writers' advice weblog

Category archive

Submissions - page 2

re: Finding Adventure in Historical Fiction

in Submissions/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I have just completed an MG adventure for boys set in the middle ages. I’ve heard that historical fiction is a hard sell these days. How should I pitch my manuscript?

Sincerely,

Nancy

Dear Nancy…

Okay, so historical fiction isn’t as hot as vampire love stories right now, but you’ve got a secret weapon—a middle grade adventure for boys! Editors crave that. Pitch the action with the biggest fork you can find. Knights and armor, warlords and feudal tragedy, crusades and barbarian invasions, and royalty that snuffs each other out faster than Black Death? Yowza! Gotta love the middle ages. “MG adventure for boys” are the keywords for your pitch. Hit that angle hard.

Happy writing!

The Editor

re: The Sweet Smell of Submissions

in Picture Books/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

I have written a picture book manuscript and am confused about what to write as far as a cover letter/query letter. It’s my understanding I send the entire ms (461 words) with it for any submissions. What do I need to send with the ms?

Sincerely,

Melanie

Dear Melanie…

Don’t let the jargon trip you up. Submit two things: the cover letter (called a “query letter”) and your manuscript. That’s all.

Seriously. That’s ALL. Don’t include anything gimmicky. An author once sent me a vial of homemade perfume that tied into her story’s theme. Only, I didn’t know the vial was in the submission envelope when I shoved it into my bag to read at home—along with several full novel manuscripts. The vial was crushed in my car. The scent? Let’s just say the manuscript was about a horse and leave it at that.

Happy writing!

The Editor

re: Writer Credentials

in Publishing Biz/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

I’m writing a picture book and when putting together my manuscript I understand I have to include a bit about my writing credentials. Problem is – I don’t have any! Is this a barrier to entry or mean I’ll be subject to greater critical analysis than a published author?

Thanks,
Navigating Novice

Dear Navigating Novice…

It’s the ol’ chicken-and-egg resume moment. How do I get experience if no one will give me a job without experience? Feh. Fill the credential paragraph of your query letter with one of these:

  1. a statement explaining why YOU are the person to write this particular manuscript (i.e., it’s about an alien and you’re a former astronaut)
  2. the line “I’m a member of SCBWI. I hope this manuscript is up your alley and look forward to hearing from you.” If you’re not a member, become one. It tells editors you’re serious about perfecting your craft.
  3. option 2 above, minus the first five words. It won’t hurt that you’ve never been published. You just don’t get that extra oomph of credibility.

Happy writing!

The Editor

re: Are Three Pens Better Than One?

in Creative Process/Publishing Biz/Submissions/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

Two writer friends and I have collaborated on a mg novel. Are editors leery of taking on collaborations and working with three authors and three agents? Is there a preferable way to package our talents so that we can be marketed as a team versus individuals?

Sincerely,

Natasha

Dear Natasha…

If your material is The Goods, editors won’t balk at a 3-person writing team. But be ready for extra scrutiny from them and reviewers: Three authors? Must be three times as good! Your voices must be seamless if they’re meant to blend. Or, if there are three different parts, each voice must be distinct, and changing from one to another must offer insight you could only get from that voice.

For insight into packaging a threesome, I tapped my favorite publicity collaborators, the duo at Blue Slip Media. They do point out possible marketing challenges: 3 author names on promo materials is tricky design-wise, and it’d be 3 times more expensive to bring all of you to conferences or go on tour, and having 3 agents pushing for top billing for their authors could be a headache for the Marketing Director. These might be arguments for packaging the group under a pen name—one that hints at or directly declares your team-up. You can brainstorm it with the Marketing Department when the times comes; you needn’t have it completely finalized when you submit. Despite these challenges, Blue Slips says that Marketing would welcome the unique possibilities your threesome offers: 3 sets of networks to tap into, 3 locales where you can push for local publicity, and potential for some great trade coverage (like Publishers Weekly and general newspapers/magazines) for the unusual approach to writing fiction. Having 3 authors makes the book stand out from the pack, a key in publicity. Just be sure you work together seamlessly (that word again!) so you can agree on things quickly and move forward.

I also checked with a publishing law attorney, Lisa Lucas at Lucas LLP. After all, a collaboration is a business partnership, and many authors forget that in the excitement of creating and submitting. Turns out Lisa blogged about this very issue earlier this summer. Her main message: Brainstorm the entire process, consider all the things that may come up, then assign responsibility and memorialize that on paper. For instance, when one author is at a conference doing the selling, should she get a bigger cut of those sales? Your agents, too, must work things out among themselves before bringing in the outside pressure of a publisher. Of course, you can’t predict everything (Lisa cites a case where one author in a collaboration commits murder—yikes!), but do take to heart her message about proactively discussing touchy things.

Happy writing!

The Editor

re: Query Quandary

in Submissions/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I have written a few query letters for my picture books, and sent them off to many editors, with no
success. I decided to write a Middle grade novel and try to get it published first… Question is: Can I query it before I finish? And is it bad to query the editors I have already queried for my picture book?

Sincerely,

Christina

Dear Christina…

It’s not unheard of to query before you finish your manuscript. This is one way to lessen your waiting time between query and response. You’re not really waiting if you’re still writing, right? However, while the logic is there, there’s risk in this maneuver. Should you get a speedy reply asking for materials, you wouldn’t have anything to send and would have to hem and haw or make up excuses for your delay. Or worse, you’d rush out with something before it’s thoroughly cooked. Leaving a request for more dangling is always a little hinky. The agent may wonder if you’re flaky or not as serious about him/her as you claimed to be in the query, and the last thing you want to do is give agents a reason to narrow their eyes suspiciously. Most writers send in their material within hours or days of the request for more.  If you’re going to query before your manuscript is done, make sure the ms is really really darned close to being done.

If the editors you queried for your picture book also handle MG fiction, then yes, query them for your novel. They didn’t reject you, just that particular picture book.

Happy writing!

The Editor

Go to Top