March 11, 2021-I’m really enjoying the variety of questions that are coming in from our readers, and I hope that you are too! We’ll continue the topic of answering your most asked questions about writing, being an author, self-publishing, and more. Here is the question of the day:
Q: “I’ve been working on my manuscript for a year and a half, it’s a middle-grade novel, and I think I’m finally finished it…or maybe I’m not…every time I look at it, I feel like editing it again from the beginning. How will I know when my manuscript is ready to be submitted to a publisher for consideration?
A: This is a great question! It’s a bit complicated, so let’s try to simplify the answer. It’s totally normal to obsess over every single detail in your book whether it be the very first line or the complexity of the plot or characters. My advice is that after about four drafts, you should stop obsessing. Also, if you’re finding that your changes are making the story worse and not better, it’s time to stop editing and start submitting for publication. For myself, I know my manuscript is completed when I can’t stand to look at it one more time; I’m sick of working on it, I don’t want to read one more word or do one more draft. Only submit your manuscript once everything is wrapped up with a bow and all of the readers questions are answered; don’t leave anything incomplete when it comes to the plot or storyline. Most authors will just know that their manuscript is ready, it’s a gut instinct. Sounds cliché, but it’s true! Only you will know when your manuscript is ready to be submitted. Be sure to check the submission guidelines and follow them explicitly. Usually, these can be found online on the publisher’s website that you will be querying. I can’t tell you how many manuscripts I’ve rejected on the basis of the author not following the correct procedure while submitting, don’t let this happen to you!
August 10, 2020-Do you know what a query letter is and what purpose it serves for a publisher? If not, you’re missing some important information! Publishers expect several things when an author submits their manuscript for consideration, and one of those items is a query letter.
By definition, a query letter is what introduces you and your work to a publisher. Its primary purpose is to get the publisher interested in your book so that they want to read more! Well written query letters whet the publisher’s appetite and pique our interest, poorly written ones make us recycle your query and move on to the next one.
There are four essential parts to a query letter:
1) Title, word count, genre, and category-Including a working title is fine as well as where you would place your book in the market. The rest is self-explanatory for this first step.
2) Brief description of your story and the HOOK-The hook is what gets us hooked on your story! What does your character want? What will they do to get it? And who is preventing them from getting it? Remember to include the ending of your book. We don’t like to be kept guessing.
3) A bit about yourself-Credentials, awards, classes, continuing education etc. And why you wrote the book that you’re sending to us and any other relevant information.
4) Thank you and a closing line-Thanks for reading my manuscript. I hope to hear from you soon. Nice and clean and simple.
January 31, 2019– Listen up fellow writers, what I’m about to tell you is absolutely imperative to set you on the path of successfully getting published, not only with my company but also, with other potential agents/publishers. Here’s the thing, writing is hard work, and we receive approximately 175 submissions give or take per month, so narrowing down the field of manuscripts is essential. Here is what will cause your work to be automatically rejected.
You didn’t follow the submission guidelines. When a potential author doesn’t follow the submission guidelines that are posted on every publisher’s site, you give us the clear indication that you cannot follow instructions. If you can’t follow directions, how are we going to work together longterm? Easy answer-we can’t. Here’s a link to our submission guidelines: https://pandamoniumpublishing.com/about/
You sent your entire manuscript in an attachment. I don’t open attachments. Ever. Next.
Your query letter/synopsis didn’t grab me. If you don’t know how to query a publisher, I suggest that you find information online that is accurate and trustworthy. Also, your synopsis is something that is your HOOK! It is exciting and makes me want to read more of your manuscript. It’s like a movie trailer for an upcoming attraction. For expert help, you can click on this link to our products page to find out how to write the perfect query: https://pandamoniumpublishing.com/product/mini-course-crafting-the-perfect-query/
Your opening pages were boring. The first few pages in your writing must be attention-getting not only for me but for your readers! If the opening of your story is dull, if it starts with a cliche (it was a dark and stormy night), or if it starts out as a dream, your chances of getting a publishing deal have pretty much vanished. Understand that yes, introductions to stories can be fixed, but you only have one chance to make a first impression. If I read your first five pages and I do not love it, what’s going to make me think that the rest of the book is any better? Start where the action is; the rest can be explained later and sprinkled throughout your story.
You weren’t patient. You decided to call my bluff (or not) and say that another publisher was interested in your work, and you tried to rush me into making a decision. You needed an answer in two days or by five o’clock, or before Cinderella’s carriage turned back into a pumpkin, these things take time, and when I’m pushed to decide in a rush, my answer will always be no. Please understand that it takes between 4-6 weeks for me to review your work, sometimes longer based on how many submissions I have. Your patience is appreciated, and I will always respond, either way, so you know where you stand with your submission.
So, those are five ways to get rejected. We hope you’ll follow our advice, X LLB
February 20, 2019– So, you’ve self-published a book, and now you want to pitch your book to a literary agent. This is a tougher road to submission versus the traditional route because publishing is all about sales figures. It can be confusing and frustrating so here’s how to do it right and get your query read!
Sales. Yep, the almighty dollar. Publishing is a business and should be treated as such. How many copies has your book sold? This does NOT include FREE downloads. Please do not query an agent unless you’ve sold 2000-3000 print books or 10,000-20,000 ebooks. Agents look for books that encompass money and success, you must show that your work is above the millions of other books that are self-published each year and one way to do this is to put your money where your mouth is. Prove that your book is saleable with the cash it’s already raked in.
Media attention. Amazon reviews don’t count so I’ll stop you right there. Query an agent only when your book has received reviews from mainstream media such as newspapers, magazines, and tv shows. The bigger, the better!
Bring on the accolades. Has a high profile author or celebrity said something nice about your book? Has an expert in the field you’ve written about endorsed your work? If not, don’t approach an agent until you’ve got some attention from notable names! A blurb or endorsement from a well-known person is an invaluable marketing tool that will better your chances of an agent wanting to represent you.
Eventually, we will delve into the how-to of getting a literary agent to represent your work, but that’s for another blog post down the road. Start with this and when you fulfill the above requirements, we’ll talk. Happy writing! X LLB
September 17, 2018– Middle-grade scripts are what I’m always looking for! There seems to be an infinite black hole in my line-up of offerings for this age group. My middle-grade submissions never close, so if you’re an MG writer, please submit! You can submit your query and one-page synopsis to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, let’s get inside the minds of our middle-grades, shall we? What is an MG reader? It’s a child between the ages of 8-12, and they seem to live in a world of conflict.
Middle-graders love their families, and they are fiercely loyal to them, but at the same time, they crave independence.
They want to fit in with friends and social groups at school, but they also want to be defined as unique, individual, and special.
They want to grow up, make choices, flex their independence, but they also want to be a kid, be safe, and are emotionally not mature enough to make tough decisions when faced with them.
At this age, MG’s are finding their place in the world and getting their feet wet in different situations; they don’t want to completely abandon their childhood, but they don’t want to be treated as kids all the time either. It’s truly a tough spot to be in, not only for them but also, in relating to them as a writer!
Here’s what you need to know to be a successful MG writer:
Tweens are focused on themselves, but they’re also focused on how others see them. Peer opinions are super important to them.
Heroes and parents aren’t perfect anymore. MG’s are starting to see them as humans with flaws and all.
Things are complex at this time in their lives, and they may be experiencing things for the first time in their lives, e.g., first kiss, first time they’ve been grounded, first time they’ve been in trouble at school, first fight with parents, etc.
If there is romance, make it innocent. Crushes are fine but don’t go too far beyond this.
To echo the above point, keep it PG and don’t go all the way to Young Adult writing with edgy themes and romantic scenes. There is a very LARGE line in the sand on this one. Keep it clean because the edgier you make your novel, the less chance it has to enter school libraries and conservative households.
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