Before you submit your sample chapters to publishers, read my tips – they’ll help you succeed (they certainly couldn’t hurt!). I rounded up these tips because my agent recently told me that a publisher wants three sample chapters of See Jane Soar. I want these chapters to hook me a book contract! So, here I learn…
The 2015 Writer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published by Robert Lee Brewer, you’ll find all-new editorial material devoted to the business and promotion of writing, including advice on pitching to agents and editors, managing your freelance business, and building a readership with readers and publishing professionals.
“All good writing is built one good line at a time,” said Kate Braverman. “You build a novel the same way you do a pyramid. One word, one stone at a time, underneath a full moon while the fingers bleed.”
Whether you’re building a pyramid or three irresistible sample chapters, you need to create one sentence at a time. Each sentence has to be as perfect as you can make it; you know you’re done with one sentence when you keep inserting and deleting the same comma, over and over.
When You’re Submitting Sample Chapters…
1. Include your original query letter. This tip for submitting sample chapters to publishers is from literary agent Nathan Bransford. “When you e-mail your partial…include your original query at the bottom of the e-mail,” he says. “Otherwise, when I sit down to read your partial a week to two weeks later I have to go hunting through my files to find your original e-mail to refresh my memory, and even though I keep them in one place sometimes they’re hard to find, and it takes forever, and makes me Mr. Cranky McCrankyagent, and I’d rather be in a good mood when I’m reading your partial.”
2. Add a paragraph of new info. I submitted my query letter to this publisher about a year ago, and my writing career has grown since then. So, these three sample chapters will include an update on my career (eg, my newest writing credits, blog statistics, participation as a presenter in writing conferences, etc).
3. Free your writer’s voice. Several publishers have asked me to submit sample chapters based on my query letters, but none offered me a book contract. I believe it’s because my writer’s voice wasn’t strong enough — I was intimidated, anxious, and fearful that the publisher wouldn’t offer a book contract. That affected my writing, which affected my chances of getting published.
4. Edit for technique and voice separately. If you’re at the point that an agent, editor, or publisher has requested sample chapters, you may already know this writing tip: Wear two different editor’s hats when you’re polishing your writing. Focus on literary techniques one day, and your voice the next day. Make sure your writing is grammatically and in all other ways tight…and then make sure that your writing has pizzazz! Read How to Make Your Writing Edgy and Quirky for more ways to jazz up your prose.
5. Send the sample chapters in on time. “Make sure you send the chapters on time – when they expect it,” says Elaine Burroughs, of the Writer’s Canvas. “Polish it, definitely, but be on time.” In my experience, publishers rarely give a deadline for sample chapters – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s probably best to send your sample chapters as quickly as you can, else you run the risk of the publisher losing interest or completely forgetting about the request. But — don’t send your chapters before they’re cooked!
6. Don’t send more chapters than they request. “Provide exactly what they ask for, no more and no less,” suggest Iain Broome from Write for Your Life. “Don’t sneak an extra chapter in – it won’t go down well!” However, if the publisher or agent requests 30 pages and your book has a natural break at 32 pages, then go ahead and submit 32 pages, says Bransford.
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If you have any questions or thoughts on these tips for submitting sample chapters to publishers, you’re welcome below!