To recap, this is the book's history in brief:
- Written during NaNoWriMo 2010 - Winner! 54k written in about three weeks.
- Left to simmer until April 2011
- Edited; now at about 56k
- Decided that the nasty scenes I had originally planned but dropped because they were depressing really needed to be in there, so I re-wrote the ending in May 2011 - now at about 62k
- Write initial blurb and tagline; choose a title (finally!)
- Edited - now down to about 61k
- Sent to three betareaders
- Sent to two more betareaders
- Proofed - down to 60.5k
- Short synopsis (750 words) and first query written; longer synopsis (2 pages) also written (needed both long and short)
- Submitted to first publisher on list
That's a lot of work to pour into one book, but I have high hopes for this one. I feel like I've finally hit my stride... found my voice... in short, I feel like a real writer now. I think this book can do well, and I want to put equal effort into finding a publisher for it.
I have several publishers on my list for this book, but this first company seems to take the longest to reply, so I started with them. It takes significant time to make each query and submission, so I figured I'd give them the head start while I work on the next, and then the next. Next week, I will likely tackle another. And then another.
So, why do queries and submissions drive writers crazy?
It takes a while to write and edit your submission materials, even aside from your manuscript. The query letter is your first impression, which is nerve wracking. And synopsis are basically hell on the nerves. To take a 60k book and turn it into 2-5 pages of bare-bones summary, while also making it engaging, charming and exciting... It's not easy, let's just say that. Every part of the submission - the cover email, query letter, character descriptions (if requested), the synopsis, etc - must be "pitch perfect" in order to make your book stand out!
First off, your cover letter needs to be informative, yet concise - a difficult balance to strike. Even more difficult, it also must give them some sense of individuality in a very short medium. Secondly, your query must entice them to read the synopsis. Thirdly, your synopsis must inspire them to read or ask for the full manuscript.
If any of these steps fail to engage, or to move the editor on to the next step, the book will be rejected - often, before the acquisition editor has even had a chance to open the MS!
For these submissions, all unsolicited and all unagented, I am fighting several tides. These publishers get tons and tons of competent submissions every week. Yes, they get some incompetent ones, as well, but the majority of the books they see are likely "okay." Therefore, they have the luxury of choosing only books that are well beyond "okay" levels.
This is different from the submissions I've had to Rebel Ink recently, such as the Halloween story I submitted on August 15th. Those stories are already contracted, so I'm not fighting to get my foot in the door. Obviously, I am still working towards having the quality up to standards, but they at least know who I am and are expecting the stories. These don't require the same level of pizzazz to get them to even read the thing.
This is why the "cold submits" are quite stressful.
While my betareaders enjoyed this book, I really have no way of knowing if these particular editors will find my book (as introduced by the letter and synopsis) more than okay. I can only hope my query and synopsis please whoever receives them. I can only hope the book is right for them, doesn't conflict with other books they are planning to release, etc, etc, etc - there are many, many more variables to being accepted/rejected than just, "We hated this book."
Therefore, this is why I've decided to go with more than one company for submission.
In the past, I have always just submitted to one publisher at a time, but this time I am doing a handful. It makes me feel weird - like I am cheating on one with the others. I decided to do it this way with the idea, "Well, if all or nearly all reject me, I need to cast a wide net." I never actually stopped to think what I will do if they all accept, until a friend asked me what happens in that event.
I am not too concerned, though. At this point, I'm not sure I can even hope for acceptance from them all.
All it takes is one, though.
So, after you write your excellent query letter and breathtaking synopsis, and send it off to your choice companies (usually along with the full MS, or sample pages, or the first three chapters, or whatever they ask for - always follow their exact instructions, and tailor your submission package), what happens then?
Then, you wait...
With some companies, if you never hear from them, that means they don't want it. With others, they actually take the time to send you a rejection, which is rather nice of them. Sometimes, they even give you feedback as to why they've rejected it, but this is a bonus. If your book had potential in their eyes, you might get a "rework and resubmit" invitation, which means they're willing to look at it again with some changes. Sometimes, you get an outright acceptance, which is the happy dance moment.
We'll see what we see. I have two or three other companies I will be submitting to before classes resume, and I have a list of about 12 to try, overall, between now and spring 2012. I have a good feeling it will be accepted by someone along the line - that it will reach the right editor at the right time, at the right company, who likes what I do.
If not, it's back to the drawing board, and in the meantime, I'm on to writing many other things.
Just keep moving forward, and hope for the best!