Excercise Part X
If your stories are stand-alones:
You are sitting here, staring at five revised stories. Re-read them again, with fresh eyes, for one last revision.
Now, pick the top market for each story (make sure it’s a different market for each, even if sometimes you have to make the first pitch to the second one on your list).
This week, you will write a template for your query letter (or, if it’s an editor who wants a full submission, you’ll include the full submission).
The letter should contain the following:
The hook (what’s unique about the story)
One or two sentences about the story, including its title and word count.
Your credits, why you’re the best writer for the project, and why this magazine is the perfect match.
It should run no more than a page, and remember to include a SASE if you’re sending it via snail mail (some writers no longer send SASEs; having worked in publishing, I know that plenty of houses don’t read the material without one. But now, some houses request that one doesn’t send a SASE – as always, read the guidelines thoroughly).
Run the letter past other writers. Tighten it and make it as active as you can. Get rid of any passive terminology and keep it exciting.
Now, make the adjustment for each individual market and write an individual letter.
Read over each story again before putting it in the envelope – you don’t want to send out something with errors.
Put them in the envelope with the letter and SASE, seal, stamp, mail.
Keep track in your Submission log when you sent it (and make a note as to how long each market’s guidelines take to respond).
You now have five stories circulating. And, if any of them should return unhomed, you have a list of places so that you can run a clean copy, type up a fresh letter to the new market, and send it right back out.
If you’re doing a larger piece:
Keep the tips on query letters from the above section. It will come in handy when you’re ready to market your piece.
You should have a rough of the beginning and middle. This week, you take the last four scenes and connect them to each other and the previous section.
If you’re working on a novella, you’ll be almost finished with a first draft. If it’s a full-length novel, you’ll need to continue working in this vein for the next few months, until you have your entire draft. Construct scenes, connect them, move on.
Put your draft away. I suggest at least 2 weeks – 2 months, where you don’t even look at it, but work on something completely different. You need the distance, especially when you’ve immersed yourself in a large piece of work.
Do as many revisions as it needs, until it’s the best it can possibly be under your hands.
Research your markets.
Craft query letters along the lines of the information given about.
Create a log line, one paragraph summary, and outline/synopsis (more on that in “The Literary Athlete” column of The Scruffy Dog Review over the next few months).
Have all of that done BEFORE you start submissions, so you can run off a copy of any variation as needed.
Since agents and editors usually prefer a query before requesting a partial or a full manuscript, I send out my queries in batches of ten.
Keep track of everything.
Your work is now out there, finding a home.