I blogged about an event a couple of weeks ago: SCWBI’s Nicola Morgan workshop in Edinburgh last Saturday. Nicola is a hugely impressive lady who freely admits that she spent 21 years trying and failing to get published . She now runs workshops along the lines of ‘the things I wish I’d known then’ and to be honest, having read her book, Write to be Published, I thought I was ahead of the game. Submission letters? Doddle! Synopsis? Piece of cake, right?
In no particular order, here are some of the salient points I took away from Saturday afternoon.
- HOOK: Being no salesperson, it is slightly alien to me to make my manuscript sound as a must-have. Start with a 25 word ‘hook’, including the must-have-factor, using concrete and not abstract words, an epithet summing up your main character and their goals/problems/stakes (i.e. what will happen if they fail?). It must sound perfect for the genre and contain big emotional tugs.
Focus on the story elements that work best and feel free to leave out what doesn’t tick those boxes!
PARAGRAPH: you can then work this 25 word hook into the key paragraph of your submission letter, adding perhaps 2/3 examples of obstacles or failures and any important secondary characters which affect the story. Also put in something on character development and any structural factors like alternating voices or time shifts.
LETTER: Even if submitting by email, follow the following structure:
- Top: contact info, address, website etc
- Para 1:short intro, title, genre, length
- Para 2: pitch your book
- Para 3: Pitch yourself
Para 4: Round off politely, usually with something specific to that agent or publisher.
And a couple more things:
- Target audience should not be the same as section in a book shop. Max span of three years: 10-12 is ok; 8-12 makes you look ignorant. Yes, I know; me too.
- Apparently, it’s good to show that you’re working on something else, showing you’re no one-book-wonder.
- The paragraph about yourself should include writing credits and experience: anything relevant or interesting. It should be obvious that you are professional, hardworking and serious about a career in writing. Show passion and knowledge of your genre. Include anything that’ll make them think you’d be good at publicity etc. DO NOT list lots of competition successes (Uh-oh…) as it sounds like bragging, and DO NOT put links to websites, expecting the agent/publisher to look it up – it sounds presumptuous (again, me too).You could construct an email signature with some of that information in it – now I need to go and figure out how on earth to do that!
So there you have it. Success in a nutshell!
If only it were that easy!