Our first giveaway was such a success, we’re doing it again! Send any question about writing or publishing to email@example.com. If we select your question for next month’s column, we’ll send you a hardcover copy of Randy’s fabulous debut, THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS.
What was the hardest/most frustrating part of the publishing process for you?
Miriam says: You know, my first instinct was to say the rejection, as I think that’s definitely the most unavoidable and frustrating part of publishing. I have a spreadsheet full of all the literary journals that rejected my stories. And I have another list of all the publishers who rejected my first book. But I’ve also had successes through my career. I eventually managed to get stories published in journals. I was awarded a couple of really great fellowships. So, even in a landscape rife with rejection, I did not languish for years with no encouragement at all, and for that I am grateful. So scrap that answer.
The hardest part? I’d have to say working with an editor on deadline for the first time. Let me first make clear that I loved my editor. Loved, loved. He was passionate and smart and funny and sarcastic; in short, all the qualities I’m naturally drawn to in a person. He was also an old school editor; he pored over my book, and gave exacting and detailed and uncompromising feedback. He expected me to make specific changes within a clear deadline: I had three months to get the book ready for publication.
After fifteen years writing at my own pace and being beholden only to my own deadlines (except for those two years of an MFA program), suddenly I had to answer to someone else and I had to work at the pace set by a publishing house and the stakes had never been higher. These revisions would be seen by the world. The world! As grateful and giddy as I was to have sold my first book, I had a bit of a freakout. Okay, a large bit of a freakout.
That freakout kicked me into gear. I have never worked more feverishly, sitting at my computer from sun up to sundown. And thanks to a very dear friend, I had use of her
Susanna adds: For me, the most frustrating part was the copy editing phase. The book is changed at many parts of the process, but always for the better, in direct pursuit of your goals as an author. I wasn’t prepared for there to be a part of the process where I essentially had to examine all of my own choices -- and I wasn’t firm enough, so changes were made to the manuscript that I wish hadn’t been made. Next time, I’ll be more confident in my own decisions -- after all, it’s my name on the book.
Randy adds: I’m not sure if frustrating is the word, perhaps anxiety-producing, but publicity was the place where I had the least experience and the smallest knowledge base, so that was where I had to dig deepest. I read, I conferred, I anguished, and in the end I hired an outside publicity to augment the (terrific) efforts of
I'm querying agents, and some want a synopsis, and some don't. When they ask for a synopsis, what should it include and how long should that be?
Randy says: Ah, the dreaded synopsis! Honestly, daunting as it seems, it’s actually a great exercise in brevity.
Some agents specify how long they want the synopsis to be, making it far easier for the writer; others won’t. In order to be ready for all occasions, it’s helpful to make two versions in advance (one builds on another) before you need it. When I was querying I had ready in my computer: 1) the long synopsis--approximately three pages, and 2) the one-page version.
Your synopsis is a pithy overview of the book. It should include the main characters, the arc of the story, and it should always include the end. Many will balk at this--thinking they are ruining the excitement for the agent--but in fact, the agent is looking to see how you will begin, build up, and then end your novel.
There are many good books that will tell you how to format a synopsis (including the very thorough FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT by Chuck Sambuchino and the Editors of Writers’s Digest Books.) I found the most reassuring advice (as though a wise friend was talking to me) came from YOUR FIRST NOVEL by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb, an agent and an author, who write: “Expand the short pitch from your query letter into a two-page synopsis. Hit the high points, include only the top characters, skip some of the subplots, and wrap it up.”
Rittenberg and Whitcomb’s book will help you from planning your novel to helping you learn the ropes once your book has sold.
Susanna adds: For me, the process of summarizing the book in one or two lines was enormously difficult -- but when it comes time to write the jacket copy, which in my case was a collaborative effort with the marketing department, you’ll be glad you have some experience at it.
Remember! Send any question about writing or publishing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get your question answered and get in on our next giveaway for hardcover copies of THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS in advance of the paperback release on