So you’ve completed the book, written a brilliant query letter and researched a list of agents/editors who will love your book-baby. Now it’s time to get a submission packet together and dive into the query trenches.
A submission packet for fiction consists of:
- Query letter—Refer to Beyond the Book: Queries
- Synopsis—A one or two page synopsis is standard. If more material is requested after your query is read, longer synopsis is sometimes included. To craft a perfect synopsis, read Beth Anderson’s post here.
- First pages—Many submission guidelines require some number of pages (also called sample pages) from the manuscript. Always send pages from the beginning of the book.
- It’s a good idea to paste the first five pages at the end of the query if the agent/editor guidelines don’t specifically state not to send pages.
A submission packet for picture books consists of:
- Short query letter—Just present the main characters, the main problem, and the resolution, then work in a hook (Ex: “great friendship hook,”), and sign off like you normally would with a novel query. From Kidlit.com
- Complete manuscript pasted in the body of the email.
- A link to an online portfolio if you are an author/illustrator.
- For questions about illustration notes in PB submissions click here
- Do not include attachments unless the agent requests to see more illustrations or to see a dummy.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
- DO re-read the submission guidelines directly from the agent’s website before hitting the send button.
- DO copy and paste the text of the query, synopsis and sample pages into the body of the email. Agents will not open attachments
- DO flag your query as such in the subject line of your email: QUERY: GRAPES OF WRATH. Otherwise, agents will miss it, skip over it, or simply disregard it as spam.
- DO use a personal but professional sounding email address. JSmith@gmail.com as opposed to firstname.lastname@example.org
- DON’T use your work email address unless it’s related to your writing.
- DON’T send a mass email to a list of agents.
- DON’T send illustrations unless you’re an author/illustrator.
- DON’T use a generic salutation (Dear Mr./Ms. Agent). Make sure it’s personalized.
- DON’T send email queries with attachments. They will be unread and deleted every time—guaranteed. Agent Query
Formatting snail-mail packets is very straight forward. Agent Query spells it out here.
The preferred format for electronic submissions is Times New Roman, left justified, single-spaced with double space between paragraphs. All material should be included within the body of the email. Make sure to indicate the transition from the query itself to other elements, such as the synopsis or sample pages, and title these elements accordingly.
You may prefer to keep track of and organization submissions using a spreadsheet, index cards or file. The Internet Writing Journal gives tips and how-to’s here.
I prefer Query Tracker. Let me explain why. Recently our dishwasher died and I had to do dishes by hand. Six people eating three meals per day. That adds up to LOTS of dishes, and many hours spent washing, drying, and putting them away. Not impossible, but certainly not efficient. A dishwasher makes cleaning dishes much easier and less time consuming.
Query Tracker is like a dishwasher for writers/illustrators. It’s a tool used to explore agent data and find literary agents, as well as organize and track queries and agent responses. Basic membership is free.
Good luck on your journey to publication wherever it may take you.