I’m back! I hope. I may’ve mentioned a couple of times that coming up with content for these blogs is particularly hard when when there’s very little going on. It’s not just Covid and the lock-downs but I’m in editing right now which is a fairly simple, read, revise, rinse, repeat system, but!
Since LevelUp published ‘Rendered Flesh’ that has given me an ‘in’ for my next book ‘Riding the E-Rail’. As with many small press or specialist labels LevelUp is part of a publishing house Ockham and , while E-rail doesn’t suit LevelUp’s publishing Identity there’s a chance that it will fit with one of the other labels. In the meantime I though I might revisit submissions and querying since I might be doing that soon anyway and it’s always good to be prepared.
And, preparation is key. Whether you are looking for an agent, or a publisher you want to submit to a body who actually promotes/publishes what you’re writing/have written. There are numerous directories of publishers that you can get access to either in physical print or by web-search. The printed directories are reprinted yearly so it’s probably best to request the latest one from your local library. Searching agents and publishers online by genre is a time-saver and, conveniently, there are blogs that list agents who are open to submissions (but check the timestamp on the article and follow the link to the agents page to make sure that’s still the case). There are also Hashtags on Twitter you can follow, #MSWL stands for ‘Manuscript Wish List’ and is used by agents to source authors writing manuscripts they want to represent. Of course, people being people, it’s also attached to Tweets from writers touting their latest unpublished work so it can be a bit of a slog to find a relevant message. The idea being that a writer with a compatible piece should reply, or DM the agent in question.
A simple search of ‘Agents seeking new Authors 2021‘ led me to this blog, in the top 3 search results, from which I’ve identified eight suitable agents that I could submit E-Rail to. Now, in this electronic age, some agents and publishers have online forms where you can outline your piece, whether it’s a finished draft or still a concept but, more often than not, they require a formal submission or ‘query’ in a set format. There are slight variations from publisher to publisher but they all feature the same three stages.
1: The cover letter. This is your ‘elevator pitch’, it should include a brief bio of yourself, including published works to date, and a very brief synopsis of your story.
2: The Synopsis. Unlike the pitch in your cover letter the synopsis here ought to cover all the key narrative elements of your story. This isn’t a sales pitch per-se but ought to be a clear outlay of the story and any twists or turns in the plot. You’re not hiding anything ‘for the audience’, this is professional.
3: The Sample Chapters: This usually fall between the first 30 pages or the first 3 chapters. Point to note, use a standard font (Times New Roman or Helvetica/Calibri, size 12, double-spaced). Again, there can be variances between publishers so check the in-house guidelines before you submit.
Always check the submission guidelines and tailor the package, if you don’t then your submission won’t even be read in full. It’ll end up in the ‘Slush Pile’ (aka ‘the bin’). Oh, it might get glanced at, in a couple years, on a slow day, when the agent has nothing better to do, maybe.
Querying is not a quick turn around. When an agent opens their doors to submissions they will be inundated. The guide above should ensure that your pack is, at least, read in the most part but it’s no guarantee. *If* the agent likes your submission it can be six weeks before they get back to you at least. Querying is an endurance test, unless you’re very lucky you’ll get a pile of rejections before you get that request for a full manuscript. My suggestion is to search for 5/6 agents/publishers to submit to every two weeks. A very important thing to remember is that, being in the industry together, many literary agents/editors know each other. You may consider the industry lucky to receive even the offer to print your masterpiece, the very idea of a rejection may be anathema to the public good who will lose out from not having read your work. When you get that rejection, take it in good grace. I’ve heard of authors hitting back against publishing bodies who rejected their work in just the manner I outlined above. I heard about it from Publishers and Editors at Literary Conventions. It doesn’t benefit you as an author, or improve your chances of getting published anywhere so, take a breath, accept the decision, and move onto the next. The most important thing an agent can bring to the table is belief in the quality of your work. That’s the goal, that’s what you need, accept nothing less.