Monday, September 29, 2008

Partial Requests and Coke Floats

Since I'm flying high about a recent partial request I received, I thought it a perfect topic for a post. So what does it mean when an editor or agent says, "We'd like to see the first 30 pages or so of Dangerous Expectations." What does this have to do with Coke floats? You'll have to read on to discover the answer.

Well, first of all, you must pick yourself up off the floor. Because that's where you'll find yourself after reading that wonderful, hard-to-obtain email. Why is it hard to obtain? The partial is generally the second step in the process, not the first. Numero uno is writing a brilliant query letter that will make your story stand out above a bizillion other queries. I'm not kidding. Agents/editors receive literally thousands of query letters (email and/or snail mail) from aspiring authors each year.

What's a query letter? I'm glad you asked. It's that lovely one page fact sheet that sums up your 400 page baby and talks a little bit about you, too. How do you sum up an entire book in one page? It's called the blurb. An extremely technical term for the back cover copy of a book. Next time you're in a bookstore (and I hope that's soon), read the back cover. What will you find? For romance, you'll probably read 2-3 paragraphs detailing a bit about the hero's and heroine's character and the conflict that will keep them apart--at least until the last chapter. It IS a romance, after all.

Sound simple enough?

Well, partner, you're in for a rude awakening if you think so. As the author, you carry all the little details in your mind that brought your story from page 1 to 400, and you ache to share every morsel with the reader. How can you not? How can the reader possibly understand why the heroine did this or that if you don't spell it out?

We authors can be obtuse sometimes. Do we, as readers, need the entire book spelled out for us. Nope. We rely on that brilliantly worded blurb to help us decide whether or not to purchase the book. Okay, it's not just the back cover copy. The author's name, the front cover, and the first paragraph help us, too, but we're not talking about those items.

Repeat after me...The blurb is your friend. Again...The blurb is your friend.

Now, that I've convinced you of how important the first step is, let's move on to the second step--the partial. When an agent/editor asks you for a partial, you'll typically send him/her the first 3 chapters and a synopsis. I say "typically" because it varies greatly from publishing professional to publishing professional. Some want 3 chapters, some want 30 pages, and others may want 5 pages. The key is to read the instructions that come along with the request VERY carefully.

Once you send off your partial, you wait. And fret. And hope.

Your next email from the agent/editor may be a request for a full or it could be a rejection. When the agent/editor wants a full, s/he is asking you to submit the entire 400 page manuscript. This is a good thing, but don't consider it an offer yet. A rejection is still a possibility. But so is an offer.

Either way, you should be extraordinarily proud of yourself, because only a lucky (and talented) few get to this stage in the process. So celebrate. Celebrate every step of the way. When I received my partial request, I shooed my husband off to Oberweis Ice Cream to buy me a Coke float. It was yummy, and I hope to be able to order another one very soon.

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