I’ve submitted my novella, Zack and Larry Make a Porno, to Dreamspinner Press today! If it gets published, this will be my first non-holiday story out there. (Of course, The Meaning of Vengeance , doesn’t really feel like a “Christmas story,” in the sense most people think of it, but it was included in a Christmas/Holiday anthology, so it probably won’t get a lot of attention for the rest of the year.)
Preparing a manuscript for submission is always nerve-wracking. Not only does the story itself have to be polished, but it has to be correctly formatted according to what the publisher wants. Dreamspinner isn’t too difficult about that, but the manuscript must be in Times Roman, 12-point, with one-inch margins. The hardest part, for my first submissions, last Fall, was figuring out how to put a header on the document which would put “Jamie Fessenden / Zack and Larry Make a Porno” on the top left of every page, and the page number on the top right. It doesn’t seem too hard, now, but the first time I did it, it kept breaking. Microsoft Word is far from intuitive.
Once the submission itself is prepared, you have to come up with a “short but complete story summary and/or synopsis.” This is where I probably need some more coaching, because my story summaries are long. For this 15k-word novella, my summary was two and a half pages. Once upon a time, I gather that was expected, but I think writers tend to do shorter summaries, these days.
So, you attach your story and your story summary to an e-mail, and then you have to write the dreaded Query Letter itself.
I’ve written a few successful queries, by now — successful, in that I was asked to submit the story, after the editor read my query — so I’m fairly confident, in that regard. I just keep it short and to the point, making sure all of the important info is included. They want to know what genre the story is, assurance that it has never been published elsewhere, and how long it is. They also want two paragraphs describing the story and a brief list of your credentials, as a writer. Here is the query I just sent to Dreamspinner:
February 13, 2011
Dreamspinner Press LLC
Genre: First Time for Everything
Dear <Editor’s Name>,
I have a 15,400-word previously unpublished novella called “Zack and Larry Make a Porno,” which I would like to submit for inclusion in the First Time for Everything anthology. The title is obviously a riff on the title of the popular Kevin Smith film, but the story is otherwise a completely original work. (If the title presents a legal issue, I would of course be willing to change it.) The story is a dramatic comedy.
Zack and Larry have been best friends since Middle School and are now comfortably rooming together in college. But when Larry hears that other guys they know are getting paid a lot of money to have gay sex in videos, he convinces Zack that they could pick up some quick, easy cash by being in one of these films…together.
If Zack thinks making a gay porn film with his best friend is disturbing, he is absolutely horrified when Larry proposes that they “rehearse” for the film, so they won’t be nervous, in front of the director. As the two young men fumble their way through a checklist of sexual positions and acts, Zack finds himself seeing Larry in an entirely new light — a very sexy new light. And possibly a romantic one, as well. But does Larry feel the same? Or is this all just for fun?
I’ve attached the entire manuscript in .doc format, along with a summary of the novella.
Previously, I’ve had two stories published through Dreamspinner Press. My short story, “The Meaning of Vengeance,” and my long novella, “The Christmas Wager,” were both released this past December. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Of course, my contact info is included on the bottom.
Now, we have yet to see whether this query is successful. But it has everything that should be required for the editor to make a decision. (Out of habit, I’ve blocked out the name the letter was addressed to, but the name of the editor is right on Dreamspinner’s submission page, if you’d care to look her up.) This is the first time I’ve ever listed credentials in a query, since I hadn’t been published before submitting The Meaning of Vengeance and The Christmas Wager. (Both queries were sent off within days of one another.) If you don’t have any credentials, it’s best to just say nothing. The editor isn’t interested in the fact that your mother loved your story, or that you feel being gay has given you insight into your characters. (Yes, I did once say this in a query. That one was not successful. My defense is that I was young and stupid.)
If you’re an Icelandic historian — or you happen to be a Viking — you might mention that, for a book about Vikings. But mostly the editor just wants to hear if you’ve been published before. In this case, it might seem strange to list my previous Dreamspinner credentials. After all, the editor I’m submitting to was involved in the publication of those two stories. But Dreamspinner has expanded considerably over the past six months — the list of writers on their site seems to have doubled! I’m not sure the editor will remember me. Besides, it’s requested in their submission guidelines.
Now, I get to wait. In agony. Although it would probably be more productive to work on something else, instead of just sitting around fretting. This particular anthology will be out in June, so I can’t suffer for too long. One of my biggest concerns, as I noted in the letter, is the title. Parody law covers things like that, but I’m not sure if it will disturb the editor or not.
In the meantime, I have that cyberpunk story that’s nearly ready to go out. It just needs a little tweaking to make it feel a bit more futuristic and “tech-y.” But for now, I’m going to get back to Murderous Requiem, the occult murder mystery I started for NaNoWriMo. I only made it to 27k-words, and it’s a bit weird, in terms of pacing. I’m not sure “murder mystery” is the proper categorization for it, since the first murder isn’t going to occur until about halfway through the novel. But I still think it’s interesting, so I’m working on tightening up the rather slow and dull first chapter. Then we’ll see how the rest of it goes.