We ask a lot of detailed questions on our Submission Questionnaire, located at Submittable.com.
We suggest you keep this page open as you work through the questionnaire, and if any of the questions stump you, look to this page for a detailed explanation of what we’re looking for.
Using a pen name for this piece?
Do you have an author website?
If you own and maintain your site, enter that web address here.
Note: Don’t put your social media pages here, there’s room for that below.
Do you maintain an author website. Or more than one? Share it with us. If we sign you as an Equinox Books author, you’ll join our creative community, and we want to make sure our other creatives know where and how to find you.
It’s perfectly fine if you don’t have an author website yet. But we’ve collected some articles on our Submission Resources page to help you.
Are you active on social media?
Think about where you’ll be interacting with your readership the most. But also consider that your fans are going to search for you on every major social media platform.
OK, the most important take away from this question is that you do actually need to be active on social media.
If you haven’t started, now’s the time. Don’t wait a second longer. You’re not going to sell a single book without sticking your toe in the swimming pool.
Check out our Submission Resources page for some starter articles.
Enter a short biography.
Think the inside of your book jacket. We’re going to limit you to roughly 100 words here (500 characters). This is probably not the place to mention you breed championship puppies.
Need help? Check out our Submission Resources page.
Now, we’d like a longer biography.
Think web page, or a press biography. You can include your most popular publications. Take up to 500 words (2500 characters). For help and examples, click here.
You get more room to tell us about you as an author. But you probably shouldn’t mention puppies here either, unless they’re relevant to your story.
Relevant stuff, though, you should absolutely include. If you’re an avid birdwatcher and your book involves the murder of a birdwatcher, then by all means tell us about your twitching experiences.
A note about birdwatching, or puppies. To my knowledge, Stephen King never mentions his dog on a jacket cover, or on his web page biography. But photos of Molly, aka the Thing of Evil, show up on his Twitter account all the time. See the difference?
See our Submission Resources page for more help on your biographies, long and short.
Do you have any prior published works or industry affiliations?
This should be a comprehensive list of previously published titles (whether they were popular or not). Include any publications where you were a contributor. We’re going to limit you to 500 words (2500 characters) on this form, but if there are more please indicate so.
We are looking for any published titles here, fiction and non-fiction. But what we don’t need to know about is that short story you wrote in fifth grade, even if it did get published in your school’s newspaper.
This data is fundamental to that magical, mystical beast that is a book’s meta data, so include all your published works. In your list, make sure you include the exact title, publisher and pub date. We want to make sure we can find it.
Any other links relevant to your platform?
Have you written a guest post on another author’s blog? Have you been interviewed for a podcast? We want to know!
Every little bit helps, when it comes to promoting you and your book. And it’s never too late for a new author to start this kind of outreach. Include anything you have at this point. Title of the piece and a link.
What’s the title of your book?
Working titles are allowed. Titles such as “Pride and Prejudice,” “All’s Quiet on the Western Front”, or “Good Omens”, well, aren’t.
Actually, you should consider your title a working title. Because, as the author, you so closely associate the title with the work. In your mind, they may be inseparable.
But, your title might not work. (Consider the title of my first novel, When the Kings Die. It didn’t have a single king in it. Not a one. It was a space-opera/mystery/romance. Nobody was interested).
The title is going to live on the cover, on the inside pages, on the headers or footers, on the spine. It’s often the first – and only – thing readers look at.
Clearly, the title has to grab the attention of the reader who is looking at that particular shelf in the book store.
How many times have you browsed a shelf in a bookstore? What’s the one thing that entices you to pull out a book? The title on the spine. And if the title on the spine doesn’t match the artwork on the cover, or the genre, or is misleading with respect to the other elements on the outside of the book, you put that volume back, right?
You don’t want that to happen, so remember, the book’s title is for readers, not the author. But the working title, well, that’s all your own.
We have some more articles on titles on our Submission Resources page.
Does your book have a subtitle?
The subtitle serves a different function than the title, but there are some similar considerations here. It has to grab the reader’s attention as much as the title does, so choose wisely.
Subtitles are vital for non-fiction.
Fiction, well, if you have one, or want one, make sure there’s a good reason. Like if it’s part of a series with the same main character you might want to subtitle it with A John Doe Mystery. Or if it plays in an interesting locale you might want to call attention to that with The Space Needle Murders.
In other words, if your subtitle doesn’t add valuable information or tease the reader, don’t bother.
Is your book part of a series?
Publishing, marketing, and selling a single title is different from selling a title in a series.
If your submission is part of an unpublished series, indicate so.
A standalone book is a single book telling one story. A series is several books following the same characters over several books. Each book, though, tells a complete story, a little like an episode of a TV series. Think Harry Potter or Twilight. A strong first book with series potential can generate a following that helps boost a writer’s career.
Take a quick look at our Submission Resources page to read more about the different types of series that are out there.
What is your title’s genre?
Select the primary genre of your book.
Your book might be a paranormal murder mystery involving aliens and a time-traveling George Washington, but we only get to pick one section of the book store to stick it in, so go for the one that most represents the story.
Here’s some secret sauce. The choices in the dropdown reflect what’s high on our radar at the moment.
So, for example, if your book is a Western but you don’t see Westerns on the drop down, select Other.
Just know that we’re going to look at Other titles last.
Who’s the good guy/gal/furry-animal?
Tell us about your protagonist, the character driving the story, the one your readers should care about. Keep it to a paragraph.
As readers, we want to live the story you tell vicariously, and we can only do so if we can relate to – and identify with – your hero(ine). We are not after flawless hero(ine)s, because it’s the warts that make a character interesting. So, give your heroes hopes and dreams, fears, faults and quirks, a favorite breakfast food or a first love gone wrong. Even if your main character is a superhero(ine) or royalty or a fairy, we want to see them struggle with the same issues us mortals do.
More about what we think about protagonists can be found on our Submission Resources page.
Who’s the sinister guy/gal/furry-animal?
Every protagonist needs a foil, someone or something to battle against. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be human (the shark in Jaws, the tornado in Twister, the classic car in Christine, or alcohol in The Girl on the Train). But he/she/it has to stand between the protagonist and his/her/its greatest desire.
Otherwise your story would just be dull.
The best antagonists are rich, three-dimensional characters that evoke empathy with your readers.
Okay, maybe not all antagonists fit that description. It’s hard to have any empathy with the shark in Jaws. But readers will relate to, root for, or just plain like (secretly, of course) the well-written antagonist.
More about what we think about antagonists can be found on our Submission Resources page.
What happens when the good guy/gal/furry-animal meets the sinister guy/gal/furry-animal?
We’re not expecting you to explain what the conflict in your story means, so no need for high-level conflict analysis telling us that Man fights Man/God/Nature/Himself. We’re a little more plot oriented here. We really want to know what happens when the good guy realizes that the sinister guy stands in his way when he tries to catch the killer, get the girl or save the world.
Great literary minds are butting heads as to how many types of conflict there are, but we don’t really care about these big ideas, as long as there is conflict.
Conflict is the fuel that drives the plot. It’s the problem your story deals with.
It’s true that Peter Benchley’s Jaws is about man vs. shark, which in literary terms is man vs. nature, but that’s just too conceptual. There’s a lot more going in that novel than a shark eating people. That shark only symbolizes what Chief Brody is fighting against. And that’s what we are after: the way the particulars of your novel (the plot) illustrate the conflict.
Check out a few examples on our Submission Resources page.
What’s your book’s logline?
The log line gives the concise WHO, WHAT, and WHY of your story.
Loglines used to be currency only in Hollywood, but publishing has caught on. We’re smart that way.
A logline is a very brief summary of your book. One sentence, two tops. It’s the shortest pitch you can come up with. Don’t be general, generic or conceptual. Instead, give us concrete details about the particulars of your story. Mention the main character (not by name, but by a one-or-two-word-description that captures his/her essence), maybe the antagonist as well, the hook, the conflict and maybe even the climax.
So here’s one version of a logline for Jaws:
When a fish-out-of-water, big-city cop moves to a small, coastal town dependent on tourism, he must team with an oceanographer and a crusty sailor to convince the doubting, money-grubbing townsfolk to close their beaches because a giant, man-eating shark is lurking just offshore, until the shark strikes, forcing the townsfolk to allow the cop and his buddies to take on the shark mano-a-mano.
For more examples, go to our Submission Resources page.
What’s your book’s tagline?
A tagline is designed to entice the reader’s interest without giving anything away.
While your logline tells us what we’ll be getting into when reading your book, your tagline gets us excited. It’s a catch phrase. Short and sweet. Often less than a sentence.
It doesn’t tell you anything about the story but conveys a feel for it. Think Don’t go into the Water for Peter Benchley’s Jaws, or Sometimes dead is better for Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, or Some fans you just don’t want to meet for his Misery.
What’s your book’s hook?
What’s that secret sauce that captures your reader’s interest and reels her in?
Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm, so tell us what gets you excited about your story. This will also tell us that you’ve thought about how that story of yours will affect readers.
The hook of your novel can be a unique premise, or a startling dramatic event that gets the ball rolling and changes everything for your character(s). It can be a fantastic setting or your narrative voice or the new twist you give an old favorite tale.
We want to know what you believe is that heart-stopping and irresistible feature that makes your story un-put-downable. So, you might mention the narrative voice – a depressed teenager with a loose and colloquial tongue full of empathy – if you were J.D. Salinger and wrote Catcher in the Rye, or the premise – a teenage girl watches from a personal heaven as the police search for her rapist and killer and her family struggles to move on – if you were Alice Sebold and wrote The Lovely Bones.
We’ve got some more stuff on hooks on our Submission Resources page
Enter a “meets” or mixture statement if you have one.
“Cleopatra meets the Easter Bunny” might not be the best meets statement ever, but it opens up some possibilities.
We’re looking for culturally recognizable stand-ins that could help the listener quickly get the gist of what the story is about.
“Meets” statements are another Hollywood tool we like. They describe one project as a mixture of others. Basically we are asking you to look at your story as if it was the result of a love affair between two (or more) others.
Some secret sauce here: It helps if the comparisons aren’t too obscure.
Your comparison can focus on the audience. So something like Twilight meets Hunger Games tells us you are after the YA demographic. You could also focus on the feel or theme. Hannibal meets the Great Gatsby tells me you are telling the story of a serial killer in the decadent 1920s.
Come up with two (or more) works–novels, movies, TV shows, magic tricks (no, not that one) – or other authors that together describe your story.
Here are some examples: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is Jane Austen meets Dracula or the movie Incredibles is Toy Story meets Superman. You could also describe your story in terms of a single other work and add your very own spin. So, Aliens, for example, has been described as Jaws in space and Widows as Ocean’s Eleven with gals. Or you could say that The Shining is A family’s first Airbnb experience gone horribly wrong. Nah, that last one is just plain wrong, but you get the idea.
Enter a short description of your book.
Think elevator pitch, sixty seconds to tell a stranger what your story is about (in approximately 100 words or less).
Just the thought of being stuck with a writer pitching her book sends shivers down many an agent’s spine. Not so with us. We really want to hear your pitch. The elevator pitch builds on the very short descriptions of your story in the logline, tagline and comparison statements. You get to be a little more elaborate. Just a little, though.
Check out a few hints on our Submission Resources page.
Copy and paste your novel synopsis.
Don’t worry about one page single-spaced versus two pages double-spaced. Just paste the best synopsis you have.
As with all these pitch tools, don’t go conceptual on us in your synopsis. We want to learn about your story, your characters, your plot, your setting.
But don’t hit us over the head with character names that all sound alike or with confusing plot points.
Tell us what happens, who does what where with whom and why. Mention unique and/or edgy features, but don’t analyze or editorialize. Don’t explain what your story means – we want to figure that one out ourselves.
And don’t analyze your skillful storytelling tricks. That would go in a book report for your English teacher. We’re not that.
Check out a few helpful links on our Submission Resources page.
Did you have your manuscript professionally edited?
A professional editor has the literary skills and experience in the marketplace to transform your manuscript from a lump of coal into a beautiful and shiny diamond.
Your mom/dad/husband/wife/kindergarten-teacher/BFF/dog-walker probably don’t qualify.
Some more secret sauce here.
We consider a professional edit not only to be crucial to the success of your book, but also a distinguishing factor in our selection process.
We’ll look at books that have been professionally edited ahead of titles that haven’t.
Yes, we want to know who the editor is (to make sure she isn’t your mom/dad/husband/wife/kindergarten-teacher/BFF/dog-walker). We won’t however, contact them, without discussing the matter with you first.
It’s not that we’re (only) looking for perfect manuscripts (although we are looking for those, too), but submitting a manuscript that’s not ready will help no one. No one.
So please check out a few helpful links on our Submission Resources page.
A note on the link to Jane Friedman’s article: don’t go through the process of investing in and working with a professional editor for the sole purpose of checking this box. Our editors and reviewers will be able to tell the difference.
Is an agent representing this title?
Agents are great! Agents are terrific! Agents have their pulse on the literary marketplace and do a lot of heavy-lifting when it comes to evaluating whether manuscripts are ready for submission or not. Agents get to go to the best parties at conferences. We love agents.
But you don’t have to have one.
If having a professional editor is a secret sauce ingredient, being represented by an agent is the icing.
But we know how hard it is to get through an agent’s slushpile.
So we’ll always accept un-agented manuscripts. But since an agent will have already weeded out unready or unsuitable manuscripts, we’ll look at agented manuscripts before un-agented ones.
Who are your target readers?
Describe the reader most likely to want your autograph at a book signing.
Let’s face it, not everyone will be interested in your book, let alone like it. That’s OK. We want to know the typical reader who will rush out to get a copy of your book the moments it’s off the presses.
Be specific and discerning. Defining your readers lets us know two things:
1. There are more than 10 people out there who might buy your book.
2. There is a specific target market we can shoot for so our efforts won’t be a drop in the wrong bucket.
You can define your readers in several different ways. You could give us a demographic. Soccer moms will go for Liane Moriarty’s Little Big Lies. Or you could dip into the readership of a well-known author. If you’ve written a cozy, you might want to mention that your book speaks to readers of Agatha Christie. If it’s a courtroom drama maybe it’s folks who watch For the People.
Don’t worry too much about the size and volume of your potential readership, just let us know that you have an idea who your book appeals to. That’s who you wrote it for in the first place, right?
Where can your readers be found?
Lurking in the romance section of the library might be one answer. But another might be a particular Facebook group or GoodReads page. Give this question some time and thought.
Marketing Plan Questions
Most authors we know would rather have a root canal procedure than think about marketing.
But, if you want to be a successful author these days, you can’t avoid the dreaded “M” word.
Where do you see your book on the bookstore shelf?
Go ahead, this is where you can dream. (But you can’t be next to Stephen King unless your last name is, well, King).
This speaks to genre and subgenre, to reader demographic and a little bit to theme and subject matter. This tells us that you know a little bit about the market out there. Show us you have read other authors who write like you or about the same things or for the same readers.
But this question also serves to tell us that you’ve done some homework. A shoe salesman can’t peddle the latest in stilettos to the ladies’ shoe department at Macy’s unless he’s actually walked the aisles, seen what else was on display, and observed what the ladies like and don’t like.
Compare your book to other, already published titles.
Feel free to compare to TV shows and movie titles, but offer at least one fiction title. At least one comparable title is required.
This is a little like the “meets” statement asking you to define your book as a mixture of others. But the difference here is that we want you to tell us what about that other book, TV show, or movie prompted that comparison. So elaborate a little. A sentence or two will do.
But be honest. Just because your story features a train doesn’t mean it’s like Murder on the Orient Express.
Name three authors (contemporary or not) in your genre whose readers would like your book.
Catching the drift here? We want to find out where you think you stand on the marketplace. It’s a good thing to write like someone else. Cause if that someone else has a following, we can tap into that when we create a following for you.
Be careful before comparing your work to that of an uber-mega-publishing-superstar, because that yardstick is pretty hard to measure up to.
Keywords are the phrases readers use when searching for titles in online stores.
Enter at least one set of keywords readers might use to find your book.
Keywords are the words a potential reader might use when looking for a new read online (on Amazon, mostly). Keywords should describe your book and should be keywords readers actually search for.
So, cozy mystery might be exactly what your book is, but that search term yields search results in the six figures.
Needlepoint murders, on the other hand, narrows those search results down considerably.
Check out our Submission Resources page for some concrete tips to find keywords that work.
If you were in a bookstore in a bookstore looking for a new read like your book, what would you ask the bookstore clerk for?
Ex. I’m looking for a good urban fantasy beach read.
If you’ve never done this, stop whatever you are doing right now, get in your car, drive to your nearest bookstore, and actually ask a clerk the question.
(We know this involves totally pulling yourself out of that introverted shell. Do it anyway.)
This is how many of your target readers shop for books.
Choose the bookstore categories that are most appropriate to your novel.
These categories are definitely geared more towards the online markets vs. physical stores.
Think about how you look for a book in an online market. You might start with the Science Fiction & Fantasy link on the left/top/right (depending on the store). That might yield, say 100,000 titles. But, then you get a list of sub-categories.
You might be a huge Fantasy fan (and personally think that Fantasy should be its own standalone category and not clumped together with Science Fictionall the time, but that’s another FAQ), so you click on the Fantasy link. Now you’re down to 50,000 titles.
And a list of sub-sub-categories. Get the picture?
As an author, what do you plan to do to market your book?
This is where the rubber meets the road. Everything else you’ve done up to this point, and everything the publisher will do from this point forward, pales in comparison to the efforts you put towards marketing your book.
But there’s no one single template, no one perfect, reusable checklist, no right way to market your book. There’s only the way that you take your book, in its genre, in its marketplace, using the tools you’re most comfortable with and which, combined, create the most authentic and genuine outreach between you and your readership.
So there’s no right answer, only your answer. We’d like to know your ideas.
See our Submission Resources page for more thoughts on this.
Finally, the manuscript!
Well, almost. We’re going to ask for some parts of it first.
Yes, we’re asking for stuff repeatedly.
Yes, we’re asking you to pull out stuff that we could find on our own in your full manuscript.
That’s because we are not a single person with a single task at hand. We are a team, and each member of that team will be looking at your submission with different goals through a different lens.
Every minute we have to spend pulling out representative chapters, counting pages and formatting for text only is a minute where the entire submissions queue gets bogged down. And those are minutes we choose not to spend.
So, copy and paste, or upload, the representative chapters/samples as we request.
In the submissions queue, those authors whose submissions are compliant get ahead of authors whose submissions aren’t.
See our Submission Resources page for a few very helpful tips.