What is a Submission?
A submission is our sales package, which should be short, to the point and compelling, (though what makes compelling reading, is naturally subjective). If an agent asks for “the first three chapters or ten thousand words” this means, the first three chapters (up to ten thousand words). In that instance, we would send the first three chapters, or as much of the first three chapters as will take us to ten thousand words. Clue: Get your first three chapters into ten thousand words. Occasionally, a generous agent or publisher will ask for the first fifty pages. These have to be strong, convincing and impeccably written, as this will be our first and last chance to impress. Given that agencies receive hundreds of submissions each week, they are looking for any excuse to press the delete button.
The first element of a submission is our cover letter, which ideally will fit onto one page. Hopefully, it will contain an appealing taster of the story, plus some mention of our credentials and expertise as a writer.
The second element is our proposal, also called a synopsis, which is a fancy word for “summary of the entire plot” which will probably include a brief summary – a précis of the plot or subject matter in one or two sentences – plus a few longer paragraphs offering more details, and some indication of why it deserves the agent’s special attention. The synopsis summarises our work. It is a piece of writing that evolves as our work does, and may only resemble something passably business-like after many different reincarnations. We aim to fit everything pertinent that you wish to mention on one page of A4, double spaced; which works out at about three hundred words of text, plus headings.
Before we sit down to write anything, it pays to consider what else in the market our work compares with, any marketable advantages we perceive our work having, why it is unique and why we are uniquely qualified to write it. If we have any involvement in writers’ circles or on-line communities, hopefully we have been mulling these questions over for some time and can answer them fairly confidently. If not, perhaps we might leave aside doing submissions until we have a clearer idea of what particular flavours we can bring to the market. Knowing what our particular contribution is, informs our conviction.
It took me months to formulate a neat cover letter and a neat synopsis, and even now, there are some things I should probably mention and others I would be better to omit. I have received two rejection letters recently, so clearly, there are things I can work on. I did gain some very useful feedback, which I shall consider and incorporate.
The cover letter and synopsis are pieces of writing that evolve as our work does, and may only resemble something passably business-like after many different reincarnations. I take time to work at them, aiming again to fit everything pertinent I wish to mention on single pages of A4, double spaced; which works out at about three hundred words of text, plus headings.
Thanks for reading