Here we are in Part 6 of the writing process. We’ve had the seedling of an idea. We’ve conceptualized the story. We’ve drafted. We’ve edited. We’ve rewritten. We’ve edited some more. We’ve rewritten some more. And now it’s time to ship this baby off to the world.
So let’s talk about submitting.
Keep in mind, that as you enter this step of the process, there are “rules” and there are “RULES” but at the same time, the “rules” are not rules, but just “rules.”
Got it? Have no idea what I’m talking about?
One of the recent discussions I’ve had in my writer’s group (hopefully you’ve tried to join one by now–as per my constant
nagging bringing it up), is the best way to start off your query letter.
Ultimately, there are some universals (the rules) and ways to make your query letter better (“the rules”), but sometimes I think what gets lost in the shuffle is that the STORY MATTERS THE MOST.
Here is a great link to the ins and outs of it. You’ll notice that the article is just under 3000 words long. What that means is there are resources on the internet that can point you in very specific directions that I won’t retread on here. Heck…if you google, “How to write a query letter” you can get all your advice that you need.
But since I’m doing this series on writing a story, I do want to add my two cents.
Cent 1: Keep it short and sweet
Cent 2: Be professional
If you have a relationship with the individual you are querying, then obviously you can make it more personal. However, if it is someone you have no knowledge of outside of your research, then keep it professional.
YES, you should try to show your writing style. YES, you should your best to grab the attention of the agent or editor, YES it is important to know the types of books an agent is interested in representing.
BUT don’t over do it. Keep it short and sweet. Be professional.
In my mind, it’s the story that matters the most. While I do think you should try to win over an agent or publisher with your query letter, the “winning” really occurs when you write a story that they can’t stop thinking about. It must be a story so strong that they can literally turn the pages in their minds eye and see the illustrations unfold before them.
Hehe, see, Love does trump all other things!
Which leads us to the next question: where do you get your information to submit? It really depends on whether you are looking for a publisher or an agent.
If you are looking for an agent, one great place to start is Agent Query.
If you are looking for publishers, check out Jacket Flap.
When I first started submitting, Jacket Flap was my go-to sight. Since I was (and am) unrepresented by an agent, it’s important to know which publishers take Open Submissions and which ones don’t.
Similar to auditions for movies, there are many MANY times where you can’t “audition” your work without an agent. Just like a movie agent would get you an audition, a book agent will be the one trying to sell your work.
However, there are some publishers who take Open Submissions. As you bounce around on Jacket Flap (or other useful websites that you can come across), you will learn about whether or not you can submit to them.
For me, my goal is to find a certain number of agents or publishers (I like to create a list of 5 to 10), make sure that my stories fit their guidelines, craft a query letter, put it all together, then submit!
Hmmm…looking back on what I’ve just written, I don’t want it to come across as too cavalier (and if it does, please know that’s not my intention). My hope is that from my previous entries you see that the thing I am the most passionate about is the story.
I’m not saying that the knowledge of querying is unimportant, because the best ways to get your stories in people’s hands is by submitting. And you don’t want to fall totally on y our face during this component.
But as I stated several hundred words ago–I believe if you write a competent letter AND write a wonderful story, you’ll have a significantly better chance with your submission than an AMAZING query letter but a story that doesn’t back it up.
After submitting comes the waiting.
And the waiting.
But what should you be doing while you are waiting? You should be WRITING! If I’ve made it to the submission stage of a story, I’ll let that story rest after submitting. I’ll give those characters a break and I’ll let my mind “unfocus” so I can start the writing process all over again.
And that, dear friends is how I go from taking a story from a little seed of an idea to something I’m submitting out to the world.