Monday, February 20, 2017

Sample Chapters

Your manuscript is finished. It is no longer a first draft. You've gone over it a couple of times. Your friends and family have gone over it. Together you toast the thing and proclaim that it is ready.
Hopefully, that is true.
Just to be sure PRINT it and read it ALOUD. 
The internet is full of literary agents, small publishers, pay-to-publish outfits, and do-it-yourself sites. There are print directories to buy, should one choose. Just like we will do with your submission, sort through them and find the 'best fits' for your work. 
Whatever method you use to develop a list of places to query, the main thing to do is to follow the submission guidelines completely.
What we are expecting for sample chapters at Cactus Rain Publishing:
  • Manuscript format
    • full page - 8.5" x 11"
    • double spaced lines
    • standard font -- I'm going to change it to Tahoma, because that is more readable for me (remember that I'm dyslexic?)
    • standard form for fiction -- no space between paragraphs, that is for non-fiction. Fiction indents each paragraph. Start a new paragraph (with quote marks) for dialogue. We accept the non-American single quote marks or the American double quote marks -- be consistent throughout the sample.
  • No front matter -- you are way head of yourself doing this
  • No cover -- you are way head of yourself doing this
  • ONLY the first three chapters
  • A prologue is not a first chapter, don't send it to us.
The fastest route to a rejection letter is to stand out in a bad way. We don't advertise. We don't need to advertise. If we published all of the queries we have right now, we have enough for the next 5 years. It is truly survival of the fittest, not the quirkiest.
Send us something that meets our submission guidelines and you are highly likely to see a request for the full manuscript.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

First Impression

Because of the agreeable weather, Phoenix frequently hosts car shows. Unofficial previews are available on the road, whether the car is driven or trailered. Singularly, they are impressive. At the show where they are parked next to each other a pecking order of quality emerges.

The same is true of submission packets. While friends and family [usually] shower the writer with praise, at our end of the process where they are lined next to each other is where the quality differences is obvious.

There is only one opportunity to make a good first impression. One. Late at night with a glass or two of wine or whisky is not the time to decide the work is ready for the light of day.

For Cactus Rain Publishing the three elements of the submission packet are: 1) a query letter; 2) a synopsis; and 3) the first three chapters of the ms.

We see query letters that range from ridiculous to amazing. A query letter is a business proposal. It needs to sound professional, pitch the project, and include any specific information the publisher has listed on their submission page.

Attitude speaks volumes. Sending a query email that says, "Here you go. I've sent my fiction novel for you to publish," is not a good idea. First off, "fiction novel" screams that the person is clueless. Novels are ONLY fiction. If it isn't a fiction, then it is non-fiction, poetry or who knows what.

A synopsis is a one page summary of the story, single spaced, and written in third person. The synopsis summarizes the story's main character's transit through the story. It is not the back of the book tease. It is the whole story, including the ending.

The last piece of the packet is the first three chapters of the manuscript; nothing more or less than what has been requested. Sending different chapters and telling us that the first three chapters don't show the awesomeness of the manuscript should tell the writer that those chapters need reworked or deleted.

Not following the instructions on how many chapters (or some publishers want the first 50 pages) tells us that the writer doesn't follow instructions. Whether they are simply arrogant and don't think rules apply to them equally or they are special [for some unknown reason]. It tells us "This person is going to be difficult."

The sample chapters should be in manuscript format: Full size page (8.5 x 11 inches) -- not a simulated book-size page; it should be double spaced; it should contain computer functions (use the center button to center things like the title, end the chapter with a "page break" command, not several "enter key" strokes); and dialogue should start a new paragraph and have quotation marks.

Compared to 50 other queries, how strong is yours? It is easy to weed out the ones we aren't interested in. Sometimes I won't read the sample chapters if the query letter and the synopsis are bad. What would be the point?

First impressions are a one time occurrence.