THE GUT CHECK PACKAGE: Professional Polish of Your Query, Synopsis & Opening Pages
I’ve been there too: About to start submitting, at long last, to agents and publishers, when that nagging feeling sets in: Is this query letter truly as strong as it can be? Is my synopsis easy enough to follow? Could my opening pages be cleaner or more compelling? When you find yourself wishing for a second (professional) opinion before you hit Send, a Gut Check can set your mind at ease.
Submission materials deserve our attention to every detail: You really do get only one chance to make this first impression. In my 20-year career in publishing, I’ve seen thousands of pitch letters and writing samples from both sides of the desk—as an acquiring editor for several nonfiction book imprints, chief editor at Writer’s Digest magazine, instructor at writing conferences across the U.S., mentor via the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Writer-in-Residence program, and bestselling novelist with my fifth novel forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in 2022. I know what it takes to stand out in an inbox (or slush pile).
The Gut Check Package (for novelists and memoirists) includes a close edit of the following submissions materials in one bundled rate ($400):
• Query Letter: Line by line, we’ll make sure your query does its job smoothly, concisely, and efficiently, from the eye-catching opening to the author bio, checking all the right boxes without making any of the most common mistakes. I’ll take the firmest hand necessary to suggest alternate wording, rearrange text for maximum effect, and flag areas for you to revisit. (Torn between two different approaches to your pitch? I’m happy to read both versions of your letter, though I’ll edit only the one I feel is strongest.) Includes up to two revision passes, during which you may follow up with any related questions.
• Synopsis: When it comes to your story’s synopsis, there’s a fine line between getting mired in unnecessary details and stripping away all sense of character, heart, and voice. This line edit will focus on maintaining clarity as well as the essence of your story, while meeting genre expectations. Includes up to two revision passes, during which you may follow up with any related questions. Note: Industry standard synopsis length is 1 to 2 pages. If yours is too long, I can help trim, but the maximum length I can accept is 3 pages in standard formatting (12-point font, single spaced, with a blank line between each paragraph).
• Opening Pages: Many agents and editors like to see your manuscript pages speak for themselves. I’ll edit your first 5 pages line by line for grammar and structure, highlighting any developmental/style issues that might raise a question or red flag for a discerning gatekeeper. Think 5 pages doesn’t sound like much? Attend most any writing conference, and you’re sure to hear agents say this is as far as they read before making a judgment on whether to request the full manuscript. These edits will be completed in one pass. (Clients sometimes see this sample edit and ask about rates for a longer partial, typically 50 pages. Inquire for a quote.)
No one can guarantee your submissions package will get your foot in the proverbial door—only your manuscript can do that. I cannot recommend a specific agent or publisher, nor can I offer referrals. But I can help you put your best foot forward. Sometimes I can also suggest comp titles that can be helpful guideposts.
A LA CARTE OPTIONS
Query Only: $175
Synopsis Only: $250
Query + First 5 Pages: $250
First 50 Pages: $400
Gut Check Package + 30-Minute Phone/Video Consult: $500
Once you have my feedback in hand, this is your chance to go beyond basic follow-up questions to discuss other aspects of your submission strategy, current and future writing plans, or anything else on which you’d like a professional opinion. I’m happy to coach or consult however I can within my expertise: The time is yours to use as you choose.
Gut Check Package + First 50 Pages: $775
Gut Check Package + First 50 Pages + 30-Minute Phone/Video Consult: $850
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm availability for your desired service(s). A firm timeline/deadline will be agreed upon in writing (along with all other terms in a standard agreement that will protect your privacy).
Note: If your novel or memoir manuscript is not yet complete—and edited to the best of your own ability—you are not yet ready to submit, and thus not yet ready to take full advantage of my services. The best value for your money and time is to hire me only when you’ve taken your work as far as you can on your own. (Any editor-for-hire who says otherwise does not have your best interests at heart.) Likewise, please don’t pursue any editorial service if it’s a financial hardship. Determined, resourceful writers submit successfully without enlisting professional help every day. Expert consultations are an extra—and, with hope, a valuable learning experience—but no one should make you feel like it’s a must.
(While I am experienced evaluating work from all adult and YA fiction genres and narrative nonfiction [humor, memoir, etc.], I am not the best fit for picture books and am not accepting nonfiction reference book proposals at this time.)
Payment (via secure PayPal invoice) and materials are due upfront. Materials should be submitted as Microsoft Word documents; I’ll deliver edits and feedback using the Track Changes and Comments functions.
Ready to get started? Questions? Email email@example.com.
“Jessica provided me with the exact edits my novel’s query letter needed. Her detailed and comprehensive feedback made my pitch and story even stronger. The query Jessica edited generated requests from five literary agents―including one who made me an official offer of representation.” ―Christopher Stollar, award-winning author of The Black Lens
“I was completely amazed by (and grateful for) Jessica’s keen eye and superpower editing skills. Each change/addition she suggested truly elevated my query letter to a new level, leaving it cleaner, clearer, and more polished.” —Katrina Kittle, award-winning author of The Kindness of Strangers, 2013 Thurber House Writer-in-Residence, and University of Dayton English Faculty