
You can do it. Consider this.
Write on! May the words be with you!
If you’d like to re-post any of my blogs, help yourself. Please reference the source as: Molli Nickell. THE Publishing Wizard at www.getpublishednow.biz