Every publisher and agent will have their own specific submission requirements spelled out on their website. Read them, and follow the instructions verbatim. There is no faster way to discourage a publisher than receiving something other than what they asked for. Sometimes you can get lucky by playing it eccentric and doing something completely off the wall but, in general, your chances are better if you show them you have done your homework, read the requirements they went to the trouble of already providing to you, and adhered to them. It shows them you are easy to work with, are capable of following directions, and understand basic business principles. Think of like this: the agent or publisher is doing you a favor by telling you exactly what they want and how they want it. Why would you not give it to them?
Sometimes, you’ll be asked to query first, without sending any materials until they are requested. In that case, your query letter will have to be enough to spark their interest in you and your book. Other times, you’ll be asked for additional materials, such as a 2-5 page synopsis, including any twists and the ending, and sample chapters (usually the first 3 or as many as it takes for all main characters to be introduced). You will also have specific instructions on how those particular files need to be formatted, named, and attached to the email correspondence. And then there are publishers who just want to get to the point, and they’ll ask for the full manuscript with your query letter, formatted to their specifications.
In any of these cases, the query or submission letter will be extremely important, so you’ll want to do it right. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Put your book title and your author name in the subject line
- Address the message professionally, and as specifically as possible (“Dear Mr. Smith” is better than “Dear Acquisitions Department” which is still better than “To Whom It May Concern”)
- Tell them about your book (genre, series, word count, 1-2 sentence summary)
- Tell them relevant things about you (pen name, real name, writing/publishing history if applicable, website or social media links if you have them–which you should)
- Give them your contact information (mailing address, email address, phone number)
- Tell them what you’re attaching (if anything)
- If you’re submitting to more than one place simultaneously, mention that as well
- Keep your message brief and to the point
- And, of course, always proofread your letter and materials before sending
SAMPLE COVER LETTER:
Dear Mr. Crusoe,
I am writing to submit for your consideration my debut novel: Dead Men Speak Nonsense. The story follows the romantic misadventures of Jerry, who wakes up in a funeral home as a new member of the undead community and discovers he was murdered by accident and missed his own wedding. Please see more information below:
Title: Dead Men Speak Nonsense
Author: Jake Reskin (real name Blake Smith)
Genre: dark comedy
Word Count: 95,000
Blurb: Jerry is dead. Actually, he’s undead, which complicates things quite a bit, since he’s supposed to be getting married. Instead, he’s sitting at the Bureau of Undead Affairs, signing legal documents, and getting a crash course in dead body preservation. His fiance won’t talk to him, his support group is a bunch of decomposing idiots, and to add insult to injury, it turns out Jerry wasn’t even supposed to die in the first place! If he can keep the police and telemarketers off his phone line long enough to make an actual call, he knows he can get Margie to take him back, but can he do it before he completely falls apart?
While this is my first novel submission, my past publications include a self-published novella in the same genre, and several horror short stories published in Horror Magazine, Zombie Central, and Dead Times, all of which have been well received. I have an active website and blog: JakesFictitiousWebsite.com and am active on Facebook and Twitter, with a combined 10,000 followers.
Per your submission requirements, attached please find the synopsis and full manuscript of Dead Men Speak Nonsense.
I look forward to hearing back from you. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and usually answer messages within 24 hours.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.