Thursday, 18 June 2009


How brave are you? Are you ready to let total strangers comment on your query / synopsis / proposal for your beloved Masterpiece? Because, I am offering you the chance to do just that.

On the basis that I trust that all comments will be given in the spirit of honest opinion with a view to helping rather than hindering or destroying, this is a chance to hold your work up for constructive criticism by your fellows. Many readers of this blog are well-published; some are agents and editors; and some may be deluded idiots who know nothing - I make no guarantees that everyone's opinion is equally valid.

But that is exactly what real readers are like: unpredictable and uncontrollable. Some future readers of your Work in Progress will not understand the depths or subtlety of your intellect or the meaningfulness of your Work. Some of them won't be able to tell the difference between a perfectly pitched voice and the ugly shriek of fighting cats. Get used to it.

Anyway, to the task. When you have fulfilled the criteria (below) for this mini-submission, email it to me at (Please note: fabulously cool though it is, this is not my normal email address and I only look at it when I've got some blog-related competition or other foolishness going on.) Then, every now and then, I will pick one of the submissions and put it, lock, stock and barrel, on the blog. Then everyone will comment on it.

I won't necessarily pick the best or the worst - just one that I think will be interesting to study. It depends what I get from you. (I don't mean money, though that would be lovely: I mean it depends on the nature of your submissions.) And I'll maybe pick one every three weeks or so, so do keep them coming.

NOTE: as you know, there are differences between the US/UK/other countries in terms of what you put in your initial approach to an agent or publisher. In the US, for example, first approach is with a query letter only; and this query letter will therefore be fuller than a UK "covering letter", which would be very short and would accompany a full synopsis and the first pages of the actual work. For the purposes of this exercise, I am queen of my own imaginary country and am making my own rules, so please read them! (And, more importantly, when you actually submit something, please make sure you know what the requirements are in your country, by going onto some agent/publisher websites and reading the "submission guidelines".)

So, here are the criteria:
  1. Unlike previous activities, this is not a joke. Your task is not to write a deliberately useless submission. You may address your submission to either publisher or agent - please make it clear which one.
  2. Please send only the following: a perfectly pitched letter, selling your book and hooking the reader, making clear exactly what sort of book this is and describing it succinctly (something like this would work for both UK and elsewhere without much alteration); and no more than the first 500 words of your book. (You may wish to edit your actual work down so that your first 500 words work well enough.) Edited to add: pasted into body of email, please, NOT attachment.
  3. The whole thing should be as perfect as you would send to a real agent/editor.
  4. Please tell me your full name when you send you submission. However, I will not put your name on the blog, so please also offer a pseudonym. After the process is over and all comments are in, you may reveal your name but you do not have to.
When your fellow blog readers comment, the questions they will ask themselves are:
  • Does this book sound really, really interesting?
  • Does this writer seem to have real control over the written word?
  • Is there something fresh and engaging about this writer's voice?
And now I am going to disappear to London for a few days. (Actually, I've gone already if this post goes out as planned on Thursday.) It's my last ever Society of Authors Management Committee meeting and the lovely Annual Awards Ceremony - introduced by Margaret Drabble and presented by Sebastian Faulks; and I'm seeing my older daughter one evening and my crime-writing friend, Aline Templeton, another evening. It would be entire bliss, except that I also have to prepare a scary radio thing for the weekend and a big speech and some workshops for the following week. So, if I don't reply quickly to your comments, that's why - but I will be watching you.


Samantha Tonge said...

So you don't want the synopsis?

Samantha Tonge said...

Great idea, btw.

Nicola Morgan said...

No synopsis, thank you!!

Jen Campbell said...

What a fantastic idea! I'll get scribbling :)

Rebecca said...

Cool, I'm gonna go for it!

Annie said...

Are we to attach it as a separate document? Or copy-paste into the email body?

I can't decide if this is more or less nerve-wracking than sending to an agent. On the one hand - public critique; on the other - possibility of publication.


Nicola Morgan said...

Annie - good question - pasted into email, please. (I have now added that instruction.)

Don't be afraid!

Sally Zigmond said...

Damn. Why do I never have anything prepared when required?

Stroppy Author said...

ooooh, dangerous. I am Dostoyevsky. What do you think of my idea for a novel?

You're very brave, Nicola, and when you turn down Pride and Prejudice, I am right behind you :-)

Nicola Morgan said...

Stroppy Author (Anne) - ah, but you see, I'm not brave really, because I'm going to let everyone else do the commenting! (Though i will certainly join in. Try to stop me!)

All - I've had a great selection/variety of submissions so far. Not had time to decide which one to pick yet, but this is going to be ongoing, in the sense that I'll pick one soon and then another when I feel like it, so keep the submissions coming. There's no closing date.

I do find it rather amusing how scared you all say you are though!

Jane Smith said...

I am not even going to ATTEMPT to play this game.

I fear that Nicola's pointy boots will be involved.

Nicola Morgan said...

Jane - scaredy cat. If you could see me now, you'd not worry about the footwear: I look seriously unshoey today.

Flixton Mum said...

Hmmm - I'm nearly almost done, but am absolutely terrified too. Why, why, why?
Anyway, I've never done anything like this before so it's all a bit (a lot) way too difficult for me. The letter is stumping me. How do I say whether I'm addressing an agent or publisher? Do I just say Dear Agent/Dear Publisher and incur the wrath of agents/publishers the world over by not knowing their name, or do I make up a name or do I use a real one???
Questions, questions, questions.
I'm sorry to be so dense. Maybe I'm not cut out for this.

Nicola Morgan said...

Flixton Mum - don't worry! Of course, if this was a real submission, you'd find out the name of the person, but for this it's completely fine to do any of the things you suggest. The submissions I've had so far have used the whole range of options, and I will make it clear to commenters that the form of address will be irrelevant. What you need to be doing is:
describing your book in a way that makes us all want to buy it, showing yourself as a skilled writer (which means not wasting words, and only choosing the perfect word for the situation), following the guidelines. That's it! And remember, much of the response will be down to personal taste, but personal taste is what readers use too ...

Catt said...

I have a queston: do we have to be Blogspot/Blogger members ourselves in order to participate?

Nicola Morgan said...

Catt - no, everyone is welcome!

Catt said...

Awesome! :) I came across it via Jen (Yellowstring) and am tempted myself.