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Creating a Selling Synopsis

Guest Post by Author, Sandy Steen

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In today’s market, a synopsis is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. And a well constructed, well-written synopsis is the best marketing tool you will ever have.

To begin with, it’s essential to know the difference between a storyline and a plot. A storyline is just that – the TELLING of the story, a sketchy overview.

STORYLINE: One day, our hero, Jack decides to wash his new Porsche, which he claims came to him via the will of Bob, a recently departed wealthy friend. His newly acquired girlfriend, Jill, volunteers to help. Bucket in hand; they trudge up a hill to a private well on the back of Jack’s property. They fill the bucket and start back, but Jack trips and falls down the hill. Jill deliberately tumbles after him. When they get to the bottom, she hits Jack over the head with the empty bucket and forces him to confess he killed Wealthy Bob, her real boyfriend, to get his expensive car.

The plot contains the basics of the story but it also contains the important element of motivation. The plot is the dimensional overview.

PLOT: In the sleepy little town of Anywhere, USA on a sunny, Sunday afternoon in May, our hero, Jack, is so enamored of his new Porsche that he can’t stand to see it dirty and decides to wash it. He’s surprised and thrilled when Jill, the girlfriend of the late Wealthy Bob, stops by and offers to help. Forever bragging about his bedroom conquests, he has always wanted Jill.

Our heroine, Jill, may be a winsome blonde, but she’s no airhead. Nothing is what it seems, and she didn’t just happen by Jack’s place. She’s been shadowing him for the last two weeks hoping to get some evidence to support her theory that he killed Wealthy Bob for the Porsche. Jack certainly appears thrilled about her appearance, and even flirts with her.

The flirting works for what Jill has in mind. Positive she can charm Jack into giving himself away, her plan is complicated when she discovers Jack hasn’t paid his water bill, and they are forced to trudge up a hill at the back of his property to fetch water in a bucket. Frustrated and angry, Jack is in no mood to put up with female wiles. When he trips and falls down the hill the situation goes from bad to worse.

Her plan down the tube, Jill decides to confront Jack and force him to confess. She deliberately tumbles after him. When they reach the bottom, she grabs the empty bucket and hits Jack in the head, knocking him out.

When Jack comes to, he finds himself propped up against the car, his hands bound behind him and his feet bound in front with Duct tape. His eyes pop open to the sound of a gun being cocked. Inches away Jill kneels beside him with a Glock pointed right at his crouch. She wants the truth, or he’ll be singing soprano if he sings at all.

Thinking he will tell her what she wants while working to free his hands then escape, Jack tells her how he befriended Wealthy Bob and won his trust. Then one night he talked Bob into letting him drive the Porsche. They rode out into the country to a spot where Jack had stashed a gun. He killed Wealthy Bob and made it look like a robbery gone bad. But it wasn’t just for the car; he wanted her, too. When Jill says she is taking him to the cops, Jack merely laughs. He won’t repeat what he just said. It’ll be her word against his and she has no evidence. “Wanna bet?” Jill insists and with a big smile holds up the tape recorder that has been inside her shirt pocket and running the whole time. She dials 911 on her cell phone. The end.

The plot, which is the basis of your synopsis, MUST address characterization and most important of all – motivation. Because what motivates the characters influences how they will act, then react, how they will talk and ultimately how they will resolve their conflicts.

THERE ARE TWO MAIN SYNOPSIS FORMATS:

Summary (informal) – a brief outline of the story, stressing motivation and characterization. Doesn’t detail every scene.

Block/Outline (formal) – begins with “hook” paragraph or blurb, followed by character analysis, plot description, crisis point, resolution.

Regardless of the format, the “plot”, or main body of the synopsis are similar in that they should have several key ingredients:

1. Setting: Date (not necessarily specific) and location of the story and if fictional or real.

2. Characterization:
Major Characters – descriptions, physical and emotional of hero and heroine, including goals and motivation. Also, may contain “back story”.

Minor Characters – identify the relationship to major characters and the part they play in the plot.

3. Plot Presentation: – Set-up may include information that takes place before the story begins, may include history showing why characters will conflict.
Conflict/Complications – the basic conflict between hero and heroine, both linear or external and emotional or internal. (should parallel) Incidents to complicate conflict as the story progresses to a crisis.

Crisis/Climax – the highest emotion point of the story and the culmination of physical plot.

Resolution – the culmination of the emotional plot and the unraveling of all the ends and outs of the story, tying all loose ends, clarification and character change.

Sound familiar? Sure, these are the ingredients you have been given a thousand times in workshops on how to plot. And just as these are the basics for constructing a good plot, they are the basis for constructing a good synopsis. The main difference is characterization and motivation clearly stated. You may have your story fulling developed in your head but the trick is to make it crystal clear to an editor or agent.

Now that you know your characters and know what motivates them, select the format you favor and begin.

Summary: This informal type of synopsis is a narrative summary of your plot. It should begin with a “hook” paragraph then move right into the plot, inclusive of character analysis within the body of the summary. Detail conflict and complications, then resolution.

Block/Outline: This formal type of synopsis should also begin with a “hook” paragraph, then in order follow with a setting, characters analysis both major and minor, then finally plot.

One of the pluses of constructing a good synopsis is having to completely formulate your story…on paper. Once you’ve accomplished it, you have a more cohesive, overall picture of your story and you can more readily spot the weakness in your plot or characters. And you have a jumping-off point for a chapter by chapter outline if you use one. Think of it as drawing a road map, without which you would probably take a wrong turn or miss your destination altogether.

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Sandy Steen has been publishing since 1986, beginning her career writing contemporary romance before switching to mysteries. Her favorite things are film noir movies, cooking and spending time with her family and friends. You can find her online at: sandysteen.net

Her latest novel, “Murder, He Howled” is available on Amazon.com. And coming soon, the first in a 3 book steamy romance series, “Lone Star Lovers.”

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Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

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Don’t despise small beginnings,” said a woman named Mildred in a recent meeting I attended. Mildred’s words resonated with me. In fact, they stuck with me for several weeks. The reason being, as I’m pursuing what I believe to be my God-given purpose of writing fiction, my beginnings appear to be quite small.

You see, while my writing goals are huge, being a multi-published, best-selling author, I’ve barely scratched the surface. When I look back to when I started writing my first manuscript in 2010, I had no idea where or how far this path would take me. In fact, I didn’t know it was a path at all.

I had an idea — I believed a great story idea! And I felt compelled to write it. When I finished, I went through the editing process. Then I began pursuing traditional publication. That’s when the wheels slowed down. No, actually the wheels came to a screeching halt! I sent out numerous query letters, but the responses came back, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Discouraged, but not defeated, I began trying to figure out why my queries didn’t generate the interest I thought they should. At the same time, I started writing my second manuscript.

I was also president of the Dallas Area Writers Group (DAWG). We held a short story contest during the summer of 2017. I decided to write a story to enter into the contest as a challenge to myself to see if I could win.

Well, I didn’t win, but my story did well in the ranking. Because we had several new writers to enter the contest, I recommended publishing an anthology of the best short stories to the DAWG board of directors, as this would give the writers publishing credit.

The board agreed and in October 2018, we published our first anthology of short stories, Texas Shorts, Volume I. My short story, “The Top Hat and the Feather Boa” is included in the anthology. This is my first published work.

small beginnings2While this is a major milestone, it seems small in comparison to my ultimate goal of being a published novelist. And as a result, I’ve found myself struggling with being truly proud of this accomplishment.

Earlier this week during my morning devotion, “Don’t despise small beginnings,” entered my thoughts again, and I wondered about the origin of the phrase. When I Googled it, I found it’s from the Bible, Zechariah 4:10Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…”

After reading that passage of scripture, I had a renewed sense of accomplishment, knowing that God is pleased with my small beginnings. He’s pleased because I have begun the work. It reminded me that God has the perfect timing for everything I will accomplish in my writing life. And even with the setbacks and disappointments — and my small beginnings — all of it is preparation for the “great” things He has planned for me.

So rather than feeling as though I haven’t accomplished anything significant, my new attitude is one of thankfulness for what God has allowed me to accomplish. And I rejoice in the knowledge that a foundation and a platform are being created for me which I cannot create for myself. My job is simply to continue on the path placed before me, continue to do the work, and continue to be grateful for every success — great and small — because each is part of God’s perfect plan.

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Traditional Publishing – Great Challenges and Great Rewards

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If you’re like me, pursuing traditional publishing of your novel, then you know the process is challenging — almost as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle.

After finishing your novel and having it edited to the point of near-perfection, you must find a literary agent to represent you because neither of the big five publishing houses in New York will accept a manuscript directly from a writer.

Unfortunately the gate for acquiring a literary agent is a very narrow one. There are only two viable options — querying and pitching.

First, but not necessarily in order of importance is querying. To query you must craft a one-page letter, addressing it to a specific literary agent, describing your story succinctly but in a manner which entices the agent to want to see additional pages or chapters of your manuscript — or the crown jewel of requests — the entire manuscript! Though I doubt this has ever happened.

Today, the method for querying is through e-mail. It would be great if one could do an e-mail blast to 100 literary agents with a single push of the button. It could be done, but the results would be counter-productive.

Almost every literary agent’s request is different from the next. For example, one agent may request only a query letter; another a query letter and synopsis; while another may request a query letter and the first three chapters of your manuscript; still another may request a query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. The reason? They want to know that you’ve taken the time to research them.

Deviating from an agent’s requirements will cause your query letter to go into file 13 quicker than you can say, “book deal”.

It generally takes literary agents a couple of weeks to as many as four to six months to respond to a query letter. Some state on their websites they will only respond to you if they are interested in seeing more of your work.

Querying is frustrating to say the least because writers receive far more rejection letters than requests to see additional work.

So what’s the other option?

The other option for acquiring a literary agent is pitching. Pitching is generally done at writers conferences. You sign up during registration to have a 10 minute session (or so) to sit in front of a literary agent and tell him or her your story in a way that entices him/her to want to see actual pages.

But before you sign up for a pitch session, make sure you practice, practice, practice to get you delivery as near perfect as possible without sounding rehearsed. Easier said than done, I know!

Most writers acquire their literary agents through pitching.

These face-to-face sessions, akin to speed dating, offer the agent a glimpse of the person behind the story and allows for an instant connection — or not.

An agent can determine whether s/he can conceivable partner with a person they meet face-to-face far better than viewing a sterile piece of paper on the computer screen in the form of a query letter. As with dating, chemistry is an important factor, and so it is in a writer/agent relationship.

So what are some rewards of traditional publishing?

1. Partnership. With a traditional publishing deal comes a built-in team. To what extent they’ll go to bat to you is largely dependent on two factors — how important your book is to the list and how much they like you.

2. Quality. Publishers stand behind the books they publish, and since that’s the case, you can bet your book will be well-edited and thoroughly proofread, and that they’ll put a best effort toward making sure you have a great cover and interior design.

3. Legitimacy. This is still big. No matter how many successfully self-published or otherwise-published books are hitting the best-seller lists, traditional publishing has a legacy. This matters to the media. It matters where contests are concerned, and where some reviews are concerned.

4. Distribution. Another biggie. Traditional distribution, a big pro for traditional publishing, continues to be, hands-down, the biggest con of DIY self-publishing. Having traditional distribution means you benefit from preorders, management of your metadata on a big scale, and having a sales force that’s getting your book out to retailers on your behalf — among other benefits.

5. Advances.
If you can still get an advance, this is a clear pro. And if you can earn it out. The truth of the advance is that it’s a mixed bag. If you get a largish advance and your book doesn’t perform well, then you could become a pariah in the industry and find it very difficult to sell future books. The best advance is a mid-range advance, and if you get one, you want to consider allocating some or all of it to fund your publicity.

Source: Huffingtonpost.com.

So, is traditional publishing for you, or are you self-publishing your work? Why did you choose your particular method?

Hey, as always thanks for stopping.

Happy writing!

Catherine

Traditional Publishing: Staying Strong in the Face of Rejection

traditional-publishing-staying-strongDealing with rejection when pursuing traditional publishing is one of the biggest challenges a new writer can face. I know this to be true because I’ve experienced my fair share of rejection as I’ve traversed this daunting path. So how do you stay strong in the face of rejection?

As I was writing my first manuscript, I never could have imaged that getting it published would be such a challenge. The truth of the matter is, I’m glad I didn’t know because had I known, I might not have had the courage to even try.

But of course I would have given up on a dream even before it had a chance to take flight. My dream of becoming a published author hasn’t been realized yet, but I’ve learned some very valuable lessons along the way that I think may be helpful to writers and serve as encouragement to those who are also pursuing the path of traditional publishing.

There’s an old adage that says misery loves company. And you know, as terrible as it sounds, there’s probably a lot of truth to it. I say this to share with you that if you have received rejections for your query letters or manuscript, you are not alone.

A number of great, well-published authors received rejections for their work before they were eventually published. Here are a few examples:

• After 5 years of continual rejection, Agatha Christie finally landed a publishing deal. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.

• John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 agencies and then 12 publishers.

Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times and J. K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

So there is hope for us battered and bruised souls! Below are 6 valuable lessons that I’ve learned regarding how to deal with rejection while pursuing traditional publishing. I hope they are helpful to you.

1) Keep a positive attitude.

Nothing can sap your energy and drive like having a negative attitude. When you receive a rejection, feel the disappointment. Throw a pity party if you want to. But don’t wallow in self-pity. Remember that rejection is a part of the process. Pick yourself up, and get back into the fight. You can’t win it if you’re not in it!

2) Remain focused on the end game.

The end game is being a published author; having your work published so that others can read it and enjoy it. That is the goal. Keep that goal in mind and continue to take the steps necessary to get you there. Don’t become too discouraged by the rejections to continue moving forward.

3) Take feedback as an opportunity to improve.

Getting specific feedback from a literary agent or editor regarding the reason your work was rejected is invaluable. Try not to take the feedback as a negative, but a positive to improve your manuscript.

4) Celebrate small successes.

When positive things happen in your writing journey, celebrate those successes. When a literary agent requests sample chapters. That’s great. Celebrate! When your full manuscript is requested by a literary agent — score! Celebrate! You’re one step closer to becoming published.

5) Be persistent! Keep moving forward.

Don’t let rejections derail your forward movement. Look at them as a set-up for a comeback. In a great book I read, entitled, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, the author, James N. Frey said, “You might be astonished to hear this, but most writers who finish a damn good mystery send out a few queries to agents and, when their work is turned down, put the manuscript in a drawer and never look at it again. I have seen this happen hundreds of times. A talented writer has a damn good story written with damn good prose, but after one or two rejections, there it goes into the damn drawer. Makes me crazy.”

This revelation gave me the determination not to be one of those writers.

6) Keep the faith!

Have faith in yourself as a writer. And have faith that the Creator is BIG enough to make BIG things happen in your life!

So, what about you? What has been your experience regarding rejection while pursing traditional publishing? How do you stay positive? Drop me a line or two. I’d love to hear from you.

Regards,

Catherine

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Top 5 Things Literary Agents Look for in Our Stories

What do literary agents look for in our stories? When trying to publish traditionally, it’s sometimes difficult to know why our submissions are rejected by literary agencies. Feedback is often little to none from query letters. So if you’re fortunate enough to receive feedback from a literary agent who’s read your query, synopsis, a portion of your manuscript, or the full manuscript, cherish it like a solid gold nugget. Take it to heart, and use it to improve your manuscript.

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Whenever I’ve attended writing conferences or workshops where literary agents are speaking, I’m front and center, listening with rapt attention because this is one way to learn what literary agents are looking for in our stories.

During the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to hear three literary agents talk about what they look for when they read a manuscript. There were some common elements regarding what’s important to them. Below I’ve extracted from my notes to provide the top 5 things literary agents look for in our stories:

1. Good Story Telling

Few things in writing can trump good story telling. Yet it is elusive to many writers. Good story telling has structure. The most common elements of the narrative structure are setting, plot, and theme. Good story telling starts with a great beginning, one that is engaging, enticing, has action or tension. It has a captivating middle that moves the plot forward and builds to a climax. And it has a slam-bang ending that is satisfying and resolves the plot of the story, neatly tying up all loose ends.

2. Characters We Care About

I’ve heard more than one literary agent say that characters are the most important element in a story. Even if the plot is not the greatest, if the characters are believable and we care about them and what happens to them, we will stick around for the ride and finish the story. We will also want to read more stories about those characters.

3. Smooth Prose

According to novelwritinghelp.com prose can be defined as the ability to write with a clear, concise, and uncluttered style… and with a confident voice. According to one literary agent, the main reason for unpublished writers is their writing has not matured. Mastery of the English language is not there. He said craft is something writers can improve. So how does one improve? His suggestions:

– Read books in your genre
– Read as a writer. In other words, read to examine how great writers write.
– Read good books on writing

4. Universal Themes

Having a universal theme connects us as human being on an emotional level. It draws us in. We can identify with the plight of the character. Some universal themes are: Love, hate, revenge, fall from grace, and redemption. There are many other universal themes that can provide the basis for a great story. farragut.bownet.org provides a comprehensive list of universal themes.

5. Strong Narrative Voice

I asked one literary agent to define “strong narrative voice.” He struggled to put it into words but said, and I’m paraphrasing, he’ll know it when he hears it. It is a concept that is hard to define, but it is something every literary agent is looking for, listening for, in our stories.

According to standoutbooks.com a strong narrative voice is having an original or distinctive voice. Developing a strong narrative voice has to do with cultivating a distinctive style in tone and rhythm, even using wit and humor that is uniquely you.

The right voice can turn a story from good to great. And some stories need to be told in a certain way to have the impact they deserve.

PS – If you’ve gotten feedback regarding what literary agents look for when they read a manuscript, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks!

Catherine

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To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish — That is the Question

Guest post by Author, Sandy Steen

To self-publish or not to self-publish. That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind…well, you guys know the rest. But the fact is Will Shakespeare’s publishing life was a lot less complicated that our modern-day publishing world.

As writers we all want our work to sell but first we must answer the BIG question: Do I want to publish through a traditional New York publisher or Toronto if romance is my genre? Or, do I want to self-publish? Here are the pros and cons for traditional publishing.
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Traditional Pros:

• Advance paid

The average advance is between $3,000 to $5,000 these days. Because there are fewer slots to be filled the publishers are very picky about new submissions.

The manuscripts better be clean as a whistle, well-edited and with no errors in spelling and punctuation. In other words, print ready.

• Cover art provided
• Editing is provided
• Distribution, both domestic and international
• Semi-annual royalties paid

Traditional Cons:

• Fewer publishers than 5 yrs. ago / fewer spots
• Most houses only accept submissions through agents
• May be months before your work is accepted or rejected
• Depending on schedules may be 12 to 18 months to publish
• Must conform your work to publisher’s guidelines
• Have to warehouse your books
• No marketing provided. When I say no marketing, I mean none for the little guys. The publishers only provide for their top-selling names-NYT best seller list names.
• 6% of cover price is probably best royalty you can expect.

The 6% figure is per Harlequin and that’s for paperback and digital. As far as I know only authors like Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Connley, Cobin, Patterson and others of that stature get 10-15%. (They probably do better for hardback but hardback is way out of reach for anyone publishing for the first time).

New York has to see that the writer has enough of a sales record to warrant that and frankly, it takes years. It all depends on the contract, of course, but the bottom line is you have to sell a TON of books before you get substantial royalties.

Now for the second half of the question concerning self-publishing. Did you know that until the mid-nineteenth century, most American authors published at their own expense? For example, Walt Whitman self-published and sold his 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. But, **self-publishing is not for everyone so here are the pros and cons.

Self-Publishing Pros:

• Write your story the way you want, no restrictions
• Publish immediately, no waiting
• Track sales yourself month to month
• 70% of cover price for books priced below $9.99
• Can use print on demand-no storage required
• Royalties paid monthly after reaching a set dollar amount. Amazon sets the dollar amount for royalties paid. You have to earn $100 per month to receive a monthly statement otherwise you get it when you do earn the $100 worth of royalties not sales. I might add that if books are priced over the $9.99 the royalty rate drops to 35%.

Self-Publishing Cons:
• Pay for editing
• Pay for cover art
• Pay to have manuscript formatted or learn to do it yourself
• Do your own marketing using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

After pointing out all these pros and cons it’s still going to be a difficult decision. It all depends on whether or not you are willing to have an established publisher sell your book with all of the waiting and low royalties.

Or, if you want to move faster with your work and publish it yourself with out-of-pocket expenses? There is a lot of work in both choices. You simply have to decide what you want and what you’re willing to do.

Sandy Steen has been publishing since 1986, beginning her career writing contemporary romance before switching to mysteries. Her favorite things are film noir movies, cooking and spending time with her family and friends. You can find her online at: sandysteen.net

Her latest novel, “Murder, He Howled” is available on Amazon.com. And coming soon, the first in a 3 book steamy romance series, “Lone Star Lovers.”

to-self-publish-or-not_Murder-he-howled Lone Star Lover _CADE eBOOK COVER

**Referred to Amazon and Createspace. Amazon, or Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP) publishes only ebooks. Createspace is the print on demand arm of Amazon.

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The Road to Publication: 4 Valuable Lessons Learned

When I started writing, I had no idea what the road to publication would be like. I really hadn’t given it much thought. I figured I’d find out about it when I got there.

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But somewhere in the back of my mind I had the thought that the road to publication would be akin to a jetliner speeding down the runway, lifting off into the wild blue yonder, bound unencumbered for some amazing destination! I know I’m romanticizing here, but I did think for the most part it would be a straight forward process, if not an easy one.

NOTHING could be further from the truth! Little did I know that the road to publication would be obstructed with pot holes, cracks, and some rather large speed bumps along the way; each having the potential for delaying, deterring, or stopping me dead in my tracks!

So, I’m going to share with you what my road to publication has been like so far, and I’m hoping that my experience may help you avoid some of the pitfalls that tripped me up.

To date, I’ve pitched my manuscript to seven literary agents and one managing editor of a small press. Three of the literary agents and the managing editor asked for the complete manuscript. The other four asked for sample chapters, but didn’t request the full manuscript.

Each time my manuscript has been requested, I’ve been ecstatic! One step closer to publication!!! And each time it is passed on, I’ve felt dejected and incompetent. Sometimes I’ve felt like throwing in the towel, thinking this is just TOO hard. So what do I do to get past this moment of temporary insanity?

I throw a pity party for a few hours, then I pack away my party favors and take a hard look at my actions and the feedback the agent provided. From that, below are 4 valuable lessons I’ve learned thus far on the road to publication:

1. Make sure your manuscript is ready.

On this first one, I shot myself in the foot. The literary agent I pitched to was very excited about the concept of my story. The problem was, I wasn’t finished editing my manuscript so I knew there would still be errors. I just wanted to get some practice under my belt pitching my novel. Not a good idea.

So, even though the literary agent was very interested in seeing my complete manuscript, I didn’t send it to him fearing it would be rejected because of the errors. A missed opportunity. Before you query a literary agent or editor or pitch to one, make sure your novel is complete and as close to perfect as you can get it.

2. Make sure you’re pitching your story in the right genre.

I have to admit this was a rookie mistake. The next literary agent I pitched to was a native New Yorker. I could tell she was tough. As hard as nails. But when I pitched my story, she liked it and asked me to send her the full manuscript. I did immediately.

A few weeks later I received an e-mail from her. She told me how excited she’d been about the premise of my story; that she’d pushed some other projects back in order to get started with mine. But then she said while I had good dialogue and good characterization, there was nothing “thrilling” about my story. Gasp! (Deer in headlights look).

She said at least there hadn’t been up to about chapter fourteen; after which she stopped reading. Well, I pondered what she’d said, and I thought about other thrillers I’d read. I realized that I’d placed my manuscript in the wrong genre. I had labeled it a sci-fi thriller, which meant there should have been heart-pounding action on every other page.

I knew that wasn’t my intention when I wrote Elysian Escape. The story doesn’t lend itself to action on every other page. So now I pitch it as a sci-fi murder mystery. Just by making this minor tweak, I’ve changed the expectation of the reader. Minor change, huge impact!

3. Know the agency you’re pitching to.

When I pitched my story to the managing editor of a small press, I had no idea which genres she published. I was also clueless how an editor of a small press differed from a literary agent, and how a small press differed from the big five publishing houses in New York.

But I figured I could get my manuscript published through her agency if she liked my work. So I pitched my story to her, and she liked it and asked me to send her the complete manuscript.

About six weeks later, she sent me an e-mail stating that while she enjoyed reading my story, she regretted that it did not fit within their catalogue of cozy mysteries and young adult titles. Not exactly the perfect fit for a sci-fi murder mystery, right? I had essentially wasted her time.

Before you pitch to a literary agent or editor make sure you do your research to determine at the very least they represent your genre. You should also check out how long the agency has been in business, view their client list, check out the titles they released during the last couple of years, etc., to make sure you’d be a good fit for them and vice versa. Their web site should have all of this information.

4. Listen and learn.

Finally, my last pitch to a literary agent was April 2016. She represented a New York literary agency. She said she loved the concept of my story and asked me to send the first five pages ASAP. I fired those pages off as soon as I got home from the conference that Sunday evening.

Monday morning when I opened my e-mail there was a request from her for the complete manuscript. Yeah! I’m turning cartwheels and doing back flips (all in my head of course). Then I promptly e-mailed the manuscript.

So thirty days passed and I’d heard nothing, then sixty days, still nothing. No news is good news I kept telling myself.

Then, I decided to research the proper protocol for follow-up after submitting a manuscript. I learned the industry standard is 90 days. Okay, cool! I can be patient.

Well, about two weeks later, the long awaited response appeared in my e-mail box. I took a deep breath and read. The agent said while she was initially intrigued by the premise and the strong voice, she just didn’t fall in love with my story the way she needed to take on. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

She went on to say she didn’t get a clear sense of how the subplot connected to the main plot and murder. Okay, this is good! This was feedback I’d never gotten before.

So after I had my pity party for not being offered a lucrative three-book deal, I resolved to learn from the agent’s feedback.

And based upon her feedback, I’m going to deconstruct the subplot to determine how I can connect it better to the main plot and murder so that it’s crystal clear. I figure if it’s confusing to one reader, it’ll probably be confusing to others. And besides, the literary agent has a trained eye.

While I’m not happy that my manuscript has been rejected by six literary agents and an editor, I feel fortunate that I’ve received substantive feedback that is helping me improve my manuscript. And while publication is important, it’s not my ultimate goal — having my best work published is!

How about you? Drop me a line or two about a valuable lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication. Thanks!

Catherine