Among the blessings of the digital age, at least for writers, is the ease of submitting manuscripts to agents, acquisition editors, or publishers. Easie-Peasie. Tuck your query, synopsis, and sample pages into one email and Shazaam! off it goes. Unfortunately, this ease of submitting manuscripts has created a tsunami of submissions. This impacts every writer.
Here's the situation. Non-writers with keyboards and typing skills, also submit their manuscripts to the same people. These author wannabees reason, "I have the tools of a writer, ego! I am a writer." HAHAHA! That's like deciding that owning a hammer and box of nails means you're a carpenter and can build a porch. Not on my house!
Right away you can see how the flood of submissions has become problematic. Agents have to scan everything submitted to them. Otherwise, they must might miss the next Clancy, Rowlings, or Patterson.
At first glance, your submission looks like every other one on the agent's inbox. UNLESS, you play it smart and craft an email subject line to compel the reader to click and open.
But, it doesn't end there. Your query letter first paragraph also must "hook" the agent and influence them to read more, more, more and then . . . whoopsie, I'm getting ahead of myself. That's a blog for another day.
At least 50% of the queries that cross my virtual desk "tell about" the story instead of "telling" the story. Don't do this unless the agent requests the "about" information in the first paragraph: title, word count, and genre. Otherwise, begin your query by telling your story and including who wants what, (GOAL), why they can't have it OBSTACLE), and the potential for a terrible "or else" (RESOLUTION) that could occur if the GOAL is not achieved. This is the industry standard. If you want to vary from this format, do so at your own peril. You'll be telegraphing a message to agents and acquisition editors that you either don't know the industry standard or are so arrogant you decided not to follow it. Either way, your query will fly off to deleteville.
Having spent the better part of a magical week with family and Harry Potter at Hogwarts School, I’m thinking that a bit of magic is what’s needed to become a traditionally published author. The process is changing faster than an owl can wink an eye. (Sorry, I’ve been Potter-ized . . . not to be confused with Potter-trained).
The newest challenge is adapting your submission process to email. The important ingredient in this submission "packet" is the SUBJECT line. Make it snappy, short, and interesting. Doesn’t have to be your title unless it’s an attention grabber.
Next attention-grabbing issue is the first paragraph of your query letter. Three sentences that describe who wants what and why, what stands in their way, and what is the terrible “or else” if they don’t achieve their goal.
Your query second paragraph expands the first and ends with a tease so the reader will keep on reading your third paragraph about you, and then move on to your quick-read synopsis, and sample pages.
So where's the magic I mentioned earlier? Where it's always been. Inside you. You’ve written an entire manuscript. To most of the world, and all those “writers” who are gonna’ write the next best seller, what you’ve done is an act of magic.
The next little bit of magic you need to pull out of a hat is to learn how to write the documents you need for your query submission packet. You can do it. I’ll help you.
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