Many emerging authors struggle with the three major components of a query. We briefly review cover letters, samples, and synopses. All pitches to Lakeshore Literary must conform to these standards.
A good cover letter serves several essential purposes:
- Its formatting (or lack thereof) strongly telegraphs the author’s professionalism and skill.
- It should offer an introductory hook, hint at the primary plot-and-conflict trajectory, and offer competitive titles.
- It explains why the writer is the best person to have written the book — by dint of education, or experience, or publication history, or some combination thereof.
- It sticks to one page and doesn’t read as if the author’s mere pitching a sample back-of-the-cover marketing blurb.
- The personalization in the letter signifies that the author took the time to pitch this market rather than that market. Generic letters are a red flag for the recipient.
Rely on The Chicago Manual of Style for in-depth guidance about structuring a letter. As a rule, though, your letter will not look as if it were an afterthought.
A synopsis is not the back-of-the-book marketing copy that readers review. Rather, it’s a highly formalized document that helps editors and agents to determine whether a manuscript is structured correctly and paced effectively. Regardless of whether a given agent or publisher requests a sample chapter or the full manuscript, the synopsis offers a brief high-level overview to help the recipient grasp the story as a whole.
Please observe the following synopsis rules:
- The length of the synopsis should be 1/35th the length of the manuscript, plus or minus 50 words. Thus, a novel of 70,000 words should incur a synopsis of 1,950 to 2,050 words. These wordcount windows are strictly enforced.
- Every paragraph of the synopsis corresponds to one chapter of the manuscript.
- The synopsis is always written in third-person, present tense, active voice — regardless of the voice of the manuscript.
- Major characters (including any character that obtains point-of-view privilege) should be referenced in ALL CAPS the first time the character appears, with a brief appositive to identify the character and his or her role within the story.
- A synopsis should summarize the text; it’s never intended as a “marketing tease.”
- The synopsis should match the manuscript in its visual presentation — i.e., same typefaces, same margins, same line spacings, same headers.