I have learned a couple of things in my years as a writer which I thought might be helpful to someone else out there who is submitting their work. So here they are:
- In your query letter, be yourself. By that I mean be quirky, interesting, humorous, honest. You want the editor to connect with you, just as you want the readers to connect with your characters. I wrote this in my query letter: "I'll admit, parts of this book are brutal. I surprised even myself. But to tell it properly I had to be prepared to look at uncomfortable truths and describe physically and mentally painful experiences as honestly as I could. Of course, there are animal companions, rational and irrational adults, moments of sheer exhilaration & fun and moments that I hope will make you cry."
- Tell them a little about yourself in the query letter, what you do and preferably how it relates to the project you're submitting, but don't go on and on about you. It's the project they are primarily interested in.
- Never show your doubts to the publisher, ie: "I'm not sure if you'll like this" or worse "I'm worried it's not quite what you're looking for". You want them to say YES! Assume they will, until you're told otherwise.
- Make your synopsis like a movie trailer, an irresistible snapshot, that has the reader wanting to know more. Give enough information about the characters, themes and plot as possible while making it seem effortlessly succinct. (not easy!) Make the first sentence a hook, the absolute best introduction to your story and characters.
- Do several drafts of the synopsis before you submit. Take the time. Slash and rehash.
- I shouldn't have to say this, but I will just in case. Never submit work that isn't finished or is a rough draft, unless the publisher has specifically asked for exactly that, from you, personally. If it takes two years to finish your book to a high standard, then wait. It's got to seem a viable project to the publisher. Make it your absolute best work! Having said that, I did once send a completed first draft (which took a year to write) to a small, independent publisher because I wanted to know if they thought the project had merit. I was sick of it and needed a boost, basically! I was sooooooo lucky that they took the time to read it and gave me a two page feedback. This virtually never happens. I took a risk because small publishers are actually growing at the moment, in this uncertain economic climate. They are always looking for that next big thing and have a more open mind.
- Be your own publicist. Have a web presence. Then it's easy enough to add a link to your site in the query letter so the publisher can have a look at what you do, what you're interested in, who you are, how serious you are about the writing business. Remember, they are looking to see if YOU are a good investment for their money.