The Submission Process and the Synopsis

The Submission Process and the Synopsis

Today I’m going to discuss the submission package that I have to pull together for my agent, to go on what is called ‘submission’ to Publishing Houses. It’s a slightly different process than what I had to do originally to get an agent and Publisher – and I’m actually really happy that it is, because now it means that my agent can query publishers on my behalf, with just a query letter, synopsis and the first three chapters of the book. Yay, I don’t need to write the full book now until I get a contract for it – how cool is that!! Ok, so I still have to write the dreaded synopsis… but hey, I can get a submission package done in a fraction of the time, now that I can just submit on proposal. Awesome!


Which means I now have to put together a query letter, synopsis and write the first three chapters… The query letter and first three chapters I’m cool with, lol (and do check out my query letter showcase on my blog for an example of my original query letter that got me my YES, with my agent and Publisher – along with other author query letters, soon to come). However, it’s the synopsis, that I am literally dragging my heels with! However, when I did my original synopsis for ‘The Devilish Duke’ I had to research not only how to write a synopsis, but how to make it engaging and sellable. In my quest, I found some definite rules of thumb about what to do and not do in a synopsis, which I’m going to share with you below.


These are the DOs and DON’Ts for writing a synopsis:

  • Try to only introduce a maximum of three characters in the synopsis. Because I write romance with a twist of suspense, I will always introduce the heroine, the hero and the baddy, aka the antagonist, into the synopsis.
  • Introduce your main character first.
  • When you first introduce your characters, use CAPITAL LETTERS for their names. That way, it’s very clear for the editor to see who is who in the jungle.
  • Make sure you have a hook at the start of the synopsis – something that will grab the editor and have them wanting to read more.
  • Make sure you include the character’s emotions and motivations– their story/journey arc, and include the story’s KEY CONFLICT.
  • Include the pivotal plot points that progress the story forward.
  • ALWAYS include the ending. Do NOT leave the editor in suspense. Basically they want to see that your story has a beginning, middle and end, and a good journey throughout. And they want to see this in a condensed 1-2 pages.
  • Don’t use dialogue, unless you absolutely must.
  • Write the synopsis in third person (regardless of whether or not you are using third person in the novel), and be sure to write it in your ‘voice’. You want to sell this story to an editor, so it has to be exciting and give them a sense of what the novel is going to read like. Remember a synopsis is NOT an outline of your book.
  • Be as concise as possible with every single word – however maintain your voice – easy right??? Lol!


In part of my research on synopsis writing, I found a great article on the pubcrawl website, written by Susan Dennard, that has an eleven-point template (with an example using Star Wars) on what to include in a synopsis. I’ve Included it below (and the original article can be found on the pub-crawl website here):

Fill in the Blanks

  1. Opening image

An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.


Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.


  1. Protagonist Intro

Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.


Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. 


  1. Inciting incident

What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.


When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it—a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.


  1. Plot point 1

What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.


Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.


  1. Conflicts & character encounters

Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.


To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base.


  1. Midpoint

What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 180 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.


Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.


  1. Winning seems imminent, but…

What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.


After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.

  1. Black moment

The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?


Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.


  1. Climax

What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?


The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.


  1. Resolution

Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?


With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.


  1. Final image

What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?


Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.



Ok, so now I have to get back to actually writing up my new synopsis for my latest submission package. And that my friends, is my goal for January. I MUST email my agent my new submission package by January 31! So feel free to email me and ask me how I’m going – there’s nothing like a bit of accountability to get things done, hey, lol!


Take care and talk soon!


Maddison Michael’s Successful Query Letter

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Maddison Michael’s Successful Query Letter

It’s fantastic to welcome you to my Successful Query Letter Showcase! I really hope this showcase will help you when it comes time to do up your own query letter, because let’s face it, the query letter and the whole query process can be daunting, to say the least. So I think the more of us authors out there, willing to share the query letter that got us that coveted YES, to emerging authors, the better! So without further ado, here is my interview discussing my query letter and the querying process. Hope you get something out of it!

MY SUCCESSFUL QUERY LETTER (click on it, to enlarge):


  • How long did you spend writing your query letter?

On and off I spent about a month, writing and then refining my query letter.


  • Did you revise your query letter at all during the querying process?

I think I made a few tweaks after sending it off for the first round, but basically no.


  • How long did it take you from when you started querying to when you got your first partial or full manuscript (ms) request?

Actually, I was super surprised when 4 hours after I sent my first round of query letters off, I got a reply from Jessica Faust at Bookends, requesting the full manuscript (that is certainly a rarity in this industry – In fact I only just received a rejection in Nov 2017 for a query I sent off for The Devil Duke in Nov 2016!!).


  • How many partial and full ms requests did you receive?

I got a combination of about 25 full and partial requests


  • Did you receive any rejections, and if so how did you cope?

Absolutely! The first rejection definitely sent a pang of angst through me, but then about an hour letter I got a full request, so I was elated once again. The querying process (not to mention the whole publishing process) is such a rollercoaster ride, with constant ups and down, but you just have to keep pushing through. After a while with any rejection I did get, I just kept saying to myself that it wasn’t meant to be with that agent, so NEXT!


  • Did you use any particular software, or system for keeping track of the queries you sent out?

I used Query tracker which is an absolutely awesome way to keep track of queries ( – btw I am getting NO payment for mentioning them) to help me research and make a list of who I wanted to query (they have agents listed from the US, UK and Australia too). Then I was able to keep track of the queries I sent out and it also had average times that individual agents take to get back to people (for both manuscript requests and rejections) – so it was my go to in the query process, and something I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

I also paid for a one-month subscription to Publishers Market place, which again I HIGHLY recommend (I’m also not being paid for mentioning them, lol). It basically allows you to see who are the top deal maker agents in specific genres, and it lists all of their deals as published on Publishers Market place. It really helped me when I had 4 offers of rep on the table and had to make a decision about who to choose.


  • How many query letters did you send out at a time?

I started off doing batches of about 4 – thinking that it might be best to get feedback first, but when I realized some agents could take literally months to respond, I thought ‘what the hey’ and I started sending out my query letter to ALL of the agents I wanted to consider for representation. I was also only targeting US agents, as the market I was targeting was the US, so I wanted representation there – so in total I sent out about 35 query letters.


  • How did you choose who to send your query letter to?

I researched mainly using query tracker (they have a search feature, so I searched for agents that represented romance and historicals). Then I made a list (via selecting the agents I wanted to query through the query tracker website), and then I researched each agent online to see if I thought we’d be a fit. I also researched some of my favorite authors and who their agents were.


  • Did you personalize each letter?

I did at first, but then I realized, that if my query letter was strong enough, they’d requests the manuscript without having personalized the query itself. So after the first few, no I didn’t personalize them – though I did obviously research each agent I queried (making sure they were looking for historical romances), and I adhered to their submission guidelines STRICTLY (as you can see from my query to my agent Pamela Harty).


  • Can you tell us a bit about when you received ‘the call’? And how long did it take from when you started querying to getting an offer of representation?

Well I started querying agents late October 2016, and by about mid November, I had received around 20 full and partial requests. Also around mid Nov I got the absolute best email of my life, from an editor at Entangled Publishing, Tracy Montoya, saying she loved my manuscript and wanted to take it to her acquisitions board as she wanted Entangled to publish it (I had done a spur of the moment twitter pitch in August that year and the manuscript was requested by an editor at Entangled, Lydia Sharpe. Early in October I got an email from Lydia, saying that she’d passed it on to her colleague Tracy, as Tracy loved a historical with a twist of suspense. At the time, I didn’t think much of it and actually kind of forgot it was with Entangled). However, when I got the email from Tracy, I was ecstatic!! So I pretty much emailed all of the agents that had the partial or full manuscript (and the ones I hadn’t heard back from), advising them that an offer was possibly on the table. That hurried up most of them, and I also got a few more requests. In the end I was so fortunate to have had four reputable agents offer me representation, as they loved my book.


  • Did you have multiple offers for either representation or publication, and if so, how did you decide who you were going to accept?

Yes, I had four agents offer representation, which put me in an absolute dream position, but also a really tough one… who to choose??? So I had Skype conversations with them (and of course beforehand, I googled them like crazy and researched them on Publisher’s market place). So I had an idea of the top two I was deciding between, even before I spoke with them.

I must say choosing was really difficult, as essentially I had narrowed it down to either an up and coming agent at a SUPER top agency, who hadn’t really placed any romance manuscripts yet, to a well established and respected agent at another super agency too, who had placed hundreds of romance novels over the years. So in the end I went with the well established agent, Pamela Harty from the Knight Agency.


  • What questions did you ask when speaking with the agent/acquiring editor that you were considering?

Actually, after I’d gotten a few manuscript requests I started to research what to ask a prospective agent, and because I’m a big believer in putting things out there (and believing great things will happen if you do), I wrote up a list of pre-prepared questions I was going to ask the agents that offered to represent me, and luckily four did!

These are the questions I wrote:

  • What did you like about my book? What attracted you to the story?
  • What Editors Do You See Us Submitting This Book to? Have You Sold to Them before?
  • If Those Target Editors Turn It Down, Will You Continue Submitting?
  • Do you think the Manuscript needs any changes/edits before we submit?
  • Are you hands on with edits and input regarding manuscripts or do you prefer to not touch them?
  • May I Contact Some of Your Current Clients?
  • What Can I Do to Help You Sell This Book and Secure the Best Deal Possible?
  • Take me through the process of when you submit to Editors. How Involved and updated will I be? How often will I hear from you and via what method (email/phone etc)?
  • Does your agency charge fees for any incidentals? Eg phone calls etc?
  • What is your agency fee?
  • Do you have an agency agreement?
  • If, for Whatever Unforeseen Reason, You Were to Step Down as an Agent in the Future, Would I Be Passed to a Co-Agent?
  • If You Switch Agencies, Would I Transfer With You?
  • Will You Represent Every Book I Write?
  • Down the track I am looking to write some contemporary romantic suspense novels and possibly some fantasy/sci fi – what are your thoughts regarding representing those genres on my behalf?


  • What questions do you wish you’d ask, but didn’t?

Because I’d pre-prepared my questions, when the time came to speak to each agent offering to represent me, I had them covered!


  • Any advice and top tips for others about the querying process and writing the query letter itself?

I actually did an online query writing course, run by Samantha Bond through RWA Australia – and that was super helpful!! I also got three of my trusted readers and my critique partner to have a read of it and make any suggestions. So that would be my recommendation, have as many eyes go over it for you, as you can, and be open to suggestions. Oh and also KEEP PERSERVERING no matter the rejections – just keep moving on, and after each rejection just keep saying ‘next’ until you do get that YES.


  • Anything else you want to add?

It might sound odd, but be grateful for the rejections – because that means you’re a step closer, each and every time, to finding the agent that is your perfect match. Because after-all, you want your agent to be your strongest advocate, and you want them to love your story as much (if not more) than you do.


  • What was it about your query letter that had your agent request your manuscript?

My wonderful agent, Pamela Harty, who is the VP of sales at the Knight Agency, had this to say about my query:


“Maddison’s query letter hit a number of positive notes for me.  First, she knew that historical fiction is a genre I am interested in which is key.  When I get queries from authors for projects I don’t represent, I know they haven’t done their research.  Next, her query was well written and had just the right amount of detail to interest me including information about  both characters and plot.  I found the information in her bio paragraph intriguing as well.  I think mentioning her job which sounded unusual to me was  a positive.  I liked that she was Australian because we see so much good writing come from there.  Lastly, her query hit my desk at the right time.  I wasn’t too covered up and was looking for more material to read.” – Pamela Harty


More Successful Query Letters:

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Query Letter Showcase

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Query Letter Showcase

Stay tuned for a weekly article, featuring a query letter that got the author a YES, either with an agent or a publishing house.

Are you a debut or established author, and would like to share your successful query letter? If so send me an email at or fill in the contact form 🙂