Getting Published: Going beyond the Query Letter

I recently had someone ask me about how to break into the writing industry. She’s familiar with how to write query letters, but as you may or may not know, the sheer mass of queries that an agent or editor may receive can easily bury your polished gem.

So for those of you who are serious about getting published: here’s how you can take your carrier to the next level.

Basically, you’re going to have to meet some people. 😛

I’m talking about conferences and workshops. I highly suggest that you start looking at what’s available to you. An example of a great conference that is happening in the BC, Canada area is the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. If anything, check out their website to get an idea of just what a conference can offer you.

If major writing conferences are outside of your budget, then look for writing workshops closer to home. I met my publisher, publicist, and connected with a writing critique group, all through attending large conferences and local workshops.

I find the writing industry is actually pretty small and one good connection tends to lead to another. So always be polite!

There are some practical tools you will need to promote your manuscript, both at the conferences and beyond. I’m going to call it the Writers’ Marketing Kit.

1. A verbal pitch – A snappy interesting summary of your book – no more than two minutes. You never know who’s going to be asking!

2. Pitch sheet – this is a single 8X11 sheet with your name, a brief bio, and a five/six sentence summary of your book.

Mine is done in colour and has a glossy finish like a flyer. Be sure to include your photo and contact information. Pitch sheets are great at conferences. If an agent or editor is interested in you or your book you can slip them a pitch sheet (after your verbal pitch) so they will remember you and your book later.

3. Query Letter – Even if you do make personal contact with an agent at a writing conference, it is still polite to connect with them again in the form of a query letter. A query letter is like a cover letter for your book. It introduces you, and your manuscript. Different agencies have different policies about how to format your query letter. Visit their websites for more information. Here is a helpful link to connect you with agents and get you started on building a great query.

4. Summaries – of varying lengths.These are mostly for query letters, but you will find them handy in other places too. (Writing your dust jacket for instance) Depending on what the summary is for, you may need to include summaries of 2 paragraphs to 2 pages.

5. Synopsis – think of this as your book in mini form. It should be written completely in present tense, third person and is supposed to capture your unique writing voice and the ‘feel’ of the story itself.

While you don’t need every detail of your book, include all the major characters and plot twists. And yes – doing all of this can be a HUGE struggle. Still, at the very least, a synopsis will expose weaknesses in your manuscript that you might not have known was there.

I have also found that book reviewers sometimes skip reading your book in favour of reading your synopsis… so it needs to be the best it can be. I have seen synopsis’ range in length from 2 pages to 10. Generally however, shorter is better.

6. Bio – It seems you need a bio everywhere and for everything. if you don’t have any letters behind your name, try to make it quirky and interesting. Be sure to include any special experiences and knowledge you have that pertains to your book.

7. Business cards – very handy. Made me feel professional.

8. Blog/Website – One of the first things that an agent/editor/publisher will do if they are interested in you is google your name. I suggest that you make it easy to find, and that you do your best to control what type of content is posted about you.

Well! That’s all I can think of for right now. I may have to revisit this list and update it later. Any suggestions?


About cjgosling

I paint, I sing, I walk in the rain. I'm clumsy and I love the smell of campfire. My head is full of imaginary things and the only thing I ever really want to do in life is write. My first book "Shadowlands: The Guardian" was released in Feb. 2011. The sequel is coming in 2012! View all posts by cjgosling

One response to “Getting Published: Going beyond the Query Letter

  • Shannon

    I think you covered most of it! The only thing I would add because of my experiance in Seattle would be a submission package you take with you to the conferences and workshops. Large envelope with your query letter, synopsis and first three chapters. That way if anyone really wants to see your work asap, you can hand it to them right there.

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