I’ve just finished writing that last new chapter for The West Queen. I have just three more chapters to revise and bring into line with the new organisation of the book. I should get through them this week. I then need to look at writing a synopsis, selecting agents, writing a query letter, submitting and getting on with my next book.
I’ve looked at writing a synopsis before and found it quite challenging. On first glance it seems like it should be fairly easy, I mean I know the story back to front, but that may be the problem I have. I need a couple different versions of the synopsis:
- Five second pitch, also known as the elevator pitch. This is the short, punchy synopsis I would hypothetically tell a publisher if I shared an elevator ride with them at a convention. It needs to be just a few sentences and it needs to capture the attention. It might be similar to what appears on the back of a paperback.
- promotional synopsis. This would be a bit longer, but it has a similar purpose. It should summarise the main plot points without revealing too much of the story. It would go out to reviewers or appear in a catalogue to whet the appetite. Maybe I don’t need to do this synopsis if I do a good enough elevator pitch.
- Full synopsis. This one is the one most agents and editors want to see. It is a page or two that runs through all the major plot points and reveals the ending. The idea is to digest the book so the reader doesn’t have to. When you submit to an editor or agent, they often ask for the first chapter or few pages and a synopsis. They will read the pages you send to get a feel for your style, your voice, and then read the synopsis to see where the book is heading. From that they’ll decide if they want to read the rest of the manuscript or not.
The difficulty I’ve had in writing a synopsis is that I want, and need, to writing in short form what I took over 100,000 words to write in the first place. I need to take all that writing and convert it into something short and interesting, oh and it’s supposed to make sense too.
The query letter is what I send to an agent or editor asking if they would like to buy my book (or sell it in the case of an agent). Much like all other entertainment industries, the publishing industry is chock full of hopefuls and wannabes (like me). There is no end to the supply of novels, poems, short stories, screen plays and theatrical productions. If I put up a web page tomorrow stating I was a publisher looking to buy manuscripts to publish I would be awash with submissions. Most of which would be bad. So it is true with agents and publishers. Agents therefore need to pick through all the hopefuls and pull out the ones that are most marketable. It isn’t that the ones they reject are no good, but rather that agent doesn’t feel confident they will be able to sell it. Another agent may be different. The query letter is the basic method for sorting through submissions. The agent will put a submission standard, a list of things to include and to not include. The people who manage to read that list and follow the instructions are the first to be assessed. Apparently, and it doesn’t surprise me at all because I’m a cynic, agents receive many queries that don’t match their guidelines. From authors submitting a horror novel to a romance specialist through to email being sent to an agent who specified snail mail or just plain unsolicited manuscripts. So I will hunt for agents that represent fantasy, have current authors who write similar stuff, who are looking for new submissions and who accept email. I don’t believe in encouraging legacy technology so I won’t consider an agent who only accepts paper. The letter itself is a fairly standard affair across the industry and so I’ll be putting up some drafts as I go along. I’d invite comment, but lets face it, both neither of my readers will 🙂
The next book
This is the exciting part. Once I’ve finished The West Queen and start submitting, I need to get on with books 2 and 3 of the series. I’ll have to outline all the way to the end and start roughing out the first draft. That’s because if/when someone takes interest in The West Queen, the first question they’ll ask is “have you written books 2 and 3 yet?” and I want to be able to say “yes”. I have the story in my head, obviously, but up until this latest revision the underlying story hadn’t revealed itself to me. Now I know the series is about the titular West Queen and how her struggles intersect with the ambitions of the church and with unresolved spiritual matters from her own past. You see? Six months ago I probably couldn’t have summed up the series in just one sentence like that. So I’ll outline very roughly to the end of the series, then fill out book 2 and then write the first draft. I’m thinking of calling it The Lost Prince and book three, The Demon King. We’ll see though.