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  1. cockneyjay
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    cockneyjay New Member

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    In to the hands of the publisher.

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by cockneyjay, Apr 2, 2010.

    Hey everyone. I'm totally new to all of this. I've just spent 2 years writing my first book and finally it's done. By done I mean it's the fifth and final draft and I'm struggling to see any way I can change it to improve it. It is what it is now.

    After a lot of encouragement from my friends and also people I don't know (The professor of literature of cork university) I've decided to send it off and see exactly how good it is. The only problem is that I don't know how to.

    The book is completely finished. Now what do I do with it? Do I need a cover letter? What type of things should it say? Should I send the whole book? How about a synopsis? How long should it be?

    I've tried to look this kind of thing up but the answers I've found are confusing and don't really apply to my situation.

    Can someone please help me out?

    Thanks alot

    Jay
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jay,

    First, you need to decide on whether you're going to seek an agent to represent your novel, or if you intend to submit directly to publishers.

    There are advantages to having an agent, especially enabling access to markets that do not accept unsolicited submissions. But some would argue that it is more difficult to find an agent than an actual publisher. That's debatable, but certainly a reputable agent to represent an author's work isn't easy to do. Of course, just like with a publisher, the quality and content of the product are a big factor.

    Agents, like publishers, are flooded with query letters and submissions.

    Often you'll need a query letter/cover letter and a brief synopsis. And it's important that these are at least as well-written as the novel or you won't get past the first hurdle.

    Each publisher/agent has their own submission requirements, which includes what to send, in what format, how to send and where to send. Response times vary from weeks to months or more. Then there are the issues such as simultaneous submissions, exclusives and other things.

    Some genres, even with major NY houses, allow direct submissions. Others, with major houses, you need an agent to represent you and your work.

    With smaller houses, most are open to unsolicited submissions, but they too get far far more submissions than they could ever publish.

    So, you need to determine what route you would like to take, especially after researching markets you would hope to publish your work.

    The odds of success are long, and you probably knew that. But you absolutely cannot succeed if you don't step forward and submit your work, after completing it (which you've already done :) ).

    Here is a link on my website that lists novel length markets and also link to market search websites such as Ralans and Duotrope, which will probably be the best avenue to begin your search: ervin-author.com Markets

    Follow each market's/agent's guidelines to the letter to have the best chance of success.

    And while you're submitting and waiting, begin writing the next project.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  3. cockneyjay
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    cockneyjay New Member

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    Hey man thanks for the link but I'm not sure it would be relevant as I'm in London. The rest of your advice was great too though thanks man.

    So basically if I'm looking to go through an agent then find out the requirements and give them what they want. And if I'm looking to go directly to a publisher the same applies.

    How do you even start a cover letter?

    Thanks again for the help mate.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jay,

    Yes, you see what each publisher or agent requests. Normally there are some standard things: A query letter (which is slightly different from a cover letter). A brief synopsis. First three chapters. An Outline.

    I'm not really all that informed when it comes to query letters to agents. If you end up needing a synopsis, there I could help you some. Cover letters, basically contact information, what you're submitting (genre/length) and any relevant writing credits/experience and/or any 'platform' which would increase potential name recognition or sales.

    Mammamaia could probably give you better advice on query letters.

    There are authors in the UK who publish with NY Publishing Houses. I have a writer friend who lives in Australia and publishes through St. Martin's Press. An author with my publisher lives in England and another author lives in Australia, although the publisher is based in the USA. However, if you feel your work would be better published with a UK-based publisher, nothing wrong with that.

    Again, good luck.

    Terry
     
  5. cockneyjay
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    cockneyjay New Member

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    Well my novel is actually based in new jersey so do you think that maybe I would be better off going for a US Publisher / Agent?
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, definitely!... why wouldn't you?... but do you know enough about the place to have written about it believably?...

    as for writing query letters, email me and i'll send you some tips, give you a hand with it...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  7. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    When you said Cork University, do you mean Cork in Ireland?

    There are several Irish publishers which will accepted unsolicited MS without an agent.

    What sort of book is it? What length? What's the target market?
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are submitting in the UK or Ireland, your BIBLE is the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, which comes out every year. Look no further.

    You almost certainly need an agent unless you are a writing for a niche market. Don't bother submitting to an agent or publisher that says they don't take unsolicited manuscripts as it will just be binned. It is very hard to find aa agent even if you are a previously published author, btw.
     
  9. alexwebb
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    alexwebb Member

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    Buy The Writers Handbook 2010. Editor: Barry Turner
     
  10. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    Hi Jay,

    Have you got any further with this? A lot of the advice you've had so far is good. But I would just add/emphasise that - ridiculous as it might seem after spending two years writing your novel - it is hugely important to get the tone of your cover letter right.

    You need something that will grab the agent's attention straight away, something that will make them want to begin reading your novel. Look at it from their point of view: they are sent unsolicited MSS every day of their lives, and the vast majority are unpublishable. So in a way they're weary and wary of new writers. But at the same time - especially if you pick a young and hungry agent, who's trying to build a list of authors - new writers are their lifeblood, and they're desperately looking for something they think will work.

    So your cover letter should express - briefly - the essence of your personality and the book's appeal. You also need to make sure that your first chapter is as brilliant as it possibly can be. If the agent doesn't like the first chapter, the chances are they won't read any further. If they love it, they'll forgive all sorts of problems later in the novel. First impressions are everything.

    This first submission is your big chance, so don't blow it. If an agent remembers receiving something from you before - and not liking it - they probably won't bother to read a rewritten version. Get it right first, then submit. And be confident - because if you don't believe in your own work, no one else will.

    Good luck...
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sam...
    a cover letter isn't needed till the agent or publisher requests sample chapters or the full ms... before that, what's needed is what has been noted above--a 'query' letter...
     
  12. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    Why?

    Seriously, you're sending by email anyway presumably. All you have to do is attach the novel in electronic form to your email. Tell the agent in a small number of words why you think they should read your book. Why give them a chance to say no before you even get to that stage?
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he didn't say he was sending the ms by email...
     
  14. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    Why would anyone do anything else these days? Agents check their emails all the time; they don't open their post - someone else does that.
     
  15. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Sending a novel as an attachment is probably a terrible idea unless the novel has been requested. An un-solicited attachment is a good way to end up in the spam folder. If you are querying an agent or an editor, always paste your sample pages after your query letter and before your synopsis, generally it is a bad idea to attach anything unless told to :)
     
  16. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    Izanobu, you're right in the sense that those are the usual rules.

    However, this is advice from agent Kirsty Mclachlan (who used to represent me):

    "3/Rules are for fools – start breaking them. I work in a busy but small agency. We have guidelines but there are times when people duck under these and aim straight for David Godwin, the agent, they email him and grab his attention. He’ll respond straight away if you ‘seduce’ him with your email – I’ve known him to read a synopsis that day and respond. So don’t feel you have to always tow the line. Be a bit daring."

    That's what I meant about the cover letter being all-important.
     
  17. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Ah, I see your point. I still would feel weird about sending an attachment, however. I know that I, for one, don't open emails from people I don't know that have attachments. It seems like it would be a gamble.

    (I do agree that rules are for fools, though. I like that phrase :) )
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most publishers and agents state quite clearly that they never even open unsolicited attachments. If you aren't sure if they take submissions by e-mail, send a query letter (or e-mail) first. Many do not accept submissions by e-mail.

    And I disagree about the rules. They are there because that is what the agent/publisher prefers. Always obey the guidelines. Only an arrogant amateur thinks they are so earth-shatteringly good that they can bypass the system.
     
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  19. EileenG
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    These days, most people deleted anything with an attachment unless they are expecting something.

    Also, it's much easier to read something on paper. Most agents don't read unsolicited MSs at their desk, they read them on the bus or on the exercise bike.
     
  20. Sam Taylor
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    Sam Taylor New Member

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    I think most agents have printers as well, Eileen.
     
  21. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    I spoke to an agent recently who gets over 2000 unsolicited manuscripts a year. Of those, he picked 12 to represent last year. Do you honestly think he's going to print out 2000 e-mail manuscripts on his own printer? In fact, he said the ones he liked best were printed, space and a half, and had a spiral binding on them so he could read them at the bus-stop or in the bath etc without losing pages.

    Anyone who took the trouble to ask him what he wanted and supplied it was ahead of the game.
     
  22. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Actually, many agents and editors now use e-readers.

    I'd never send a bound manuscript out unless the full was specifically requested that way.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The submissions guidelines will tell you what form they want submissions in. Send exactly that. Yes, publishing houses do have printers, but submissions editors don't have the time to print out an attachment.

    If they want a printed manuscript, that is what you give them. And many of them do, because they can write their notes in the margins, between the (double-spaced) lines, and on the (blank) back of each page.

    It ain't rocket science. If they say they want X, Y, and Z, you give them X, Y, and Z. Don't give them W also, and don't give them X, Y, and ThisIsAsGoodOrBetterThanZ.

    After all, if you're a writer, they assume you can read, too.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that, cog!
     
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