I have recently signed up for an e-course with Bubble cow. Their purpose for existence is to help writers get published, and as I am a writer in need of a publisher, our wants dove tail beautifully. Alas, I am as ever sadly lacking in funds, so I am not sure that i can make full use of the services they offer, but their special offer of an e-course on fine tuning ones submission pack was too tempting to miss.
I have had much advice from various sources on what makes a good submission pack, but Bubble Cow approached it in a different way so that at least is novel. (As it were.) I can not claim that their method is the right one until I have got at least a second look from an agent, but I will certainly say that the pdf I was sent was clear, informative, well written and really interesting, so that at least must count for a star on their chart, may be even two of them.
They talk about how the letter is crucial to catching the eye of an agent swamped with similar missives, and how the key is to find a one line phrase that gives the flavor of your book - in essence to create a maggot with which to bait ones hook.
The example that they give is that of the film Alien, which was pitched to the studio with the line 'Like Jaws in Space.' As they go on to explain, of course the film is much more than that, and many ways superior to the impression that gives, but the point is not to tap into a cultural short hand for the essence of the idea. When it was used, Jaws had sunk it's teeth into the collective consciousness, and although no one would ever claim it to be high art, it had become a short had for a certain type of monster movie.
By using it to pitch Alien, the producers were able to sum up what would make the film a box office hit, and thus enable what turned out to be a much more iconic film be made.
Indeed, the proof of the pudding is that now, if one said Jaws is like 'Alien on the beach', one would know exactly what was mean as well.
Bubble Cow also talk about how to categorize ones book so that an agent can see at once if they could sell it for you. Agentsm like serial killers, have a 'type', and so it's crucial that you find one who deals in your book's genre, other wise you are a Philps head screw presented to a flat screw driver; not a good fit.
With all this in mind, and with the help of the first part of the course, I have now worked on my submission letter; and here it is.
At Night, All Cats Are Grey - ‘Lady Chatterly with Gangsters.’
Ex-con Danko is forced to kill to protect his true love Saskia, when vengeful gangster Alexis resurfaces from his past. Saskia finds her love for Danko revitalises both her art and life, but their relationship provokes her jealous ex-husband to threaten a custody battle for their daughter. Can their love survive against the odds?
This is my first novel, of eighty thousand-words. It’s passionate, sometimes humorous work of Women’s Fiction. It would sit well along side Deborah Smith’s Stone Flower Garden, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Rosamund Lipton’s Afterwards.
Set in New York, it’s the story of artist Saskia Cooper as she seeks an escape with darkly attractive Danko, from her life in the shadow of her possessive ex-husband Geoff and his lover Michael. Their relationship provokes a jealous to threaten a custody battle for their daughter Elsa. Unwilling to lose the passion Danko has re-awakened in her, and with a chance of a life changing exhibition, Saskia fights to keep Danko in her life; but when vengeful gangster Alexis threatens Saskia, Danko is pushed into a confrontation with Alexis, killing him in self-defence. Saskia is plunged into guilt as Danko is arrested; all she can do is write a letter to help plead his case and channels her depression into work that finally meets with critical success.
The story was inspired by real-life events, starting from a commission to re-decorate a strip club. During my varied career as a costume designer, performer and teacher, I have always written. I have now started a family and children’s wear company, but write constantly. At Night, All Cats Are Grey is the first novel I’ve felt is ready for submission. I have also finished a prequel to this, which tells the story of Danko’s life in American after escaping Soviet Russia as a boy until his imprisonment, which my writing group described as ‘Irvin Welsh meets The Sopranos’.
Next time - synopsis.