Had someone ask me what goes in the submission packages I send out. The core material going into each one is the same; they each get a query letter, a synopsis and maybe sample chapters, it’s just the details that vary. Some publishers and agents want more or less material than others, some want it in different formats. A good portion of the time I spend on each submission is on researching just how this particular recipient wants the material submitted and tailoring what I have to suit but I can at least provide a general breakdown.
The query letter is the first impression. It’s the first thing an agent or publisher sees when they open my envelope so it’s important that it be done right. The content of the query letter is the most variable document I send out. Some want nothing more than contact information and a brief summary of the plot, while others are looking for a comparison to similar stories in the genre and a description of who the target audience might be. Sometimes it takes hours, even days, to get a query letter to match the exact specifications of what they’re looking for and even then there’s no guarantee I did it right. The technical details like font and spacing are easy enough to manage but when it comes to some of the more subjective instructions about what kind of content they’re looking for in the query, it can sometimes be a guessing game. All I can do is try my best with each one and keep a record of all queries in case the content within one letter is also particularly suitable for another recipient.
This is a section with a lot of up front work for the first few submissions until you have a variety of synopsis’ to draw from. Some want a one or a two page synopsis, single spaced, while others are looking for a double spaced synopsis that runs four to eight pages. If they say two pages, they mean two only. Sending anything more is the kiss of death and will often get a manuscript thrown out unread.
Every time I saw a publisher with a different requirement I would have to make a new synopsis. I now have a one, a two and a three page synopsis, so I can readily provide them with whichever one suits their needs. The single page was the hardest to write. Cramming a 93 thousand word novel into a single page, and have it still make some sort of sense, was no easy task.
This one’s the easiest but it still takes some effort to set up. Some agents and publishers want a specific number of sample chapters, usually three or five though I’ve seen as little as one. Some only want a specific number of pages, usually 30-50. Basically all I have to do is copy my novel document and chop out what they don’t want then make sure it’s in the proper format if they have any special requirements beyond the standard manuscript format.
Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
Trickier than it sounds. I have to print up a bunch of labels, get all the envelopes addressed properly, stamp them, then make sure the correct SASE goes in the right submission package. Once I realized that I’d finished eight submissions and used only seven stamps, meaning one envelope had no postage on it. Luckily it was the top one, so I didn’t have to rip them all open again. Still, it was an annoyance and shows what can go wrong with such a little thing if I’m not careful.