I spent four months last year submitting stuff to agents, so I thought I had a handle on the submission process. There’s a bit of variation in requirements, but all along the same general theme. Turns out publishers are mental.
To start with they seem to be split neatly between ‘you have to submit hardcopy’ and ‘hardcopy is the spawn of Satan’ (I prefer the latter, of course). And what they ask for is just… all over the place. (I take comfort in the fact that publishers, unlike agents, seem inclined to ask to see the actual book first thing, as opposed to just a query. This is good. I like the book. Well, not all the time. But mostly. Certainly far more than I have ever liked any of the queries I’ve written.)
Pan Macmillan is my favourite so far on the grounds of the fundamentally abstract. They ask five questions, two of which are ‘What is your name?’ and ‘What is the name of your book?’. The fifth is, ‘What are your long term plans for your writing?’. Which kind of makes them sound like a guidance counsellor. I mean, what do you say to that? Um… I would like to be published? K thx? Or… I would like my work to mildly amuse hundreds of thousands of people?
Rick: I want to buy a train and own a castle. Con travelling sci-fi/fantasy author? Bohemian crime fighter? I want to get attached to a homicide dept as a consultant writer.
Me: Head => wall. Repeat
Rick: Ooh, “I want to be able to buy new couches faster than I bash my head through them”.
The unfortunate (although not really surprising) thing is that despite the wild disparity in their desires on thing they all want is a full synopsis. The length of said synopsis and what they think it should contain on the other hand is so varied I might end up writing three. Which is super fun as right now I don’t have one synopsis I’m happy with.
And one publisher wants the synopsis to include outlines for the rest of the books in the series.
Rick: What what? That’s a bit preemptive.
Me: No, I get why they want to know. They want to be sure you’ve thought about what comes next. Know how to bring a story to conclusion.
Rick: I plan for stuff to happen. Lots of stuff.
My synopsis is better than Rick’s. Although not, you know, by a lot. Before today my synopsis for the last book was two words long. I mean, I do know what happens, I’ve just never written it down. And they’re a very evocative pair of words. It’s not like they’re ‘waffle breakfast’ or something. Although by that point in the narrative you might be wishing they were.* Everything is spiralling out of control and they don’t know who the bad guys are anymore and there’s blood everywhere… and then they all go out for a nice waffle breakfast. The end.
* I’m just saying if you had to choose between ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ and ‘waffle breakfast’, which one would you choose? No really. Tell me. I’m taking a poll. Should I rip your heart out and blend it or apply a Tigger band-aid and give you ice cream?