Blind Submission
September 10, 2012 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Like many people, I have A Novel... I have been working on it for a while and now have the opportunity to submit it to a friend of a friend who expressed interest. How am I supposed to act? What do people expect from novel-submitter-people?

Yikes! All of a sudden, my words seem to have run dry. What do I write in the email? "Constructive criticism appreciated?" I'm afraid my novel is going to look horrific in the light of day.

I don't even tell people this novel exists because it's so embarrassing. But I have to take this opportunity, or I'll regret it.

Do I say I'm looking for feedback? (I am). Or it is presumptuous to give someone your manuscript, presumably to be looked at for publication, and ask for feedback?

Do I ask outright whether it would be suitable for submission?

I have a friend who will be forwarding the email for me, but she is so busy I want to make sure I get it right and don't bother her with too many details.

BONUS QUESTION: How would I go about cultivating a circle of writer friends (or online friends for peer editing)? Even if this round doesn't work out, I'd like to keep writing.

Many thanks!!!!
posted by kettleoffish to Human Relations (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Although it might be helpful to know:

1. What "expressed interest" means, exactly;
2. What position in the publishing industry the "friend of a friend" occupies ...

I think you have two options at this point. First, a traditional manuscript submission, which generally consists of a cover letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters of the work. The cover letter in your case should probably be kept short, since this is a somewhat solicited submission. Don't ask for anything, just briefly cover your writing experience and thank the person for their time.

Alternately, you could request specific info on what the FoF would like you to send along. It's possible they have enough interest already to want to see the entire manuscript without all the foreplay. Even in this case, a short cover letter with brief experience and a genuine thank you would be appropriate.
posted by ronofthedead at 7:50 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, we need more info. Failing that, start with the synopsis, first three chapters, and cover letter.

For more in-depth advice, forums.

And if the novel isn't finished, don't bother until you're done. Nobody in the publishing industry wants to read anyone's unfinished novel.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

The FoF is an editor- I think she said to my friend, "we are doing a book series on roof painting" (my novel is not about roof painting but something similarly obscure) and my friend, also an editor said, "I know someone who is doing a book on that." I think the FoF just agreed to take a look, so my friend emailed me with great excitement saying, "what an opportunity! This is perfect for you."

I guess my question is about tone as well-- I have a tendency to be self-effacing and try to soft pedal my book "oh it's just a draft, what do you think?"- I feel more comfortable putting the conversation in terms of learning and feedback. Is this a liability? Should I stick to a professional neutral tone and just let my friend and FoF see what they think as editors?
posted by kettleoffish at 8:20 PM on September 10, 2012

I had a friend of a friend like this. I sent them the whole novel with a short letter saying something like "Our mutual friend X suggested that your press might be interested in the enclosed manuscript." And they published it!

I would not ask for feedback or constructive criticism. A publishing house is a business, not a workshop. You're offering them something and they either want it or they don't. If they want some tweaked version of it, don't worry, they'll tell you.
posted by escabeche at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Dear Jane Editor,

John Friend said that you were interested in taking a look at my novel. (Or, When we talked at John Friend's dinner party last week, you were kind enough to say you'd be interested in looking at my novel.) Thank you so much! I'm attaching a brief synopsis and the first three chapters, and will be happy to send along the complete manuscript if you want to read more.

The Heart of the Artichoke is a sweeping family saga spanning three generations of artichoke farmers in rural California. Silas Przblyqk is a flinty-hearted man whose only thought is to become the artichoke king of Salinas; his daughter Betty's World War II service shatters her farm-girl dreams and drives her to become a ruthless vegetable tycoon; and Joshua, Betty's aspiring poet son, finds his destiny back on the farm despite his longing for the academic life.

As you might imagine, this book was inspired by my own experience growing up in California farm country. My other work includes short stories published in Tin House and The Virginia Review, as well as many non-fiction articles.

I really appreciate your taking the time to look at my work.


posted by Sidhedevil at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

Absolutely don't ask for feedback, talk about it being a draft, anything other than the usual cover letter format but personalized for the situation.

My post above crossed in the ether with your update, so I would add a reference to the "books about artichoke farming" project in the first bit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something like "John Friend said you were interested in looking at my novel to see if it might be a fit with your Artichoke Farming series" or similar.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is this a big time New York publisher/editor? You might consider contacting an agent first. If you get an offer for publication, you should definitely contact agents to negotiate your contract. No matter how friendly, remember that editors are business people. They'll lowball you and try to put in all sorts of contract terms unfavorable to you and favorable for them. An agent is for your own safety, and most easily earn their 15%.

For crit partners, check out AbsoluteWrite.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:33 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a tendency to be self-effacing and try to soft pedal my book "oh it's just a draft, what do you think?"- I feel more comfortable putting the conversation in terms of learning and feedback. Is this a liability?

posted by incessant at 12:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Tenant served notice may not vacate timely   |   Did we buy the wrong sink? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.