Thursday, November 15, 2007

When to bend submission guidelines

I am about to submit a query for an early-chapter text (aimed at6-8yo) to a local agency. They are currently accepting both adult and children's texts. As well as asking for a writing sample, they also ask for a synopsis. My question: as my story is only 1300 words, is a synopsis necessary? It seems a little ridiculous, as many synopses are about half as long as my manuscript! As part of the query I have obviously written a pitch (one paragraph), which is probably similar to what the synopsis would look like for such a short story anyway. I want to abide by their submission guidelines, but only if appropriate.

Submission guidelines are created by agents to try to give guidance to authors without them needing to contact the agency (if everyone who submitted to the agency I worked for called us to enquire about submitting, we would never get anything else done). Guidelines are necessarily strict in tone, but agents are humans too (really!) and respond well to plain speaking. So I'd suggest that, in your query letter - after the pitch - you say something like, 'As this is a very short story, I haven't written a lengthy synopsis for my story - hopefully this description will suffice.' Simply not including a synopsis without explaining would be potentially annoying, because the agent will think you've just decided not to include one. But if you state your reason why there isn't one, I'm sure that will be okay. Guidelines aren't laws!

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