Investigations In: Query Letters and Novel Synopsis
edited: Monday, June 27, 2005
By Lillian Sara Cauldwell
Posted: Monday, October 13, 2003
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Teaches how to write query letters and novel synopsis to gain entry into a publishing company.
You've prepared your manuscript to the best it possibly is. You've had "beta readers" take it apart, critique it, and help you "vet" it. You have made the spelling perfect (and don't count on your computers' spell checker, it lies) as well as checking the continuity, grammar. You've given it a total proofreading for any error. If you have NOT done this, nor had someone else do it for you, this is the first step to getting your manuscript published.
The second is to prepare a package of material, including manuscript excerpts, to send to a potential publisher. Part of that package is the important query letter.
I supppose there are as many ways to send in a query letter to a publisher, as there are ways to tell a tale.
Before submitting your manuscript to a publisher, investigate what genre(s) your work falls under, and which publishers may be interested in the type of work you have written.
Searching the Internet will guide you to potential publishers' websites, where their guidelines should be available. Follow those guidelines exactly for the best chance at getting your work noticed and published.
Examples of those guidelines might include the following:
Guidelines for Authors:
All book length fiction, all genres. Everything: romances of all types, plus westerns, mysteries, crime, historicals, paranormal, scifi, horror, suspense, thrillers and blends. The majority of books will be romances.
No porn. We are interested in good books that have fallen through the cracks that don't meet normal guidelines.
Send: First two chapter plus a synopsis. SASE. Also a short letter indicating your experiences, whether you are a member of a writing organization, the length of the book(s) being sent, and the type of book. If it is a blend, mention that: is it more western than romance or whatever. If published, let us know if this book is unencumbered. If you wish to send more than one book, send the synopsis and first two chapters of one book and just a brief synopsis of the others.
No electronic submission, please. If your book is not yet finished, say so, and tell us how much still needs to be written. The length should be from 60k to 100k, more or less.
Simultaneous Submissions Accepted.
There are few "givens" that you might keep in mind as you write that all-important, first impression letter:
1) Write it in formal, business style. In Office 2000 there are letter templates to help with this. Either the "elegant letter" or the "professional letter" format is suitable. If you are not using a program such as office, library books are available that outline secretarial typing and letter styles. My thirty-year-old secretarial school-typing manual is just as accurate in format as the provided templates are today.
2) Led the publisher know briefly and concisely what it is you are offering them, and asking for in return. Use appropriate language, formal yet warm. You're not writing the publisher as if you would write a close friend or family member.
3) Be sure that whatever you send to them is "disposable." If you want your material returned to you, it is your responsibility to provide a postage-paid envelope for the return of the items. Specifry in your letter what to do with the items you have provided. Be sure to write a polite follow-up letter if you have been contacted after your initial package has been submitted. Follow any instructions you have been given.
I've included two examples to get you started:
An actual query letter of mine is included. The manuscript names is real, and was "going the rounds" to find a publisher for it. I worked extensively with my editor on Sacred Honor, before we decided it was ready for marketing. PublishAmerica released Sacred Honor in July 2003.
The plot synopsis of Sacred Honor is included.
Sample of a Synopsis
As part of the aricle - Query Letters
Synopsis for Sacred Honor
In 1776, Benjamin Thompson, a British spy (scientist) for General Gage in Boston, makes a deal with Lord Germain, to be put In charge of the American Colonies. Thompson would time travel into the future, 2276, steal the Declaration of Independence, return with the document to 1774 and sell it to Lord Germain for wealth, polsition and power.
In 2276, Huey T. Stone, the governor of the mid-Atlantic City States, wants to destroy the Declaration of Indpendence and replace it with his own version of history. He manipulates two paramilitary cadets, Abidemi Black, granddaughter to Mbakondja, and Mark Monsanto, a former displaced person, and orders them to steal the Declaration and bring it back to him.
Neither Benjamin Thompson nor Huety T. Stone is aware that there are three people determined to stop them.
Mbakondja, leader of The Regulators, an organizaiton established during the Revolutionary War in the South to protect Blacks from the Briish, disagrees with Huey's grand vision of a new America and rebels against his authority.
Miriam Haleen, leader of a street gang, The Mechanics, is betrayed by Huey and she joins forcces with Mbakondja temporarily to get her revenge against Stone.
Betsy Freejman, double agent to Dr. Franklin and Lord Germain in 1776 and known as Lizzie Freeman in 2276, wants to eliminate Huey T. Stonhe permanently from office and imprison him with Britiain's enemies, the Spaniards.
Don Honeyman, an agent for the British in 2276, switches sides and joins forces with Mbakondja's when he learns that Huey T. Stone plans on unifying the American city states and rule over them.
Taken by surprise, Huety T. Stone is deported to Florida, Mbakondja learns that Abidemi died overseas and only Mark reuturns with Don. Mbakondja sends them west, out of reach of Betsy Freeman, and tells them to stay in touch.
Miriam Haleen thwarted by Betsy's plan, lies low and waits for Betsy to make her final moves.
Betsy's operatives' raid Mbakondja's apartment, and they don't find anyone there. This time , Betsy Freeman lost the battle, but not the war.
Sample of a Query Letter
25 xxx Road
City, State, 1111
August 19, 2002
Ms. YYYY, Editorial Manager
Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box zzzz
City, State 1111
Dear Ms. YYYY:
What happens if an American, scientist, Tory in 1776 travels to the future, 2276, steals a key political document, goes back in time to 1774 and hands it over to England's commander in charge of the American colonies? An alternate world, or does the world remain the same?
Sacred Honor is a speculative historical novel with a word count of 72,660.
My previous credits include one non-fiction book, Teenagers! A Bewildered Parent's Guide, published in 1996, which sold three to five thousand copies. Unjfortunately, book sales quickly decreased when Silvercat Publications' book distributor, Atrium, declard bankruptcy and failed to honor its contracts.
I have also donated four science fiction short stories: "Joys of Spring"; "Mask, A Modern Fairy Tale"; "Lottery"; and "Lady in the Lamp" for charity at Sime-Gen, Inc., owned by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah.
The first three chapters, query letter, synopsis/outline are disposable copy. I hope that you find Sacred Honor intriguing enough to consider publishing by your firm. I look forward to hearing from you.