Submitting a novel for publication is a more involved process than submitting a short story to a magazine. Most publishers prefer to read agented fiction. You can research different publishing companies and submit according to their guidelines, but you may want to go ahead and find a literary agent. Literary agents represent writers to publishers. Most agents specialize in fiction or nonfiction and some represent specific genre writing.
Guides to finding literary agents, like other Writers' Market books, are available in any bookstore or on-line bookseller. A good one is the Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman.
You will probably need to submit your manuscript to several agents. Again, agencies will be clear about their submission guidelines and how long their response period is. Literary agencies usually ask for a query letter before they will consider a manuscript. A query letter will briefly summarize your book's premise and suggest why the agent would be interested in reading it. An annotated sample follows.
Your query also will provide a synopsis of your manuscript that expands the brief summary in your letter. Writing synopses will be good practice for selling your book.
1725 Red Line Drive
October 1, 2005
Rebecca Sweet Sweet Literary Agency 905 5th Avenue Bethesda, Maryland *****
Dear Ms. Sweet (always identify by name):
Identify the title, length, and type of manuscript you are submitting. Blank Hills is a completed 63,000 word historical novel set in the desert country of southern Utah.
Try to imagine the blurb on the cover of your finished novel That's the kind of tease you want to offer the agent in your next paragraph. Hannah Snow is a strong woman, but her fortitude could not withstand her husband's freakish death after they arrived in the wilderness that was unsettled Utah. Hannah made the brutal trek from Missouri for her husband, Ely. Along the way, his faith had convinced her that she could accept a plural marriage, the newly unveiled revelation Joseph Smith received before his martyrdom. Hannah's faith falters when she finds herself widowed and pregnant. Ely's death has exposed her to the charity of her fellow pioneers, including the attention of Hyrum Gates, a highly respected church elder who wants to take her as his fifth wife.
But Hannah cannot sustain her commitment to the principle of plural marriage after Ely's death. Nor can she reconcile her despair with the promises made in the Gospel. Despite impossible challenges, Hannah is determined to resist Hyrum's proposal and forge a life for herself and her child in wild Utah.
List your past publications or other writing experience. Blank Hills recently won an Honorable Mention in the 2004 Mellin Novel-in-Progress Competition and an excerpt was published in the Spring 2003 issue of the Colorado Review. My other short fiction has appeared in various publications, including Granta and Black Warrior Review.
Close with appreciation. I have enclosed a synopsis and a SASE for your reply. My e-mail is listed above if you prefer to respond electronically. If you are interested, I will happily send excerpts from or the complete manuscript of Blank Hills.
Thank you for your time. Sincerely,
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