You’ve finished your novel! Hurrah! Wahoo! Take time to celebrate!
And then, you wonder, can you sell this manuscript to a publisher? Welcome to the world of marketing your novel. It’s a relatively straight-forward process and two simple tools make it easy.
The Query Letter and the Synopsis
You can’t live long as a writer without developing a dread of The Query Letter. But it shouldn’t be a fearful thing.
First and foremost, a query is a business letter. You are asking a business (either agent or editor) a simple question. “Are you interested in reading my story?”
Please – don’t make it more difficult than that.
I know. Sometimes we’re tempted to endlessly critique a simple, one page query letter. Resist the urge. Write a business letter and let it do its job.
Here’s a simple plan:
Paragraph 1: Simple statement of what you’re selling. State what you have to sell. You should mention the title, length, genre and anything else pertinent. If you have a particular reason to sell to this particular agent/editor, state it here, too.
Paragraph 2: Hook the reader. Why should a reader care about your story? You’re a writer. In fact, you’re a great fiction writer. Just write a simple one-paragraph hook for the novel. Answer the “So what?” question and make the reader want more. That’s the key: you want the agent/editor to want to read much, much more!
Paragraph 3: Who are you? Here’s where you insert the simple 100-word bio that you’ve already got set up somewhere. Tweak it to make it fit this novel, of course.
Streamline Marketing with a Grab File of Previously Written Bios and Summaries
I like to take time to write up bios and summaries of stories in various lengths and then just customize the bio/summary for any given situation. Here’s a few of the bios I have available::
- Tag line: Darcy Pattison, children’s book author and writing teacher, . . .
- 25 word bio: Include the most prestigious awards/publications/etc. If you have none, do NOT apologize or say, “I’m not published yet, but. . .” Just don’t say anything.
- 50 word bio: Here, I build on the previous and add any other books/awards that are appropriate.
- 100 word bio: Building on the previous, I loosen up some and try to add some fun and more details.
- Full Blown bio for when I’m speaking: Usually, I only need a full blown bio for when I’m speaking and they want to introduce me. Or teachers/librarians/reviewers/etc. sometimes want a full bibliography. For those times, I keep a pdf version available for download.
I’ve just written a synopsis and it was frustrating. I took 60,000 words to tell a story and a synopsis attempts to tell the story in only 1500-2000 words. Obviously, you’re going to leave out tons of story! How do you manage it?
The best advice I’ve heard is to tell the main through-story as if it were a short story. The through-line is the main plot or the story that carries throughout the story. It’s like a line is anchored in chapter one and then threads through every part of the story.
My first thought was to summarize every chapter with a sentence or two, but that’s not quite right. Instead, think short story. It needs to read as an interesting story, but you have few of the tools usually used in short stories. There’s little room for dialogue or in-depth scenes. You may hint at a scene here or there, but you won’t really develop it. Instead, the synopsis is narrative writing. Still use your strong verbs and sensory details whenever possible, but focus on moving through the story and keeping the reader wondering what comes next.
The query and synopsis aren’t hard. They are, however, a tighter form of writing than you’re used to while writing that long, long novel. Don’t agonize after them; just get them done and get the query out the door! Because we want to see your novel in print!