We’ve already talked about the query package and writing an effective cover letter, let’s get to the really hard part… the synopsis. First I want to say that I’ve found it’s impossible to write just one synopsis. To get a great synopsis, it’s better to do a few, because let’s face it your publisher is going to want more than the one to three page synopsis you submitted if they do accept your novel. They’ll most likely want a shorter blurb for the back cover. Also some publishers want more than a one to page synopsis when submitting to them, so why not just get them all done at once and be done with it.
For me it was easier to do the really long synopsis first. The chapter by chapter sum up of the entire novel, which reached a huge twenty pages. I doubt any publisher will want all of that, but it was good for me because I did not previously have what others might call an outline. Many of you may already have this chapter by chapter summary or outline completed. But I don’t do written outlines as I’m writing because I’m a pantser. I feel outlines distract from letting the story flow where it needs to go. So if you like to be organized and have a nice neat outline down before you even write the first word of your novel, then you can totally skip this step.
We talked about Novel Submission: The Query Package, but now let’s get more specific and discuss how to actually write a cover letter (and FYI, writing a novel cover letter is different than a short story cover letter, in fact there are some publications that don’t even require a cover letter for short story submissions).
The following post is an accumulation of what I learned from Gary A Braunbeck’s worksop on cover letters and synopses, research I’ve done, and my own observations as I wrote the cover letter for my novel.
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you begin to write the cover letter (or what some call a query letter)…
After many years, my novel is finally done, now comes the hardest part yet… it’s time to submit it. I have to admit, I’d rather write another entire novel from scratch then do what comes next, but paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, “anything worthwhile never comes easy.”
This summer I’ve been taking the first steps in getting my novel ready for submission by writing a kicks cover letter (or sometimes called a query letter) and a handful of synopses (because it’s not good enough to have just one synopsis, but that’s another post!).
The first step I took in writing the cover letter and synopsis was to do research and see how the professionals were doing it. And I was also lucky enough to take a workshop about cover letters and synopses from science fiction author Gray A. Braunbeck last September. After a frustrating search, I finally managed to find my notes from his workshop. Yay!
For years I have actively sought out slush readers to hear what they have to say about submitting stories, what the process is like, what kinds of things they have seen, and what sort of things they’ve learned once becoming a slush reader. I’ve read articles, I’ve sat on panels (most recently at Context in September), and I have even pondered the idea of becoming a slush reader myself. Well, finally I took the plunge. Last month I officially became a slush reader for Apex Magazine.
Some disturbing news was brought to my attention today by a fellow writer, and it is the worst kind for a writer. It seems that the publisher Dorchester has begun the dangerous game of cutting authors out of their rights. They are in the process of converting to a complete digital format for their product and in doing so are trying to find ways to infringe on the rights of authors. In some cases, they are even selling books that had the rights already returned back to the author. In response to this outrageous behavior, people are starting to take a stand. I urge others to join in on this and do what you can to help support those being victimized by this company. If you want more information about the specifics of what is happening and ways to help please visit the blogs of Robert Swartwood and Brian Keene. I have already send in an email of protest to Dorchester and plan on not purchasing any of their books. Please help us make a stand.