Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tales of Submission

If you think this is some sort of BDSM blog, think again. There are many types of submissions. The one I’m going to talk about here is submission to a publishing house, like Champagne. I wear two hats, editor and author. And I angst over submissions, even though I’ve been in this business for several years. So thought I’d talk about the process I go through when submitting a story for consideration.

First, I write and do a round of edits on a story. I make a few notes about things I still need to work on. Then, if possible, I put it away for a month and work on the next story. That way, when I go through on round two of edits, it’s fresh and easier to see the places I need to fix. This is when I’m really looking closely at the emotion, where I need to slow things down, where to speed them up...and what to gut. After this, I go through one more time, looking closely at grammar and punctuation. Now, I’ve already been through the story three times, but you’d be amazed how many things I catch on this last pass.

Then, my story goes to my critique partner, who catches even more things to fix. After I’m done with that, I send it to a beta reader. Yep. She catches a few more things, but by now, they’re pretty minimal and easy to fix. While my story is being beta read, I check out what the publisher I want to send it to is looking for, making sure my story’s a good fit.

At this point, my story is polished and ready to go, so that’s when I format however much the publisher wants (like first three chapters) to the specifications they ask for. Champagne uses pretty standard formatting (TNR size 12, one inch borders, double-spaced, etc.)

Now it’s time to work on my submission package. Oh, that infernal synopsis. Ugh. I hate writing them. How can I tell my story in 2-3 pages? FYI - for a 2-3 page synopsis, I generally start out with a 4-5 page one and pare it down. For a one page synopsis, I first write what my story is about in one sentence. One very lo-o-o-ong sentence.  That’s the real trick to deciding what’s most important about the story, in my opinion. Then I expand it to a page.

Okay, so now I’ve got my chapters and my synopsis ready to go. Time to do that query letter. Remember that lo-o-ong sentence I wrote above that describes my story? I can use that here as a quick book descriptor, adding word count and genre. Then I need to do the bio. I hate, hate, hate talking about myself. I’m a crowd blender, not a leader. But I do it. It’s part of the business. One word at a time, I remind myself that there’s a reason why I write. That my submission is worthy. Early on, when I didn’t have a writing resume to draw from, I listed my affiliations in the business, what kind of volunteering I do (again, in the business), and what type of education or craft classes I’ve taken. Another good option is explaining why you are qualified to write the story you wrote (for instance, you write a story about an injured soldier, and in real life you’re a nurse.

I finally get it done. Read everything over (yep, chapters, synopsis, and query letter). Let it sit overnight, then read it over again. At that point, I think my OCD is definitely rearing its ugly head. So I plunk it into an email, attach my documents, and hit send.

At that point, I really should just walk away from my computer. Take the cat out for a walk, settle down with a cup of tea and a good book, or anything else that’s relaxing. But no, I have to drive myself nuts by reading over my query letter and synopsis AGAIN. I did mention I have this OCD thing going on, right?

And you know what? I find a typo. Almost every single time.  It’s infuriating, but it happens. Here’s the part I’m still trying to learn. It’s okay to have a typo in your query letter.  If you’ve gone through the process to make your story shine, and you’ve addressed all the important points in your synopsis and query letter, one typo is not going to keep the publisher from contracting you if the story’s right. Ten or twelve might, but one is not.

So the moral of my process is to make it shine, then forget about it. Easier said than done, but it’ll keep you sane in the long run. 

Happy submitting!

Laurie Temple
Editor at Champagne Books

1 comment:

  1. HI Laurie, Thank you for sharing. There are other OCD folks out there. I count myself among them. Whether my first submission or the tenth, I worry as I hit SEND. Then, I put it out of my mind and move on because I have absolutely no control over it.