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How to Write Queries, Synopsis and Proposals

Selling you writing in 13 weeks, supplemental post 1, part 1

We will not teach you how to do this! We will not teach you how to do this!


How to pitch and query.

No, we don’t mean we’ll teach you how to propose marriage, though if you need help of that kind, read the first proposal – by Mr. Darcy – in Pride and Prejudice and then make sure you don’t do that.

However, I promised a supplemental post to my 13 weeks series, about how to approach traditional markets, should you decide to do so.

I don’t know if my experience is normal -- since I came from so far outside the field that I came from another country, culture and language – but I spent eight years unable to submit any of my stories, because while I knew how to write the stories themselves, I was in the dark on how to write those strange things “queries” and “proposals” and “synopsis.”

Then one day at a writers’ group meeting I asked a published author next to me how one did it, and – after looking at me like I’d taken leave of my senses – she showed me.  On the back of an envelope.  In five minutes.

Which was handy, because a year later, when I met an editor at a workshop, she asked me to send her a proposal.  And I did.  It was the proposal for Ill Met By Moonlight, which sold to that editor three days after I sent it.

If you’re trying to go the traditional route you will come – perhaps you’ve already come – up on these words “query” and “synopsis” and “proposal”.  If you attend conventions you might also have need of a magical thing called “pitch” or “elevator pitch.”

The only two houses – that I know of, though it’s possible there are still some in Romance and/or mystery – that take submissions in the form of a full manuscript are Baen and DAW (though I heard rumors TOR did, or was intending to.) All the others will have either a line saying “No unsolicited submissions” or “send query”  Or “Send proposal”.

So, let’s start with how you magically turn your submission from “unsolicited” to “solicited.”

This usually involves attending a convention or workshop also attended by the editor you wish to work with.