Friday, August 31, 2007

Workshop: Submitting

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dyanne Davis and so far I have eight published romances under that name. I am now also using my initials in my newly released vampire series. F. D. Davis . I have done numerous workshops and have a local cable show, The art of Writing. I started the show and give workshops because when I first began I made a ton of mistakes. There were a lot of things I didn't know. My intent is to help any and all writers with things that I think are important to them. Believe me I have not learned it all yet and as I continue to learn I will continue to share. Some of the information I'm going to give have come from other sources and other than things that I found on Writers Digest website (links) I have obtained permission for sharing. (copyright and all that.) LOL.

Read through and any questions we can discuss them. Remember no question is a stupid question. If I don't know the answer I will do my best to get it for you. I hope you enjoy the workshop and find it helpful.

Terms that Every Writer Should Know

Acceptance: Even after a contract is signed between author and publisher, the editor still has to "accept" the final version of the manuscript. After acceptance, the publisher can proceed with publication and release the author's agreed upon advance.

Advance: The amount of money the publisher pays the author up-front upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication. Typically, the book's sales must "earn out" the advance before the author is paid any additional monies.

Agent: The author's representative in business dealings with the publisher.

ARC: Advance Review Copy of your book. Distributed to reviewers before book is released.

Author's Voice: The unique use of words, phrases, and writing techniques that places an author's "stamp" on their work. It is recognizable to the reader, even if they don't know who the author is. Prime example of author's "voice" vs. "style": Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Similar style, but very different author voices.

Back Cover Copy: The few paragraphs "blurbed" on the back of a book to give the reader a quick sketch of what the book's about.

Characterization: The author's ability to populate their stories with unique, individual people who are living and breathing to the reader. When two people have a conversation in a novel, the reader should be able to know who is saying what, without the name tags, based on how well the author has developed the character.

Conflict: The driving force of most fiction. Plot without conflict is nothing more than a "journal" of events.

Distributor: Large company that warehouses books from the publishers and distributes them to the booksellers.

Editor: The representative of the publishing house who evaluates your work, and can make decisions on purchasing it. The editor stays with the author through the publication process, recommending revisions, giving final approval over the manuscript before acceptance.

Galleys: The line-edited, copy-edited version of your manuscript before it goes to print. Last chance for minor corrections, but no major overhauls should occur at this point.

Goal: Your character's most desired objective.

Hook: A device for grabbing reader's attention.

IRIS: The color photo-quality image of the book's cover art, spine and back cover copy.

Joint Accounting: The process where a publisher combines the sales of different books by one author in a royalty statement, requiring each book's advance to "earn out" before any additional royalties are paid on any other book

Manuscript: The typed version of your book.

Motivation: The reason your character is struggling so hard to achieve his or her goal.

Pacing: The speed at which the writer moves the reader through the story. Long passages of narrative slow pacing, while dialogue exchanges speed pacing. Note: The pacing of the book is not the same as the time covered in the story.

Partial: A set number of chapters (typically 3) requested by the publisher to evaluate a proposal.

POV: Point of View- whose head are you in during the scene? Most novels today are written in 3rd person (he saw, she did) vs. 1st person (I saw, I did) and most are in past tense (he did, she was) vs. present tense (he does, she is).

Print Run: The number of copies of the book the publisher will print for distribution. Typically a first-time author's print run is pre-determined according to the publisher's expectations for the book, while a more established author will have previous sales records to help determine the run.

Proposal: A package put together for the editor, including a synopsis of your book, plus a partial of the actual manuscript. Generally, first-time authors will only sell on complete manuscript, while subsequent sales are made on proposal.

Publisher: Company that purchases manuscript, prints it, and offers it for sale to the public.

Query: A brief (1 page) letter to an editor, pitching yourself and your manuscript. Should read something like a "back cover blurb" to succinctly grasp the essence of your work and make the editor want to read the synopsis.

Reserves: The amount of money the publisher "holds back" from an author's royalties, based on the assumption that booksellers will strip and return unsold books.

Rights: In a contract, typically the publisher is "buying" the ability to control the author's work for a set amount of time and for set purposes. Some contracts include rights for a number of years, for publication in various forums including print, print on demand, e-publishing. Some even include film rights, meaning the publisher has purchased the ability to negotiate with a Hollywood producer to film your story on your behalf, for a pre-determined percentage

Royalties: The money the author makes on a book. Typically, an agreed upon percentage of the cover price, based on book sales.

Scene: The key moments showing the characters progression through their story.

Sequel: A transition to link scenes, gives character the opportunity to react to what just happened and to prepare for what will happen in the next scene.

Synopsis: A brief (1 page per 10,000 ms. words) description of the plot of your book. Should be written in present tense, with as few character names as possible, should cover the turning points in your book and should include no dialogue. Designed to engage the editor's interest in your story, the synopsis should resolve all plot questions and must never leave an editor "hanging."

Tag: A device used by the author to let the reader know which character is speaking.

Turning Point: The times in your book when your characters change direction. The plot builds, your characters act or react to what is going on, and something occurs to send them in an unforeseen direction, bringing the reader along with them.

The Art of Writing

Writing Basics

What is a Synopsis?

Syn·op.sis - A brief outline or general view, as of a subject or written work; an abstract or a summary. [Late Latin, from Greek sunopsis, general view]

I. Synopsis ~

A. How to write a synopsis

Make sure your synopsis explains everything about your story. This isn't the place to 'leave them wanting more. The synopsis should be exciting and fast-paced to hold the editor/agent's interest. Tell the synopsis as if you were relating the story to a friend. Give an overview of the story, leaving out all the unimportant details.

Questions to ask and answer: Who are the characters?

What do they want and why can't they have it? Those are points to include no matter the genre.
If there's humor in the book, keep some of it for the synopsis. Use your "voice". The most important aspect of any synopsis is to show the characters' conflicts, external and internal. An editor wants to know if the conflict is strong enough to carry an entire novel.

Put the two characters and their internal conflicts right up front as a set-up. Then follow with their external conflict. Boil your book down to the characters, conflicts and motivations. If you're describing too much of what happens, rather than why, you're going to lose a busy editor's interest.

Internal conflict:

Start the first one or two paragraphs with a hook blurb. Then focus on the emotional conflict of your

Hero/Heroine. Don't include secondary characters unless absolute necessary, and just a brief mention at that. Keep it as brief as possible. Read the back covers of some of your favorite novels for your hook blurb.

Try to open with a hook sentence. Use active verbs and try to use words like "must" instead of "wants to" if a character MUST do something it's more compelling. Try to keep it in your own voice also. You're giving an overall view of what your story is about. Brief, catchy, and attention getting.

B. What's the proper synopsis length?

The length of the synopsis depends on what your targeted publishing house requires. Check before sending.

II. Submissions - First Impressions Do Last

A. Proper Manuscript format
1" Margins all the way around
Double spaced
25 lines per page
Easily read font - most common are Times New Roman 12 pt font & Courier New 12 pt font
Header with name, address, phone number, email address, website and page number
Chapters start midway down page

B. Word Counts

1. Is there a standard way to count words?
There are basically two methods: the page count method and the computer generated word count.

2. Computer word count:
On MS Word: Click Tools. Then Word Count.
On Word Perfect: Click File, Properties, Information Tab.

3. Page count method:
Once you have 25 lines per page (see below), each page should roughly contain 250 words.
Count the number of pages you have, multiply that by 250 and you'll have your word count

4. How do I get 25 lines per page?
ON MS WORD: Click Format. Click Paragraph. Click the Index/Spacing Tab. Under
spacing: Click on the Line Spacing drop down box. Select Multiple. A number will appear in
the box next to the drop down box. Highlight the number and input 1.9. Click OK. Then you'll have 25 lines per page.

2. Writing the query

1. How important are query letters?

The query letter opens the door. You want to sound like you know what you're talking about. Make sure the agent/editor WANTS something like yours. Make sure your query letter- in one sentence if possible- grabs the editor's attention. If you can't write a coherent, professional and catchy query, you may lose the editor/agent's interest before they even get around to looking at your story.

2. Who and How to Query?

Most publishers and agents have guidelines available for contact. You can find them at the RWA website for ones that are approved. Now you can goggle almost anyone so if you don't find what you're looking for on RWA site goggle the house you're looking for. Sometimes publishing houses have samples or tips available.

If you don't have an agent, make sure the publisher accepts unagented queries.

3. What Should I Include With My Query?

The query should be set up as follows:
HOOK -- your one-sentence log-line.
BLURB -- the condensed version of a back cover blurb
MARKET -- the tone, sub genre, length of your manuscript and what readership it might
appeal to
YOU -- one paragraph bio.

Different agents and editors prefer different methods. Some prefer just a letter, others prefer a short synopsis with the letter. Still others will accept sample chapters. If you're unsure based on their guidelines, call their office and double-check.

The necessities to include: the book you're pitching, maybe how long you've been writing and writing and affiliations.

If you don't have writing credentials, mention what you do for a living if it's pertinent to the
book Your "pitch" paragraph should include the major characters (hero and heroine), their goal,motivation and the conflict.

If you've won a contest or have experience relevant to your book, include that in a query, too. RWA membership is helpful.

Paragraph 1. The hook. A statement that catches the eye and intrigues the reader.

Paragraph 2. Three to five lines that summarize the story.

Paragraph 3. What it is, genre or subgenre, word count, the
audience it will appeal to.

Paragraph 4. Any biographical information that pertains to your novel. A line or two mentioning any contests, etc. you've won. Another line saying that you've enclosed a SASE, self addressed stamped postcard.

Most editors would also prefer a letter that has been addressed to them personally, not "to whom it may concern." Never give them a reason to put the page down.

No matter what, never make negative comments about other books in your comparison. This is a definite turn-off to most editors or agents. End the query with an offer to send your proposal to them at their request. Do not include comments made by friends or family about your manuscript. Keep it professional at all times. the title of the manuscript, its length, if it's finished, and what subgenre it falls into (historical, paranormal, The second paragraph should explain ( in only a few:) In the last paragraph, include any writing related credits you have. Have you been published in any other way? Newsletters? Magazines? Newspapers? Also include any respected writing organizations you are involved with (RWA for example) and any work you've done for it/them.

Close your letter with a thank you. And always include a SASE.

3. Examples of queries
Dear Editor/Agent:

I am seeking representation for my completed romance all about the art of writing, which is approximately 95,000 words and is ready for submission.

My first published work, The Color of trouble has garnered excellent reviews including The Emma Award. My second book the Wedding gown was chosen as a book club pick for black expressions, a subsidiary of Doubleday book club. I am currently a member of two critique groups, and the current president of the Windy City chapter of RWA. Please visit my website www.Dyannedavis. com for indications regarding my willingness to promote my work and actively participate in the marketing process.

Upon your request, I would be delighted to provide you with the partial or full manuscript for your consideration. I would like to thank you for your time and have enclosed a sase for your reply.


Dyanne Davis

Example from my agent's website on things that can help improve the quality of your manuscript.


"Sailing you one port closer to your dreams"

How To Improve Your Manuscript Submission


Use double-spacing and one-inch margins on all four sides. A 12-point Courier font is preferred by most editors.

Header: Your manuscript needs a header on each page. It should include the title, the author's name and the page number. (Note: If you prefer, the page number can be inserted at the bottom of the page.)

Because editors prefer to receive manuscripts that aren't bound, think what would happen if your 300-page manuscript fell off an editor's desk and lay scattered all over the floor. If there were no page numbers on the manuscript, the editor might reject it because you weren't professional enough to put page numbers on it.

Make sure your entire book flows smoothly. Try to eliminate any scattered thoughts. Avoid overuse of flashbacks.

A slow-moving beginning turns off agents and editors. Write a beginning hook to suck the reader in. Use action rather than narrative.

Sometimes there's too much information thrown into the first three chapters which bogs
down an otherwise great manuscript. The information in the first few chapters must be necessary to the story. The correct pacing is essential.

A rushed ending. As a writer comes to the end of the manuscript, it's easy to finish fast. The danger may be that the ending comes much too soon. The pacing at the end of the manuscript has to match the rest of the book.

The climax is resolved too easily. Be sure to tie up all loose ends that have drifted throughout your story.

Double-check for grammatical errors, such as misspelled or repeated words and sentence structure.

Using unusual words more than once in your entire manuscript. A reader will remember them and be pulled out of the story if you repeat them.


The improper use of the word -- its. It's is NOT possessive. It's means: It is. (A contraction) Never, never is an apostrophe used in its to show possession.

Correct: Its paw. Its nose. Its leg. Its house.

Incorrect: It's paw. It's nose. It's leg. It's house. You are saying: It is paw. It is nose. It is leg. It is house.
* * *
Commas: A compound sentence is made up of two independent sentences (they stand alone). Each contain a subject (noun or pronoun) and a predicate (a verb). Use a comma when they are joined by and, but, or, or nor.

Correct: We (subject) went (predicate) to the store, and we (subject) bought (predicate) a loaf of bread.

Exception: You do not need a comma if the sentence is short.

A simple sentence is made up of an independent clause and a dependent clause. A dependent clause contains only a verb (no subject) and is dependent on the independent clause (see above) in the sentence for the subject. The independent clause stands alone. (It would make a separate sentence if used by itself.)

Correct: We (subject) went (predicate) to the store and bought (predicate) a loaf of bread. (Notice how the dependent clause depends on the independent clause for the subject of the sentence.)

Exception: If the author wishes to separate or accentuate the dependent clause, it is perfectly fine to add a comma. Also, if you is understood in what looks like a dependent clause, a comma is needed.
* * *
The 2001 rule for use of the word: too.
Correct: We went to the circus too.
Incorrect: We went to the circus, too.
* * *
Toward is preferred over towards.
* * *
Sentences beginning with if, when, although, before, after, where, etc., must have a comma at the end of the clause.
Correct: When we go to Florida, we will go swimming.
Correct: Before we go to the movie, we'll have dinner somewhere nice.
Correct: If he goes, I'm staying home.
Incorrect: When the time comes I'll probably change my mind.
* * *
Overuse of the word: that
Read, and then read again, all sentences which contain the word "that." Many, many times "that" can be omitted, or the word "which" can be substituted. Sometimes, however, "that" is necessary and must remain in the sentence.

That not needed: I'm certain that you understand everything I'm trying to say.
Better way: I'm certain you understand everything I'm trying to say.
NOTE: Only by reading the sentence out loud and concentrating on it, will you be able to delete all unnecessary usage of the word, that. HINT: Use the "find" for locating all of the times you used "that" in your manuscript.
* * *
Contractions: Sprinkle contractions throughout your manuscript in dialog, inner monologue and narrative. You will notice how the words flow better immediately. NOTE: We talk using contractions, therefore, your characters should too.
Too stiff: "I am going to leave now," she said. "And when I come back, you had better have all your work finished. If you do not, then we will not go to the movie."
Better way: "I'm going to leave now," she said. "And when I come back, you'd better have all your work finished. If you don't, then we won't go to the movie." (Sounds natural.)
* * *
Name Dropping: Be sure not to keep repeating a character's name over and over in a paragraph or even on a page. When more than one character appears in a scene, it's sometimes necessary to repeat names.
Bad: Susan jumped off the sofa and lunged for the phone. Susan caught it on the second ring. It had to be Harry calling. Susan couldn't wait to tell him her exciting news.
Better: Susan jumped off the sofa and lunged for the phone. She caught it on the second ring. It had to be Harry calling. She couldn't wait to tell him her exciting news.
NOTE: The above examples are very basic. Read different pages of your manuscript and see how many times you use the character's name. Then substitute she/he in place of the proper name. You'll be amazed at how much better it flows.
* * *

There is no room for bad dialogue in a good manuscript. Example:
"Hi, how are you today?"
"I'm fine. How are you?"
"Better today. I was sick yesterday."
"That's too bad. I'm glad you're better.
"I've gotta go now. Bye."
NOTE: The above is conversation, not dialogue.
Dialogue's only purpose is to move the story along. If it doesn't, and it sounds like conversation, DELETE IT. Try not to have a character answer a question directly. It's better to answer a question with a question or to refer to something else.
* * *
Purple Prose: Being redundant. Incorrect sentence structure. These are all bad.
Using too many adjectives and adverbs. Strong writing demands strong nouns and verbs. A verb can be either active or passive. Always choose "active" voice whenever possible.
A noun is put to best use when it paints a definite picture of what you're trying to say.
Example: The black and white spotted (all adjectives) dog jumped to his seat on the big, red, noisy (all adjectives) truck.
Better: The Dalmatian jumped to his seat on the fire truck.
Note how the use of the word, "Dalmatian," paints a vivid picture in your mind. You know instantly what the writer is trying to show you.
* * *
Use past tense, unless you're writing literary fiction.
* * *
Viewpoints: It's difficult to develop your characters when you use 1st person viewpoint because you can't get inside any of their heads except the character telling the story. Consider this before starting to write in this viewpoint.

3rd person viewpoint is better. However, beginning writers have a tendency to jump around into everyone's viewpoint. If you're a best selling author, you can rewrite all the rules. If you're not, the best way to develop your characters is stay in one or two viewpoints throughout your manuscript.

A "camera" viewpoint does not allow you to develop your characters either. It's very distracting to be in the main character's head, and all of a sudden, you realize the writer, without warning, has tossed you inside someone else's head. Sometimes it's even a secondary character. And the biggest "no-no" of all is when the writer gets inside everyone's head that appears in the scene.
Pick one viewpoint and stick with it. Your writing will be stronger, and your characters will breathe. Change viewpoints only when it's important to the story. It is common for the hero and heroine's viewpoints to be used in romance books.

NOTE: The opinions in this section are those of 3 Seas Literary Agency. Another agent or editor may disagree with some or all of them.


Robert Medak said...

Thanks for the valuable information.

Anonymous said...

Great info. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dyanne
Thank you for sharing such great information.

Anonymous said...


That was great infomation! Thanks so much for sharing.


Unknown said...

Dyanne, wonderful and helpful info. Thanks soo much

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice all the way through!

PatriciaW said...


Can you speak to query follow-up? How much time should pass before contacting the agent or editor for a status?

If you receive a positive response on a submission, requesting more or asking for revisions, what's a reasonable amount of turnaround time?

If unagented and offered a contract, should you make a mad dash to find an agent before signing?


Rudelle Thomas said...

Again, another excellent workshop. I am learning so much this week that I didn't know I didn't know. Thank you everyone for sharing your wealth of knowledge.


F. D. Davis said...


I would give an agent twice as long as they say on their website before I ask for a status check. Most say a month to six weeks. An editor I would not ask for feedback from a query. If they wanted a submission they would ask.

If they've asked for more, or revisions and they didn't give you a time when they would contact you I would give them (editors) at least three months. Harlequin at least six months.

If unagented and offered a contract you don't have to run out and get an agent depending on who the publisher is. Harlequin has a standard contract and their advance is the same with or without an agent. You can and should consult an Intellectual property attorney if you're able.

Saying all of that we all know that when the call comes you're going to forget everything but that moment. LOL. At least take a moment to look it over.

I do have samples of contracts with agents, mine and another. The other you should definitely have someone look it over. If you want the samples email me at


Anonymous said...

Wonderful workshop Dyanne!

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Dyanne, very detailed workshop. Thank you. What would you recommend, finding an agent first or finding a publisher?

What are the three basic questions a writer should ask an agent if offered a contract?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this much needed help.

F. D. Davis said...

If you're really wanting an agent which is a good idea I would submit to them first because they don't want to shop around something that has already been sent every place.

Since this business takes so long I would send to more than one agent at a time, have a time limit that I'm going to give myself before I start submitting to editors. AND, this is most important. Always, always have something else you're working on or you're go crazy wondering why you haven't heard back.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dyanne,

I'll have to copy and paste this great advice.

V. Smith

F. D. Davis said...

V, just email me.

F. D. Davis said...

I'm sorry I forgot the question on the three things I would ask an agent. I would ask how many clients did they have. Then I would know if they have any time for me. Who have they sold to... Better idea of the publishing houses they've already built a relationship with. And I'd ask if they want an exclusive meaning to represent all my work of if we would do project by project.

Unknown said...

I have a question that piggy-backs off the one you answered about Agents:

How many clients is too many, in your opinion, for an agent to have and handle efficiently?

I was also wondering, what can a new author (romance genre) expect in terms of a first contract? (I am just looking for general standards, if such thing exists)


F. D. Davis said...

La-tessa, that number would vary depending on your needs. If you need hand holding and a lot of writers do an agent with upwards of 100 clients might be way too many for you because she's trying to take of too many people. An agent who's smart aggressive and doesn't have too many clients maybe 20 or so might be the way to start. I hope you've checked in on Tee. I know she posted her submission guidelnes. I would totally use her if I was just beginning. I would use her at any stage if I didn't have an agent.

F. D. Davis said...

The best way to know what a new author would get for first advance depends on the publishing house.

Not to push RWA but every year they publish in one place what each publisher pays first time authors. Also Writers Market Place has this information.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info Dyanne.

Can you tell me where I can view Tee's submission guidlines??

The Paperback Diva said...

Excellent workshop, Dyanne! So many questions and terms that new writers struggle with. It ought to be required reading. *smile*


Amanda H. said...

Thanks Dyanne! I learned so much from this workshop!

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