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Question
Thank you so much for your time. I have reviewed and re-edited my book that I have been writing over the past year. I am all most ready to send my query letter out. My book is currently 241 (single typed) pages with 114,258 words. My question is:  
  (1) I know I must double space my book prior to submission but on my query letter do I put I have a 241 page book or do I put I have a (double spaced document) consisting of 482 pages with 114,258 words. I understand that my query letter will go first and I will only send my book if they ask for it.
  (2) Should I finish my synopsis before I send my query letter out (I understand I only send what they request and since my query letter may take up to 10 weeks for an answer, I may have time to finish it)? Or do I finish my synopsis now (I am just starting on it and only have about 6 pages)?  Thank you for your answer.  L.Marie

Answer
Hi, L. Marie!

(1) An agent or editor will ONLY want to know the word count, not the pages. So don't worry about them. 114K is a little long for a debut novel unless it's for the SF/F shelves. Most mass market paperback are 90-100K for new writers. That's not to say it *can't* sell as is, but you might have to struggle a little. You probably want to say "approximately 110,000 words" because really--4,000 words can be eliminated in a heartbeat just by removing a few dialogue tags or one scene.

(2) Feel free to finish your synopsis, but know that a completed synopsis should only be TWO pages, single spaced (or five pages double spaced) unless a particular agent or publisher states differently in their guidelines. If you're already on six pages and have "just started", you've got some trimming to do. In fact, a lot of trimming. A few things to help with that:

(a)  Remove all subplots. Yes, they're important to the BOOK, but not to the synopsis. You can easily say, "In one subplot, Bob and Mary spend an afternoon shopping for herbs. This blends into the main plot when they discover microfilm in the bottle of saffron."

(b)  Remove all names except ONE primary protagonist. Choose a single person to tell the story from--even if you have a dozen main characters. The agent or editor is going to want to fall in love with ONE person's story, their life. They want that one person to succeed, no matter how tough the odds against them. As that person interacts with others, just say "his sister" or "his former roommate" but keep the "camera" on that one character.

Something that might help is a thread I started on a writer's internet forum where I asked authors to post synopses that sold a book. There are a number of different styles there and while they are primarily romance novels, it's the structure you're looking for, not the details. You might find a way to tell the story quickly that suits your character by reading what others have successfully done.

Here's a link:  http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71843

Hope that helps a little. Feel free to ask any other questions you might have. Good luck!

Cathy

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Cathy Clamp

Expertise

I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.

Experience

I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Organizations
Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Publications
Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

Education/Credentials
My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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