Sunday, July 5, 2015

Query: Speed Dating?

This week I was showing off the proof book for GRAVE. My friend has no writing or publishing connections, but had good questions about the process. The analogy that queries were like speed dating was made.

I have no experience with speed dating, but perhaps it is a good analogy of how books are selected. Then again, maybe not.

Judith and I read every query letter, synopsis, and sample chapters. We both have to agree on the merit of the work before we go forward with the project. We've never discussed our style, but this is how it looks for me to read the submissions:

The letter:
What's the tone? What does it tell me about the ms and the author? Does it look like they read the submission guidelines?

The synopsis:
Does it follow the industry standard for a synopsis? Those of you who know to put the character names in all caps get extra points. That tells me that you have done some research on how to write a synopsis. 

The sample chapters:
There should only be three chapters. I'm looking for a quick hook that isn't a tease. I'm looking at style and voice. I'm looking at dialogue and whether everyone speaks exactly the same, or hopefully not. Good grammar and a working knowledge of punctuation is a plus. But, if everything else grabs me, I know that our certified proofreader Anita Beery will correct all of the errors. 

This is where the speed dating comes in, I guess. I click "Show/Hide" (control and *) to look at the level of computer skills of the writer. This shows if there isn't a page break between chapters, it shows if things are centered with a million spacebar (or tab key) strokes, it shows if there are two blank spaces between sentences, and it shows the random spacebar stroke between words or at the start of paragraphs. 

Besides the show/hide thing, I look at details like the backward quote mark (caused by a space between the word and the quote mark). This is just one example of the things the writer should have caught and corrected before they submitted the sample.

This makes me think that the writer did not look at their work before they sent it. Or maybe they think they are so wonderful, that they are exempt from doing a good job.

I don't know what that means in the big scheme of things. Are they sloppy? Do they rush through things? Are they not taking this industry seriously? Do they think small publishers have lower standards?

When you're asking a stranger to fund your book, do look at what you are submitting in the light of a business arrangement.

Write your best story. Give it every chance of success by taking the time to make sure that you submit your best sample of your ability and your ms. This is your one chance to impress us.