Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Communicating with a Publishing House

Want to make a first good impression when communicating with a publishing house? Here are several tips to help you be noticed and not risk ending up in the slush pile.

First thing to do is research a house before you submit. This will help save you time and the publishing house time by submitting what they are seeking. Sending in a picture book to a publisher who only releases romances showcases the author didn’t do any research to find suitable markets for his/her work.

When a house is closed to submissions, they are closed and may remain open only to their own authors so please don’t send manuscripts during these periods. The closures are meant to catch up with backlog. Your submission will be deleted.

Follow their submission guidelines.

Give as much care to your query as you’ve poured into your manuscript. Hook the publisher/submissions editor from the opening of your query. Avoid the ‘This is going to be your best seller. The next Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/etc. book that will make you millions.” type of claim. Although it shows the enthusiasm of the author it also comes across as cocky, giving the illusion that the author may not be open to edits if he believes the book is ready as is.

Never hand in a non-finished fictional book in the hopes a publisher will like the concept. They need to see the final product unlike proposals for unfinished non-fiction books.

Begin building your platform as early as possible in your career so when you do send submissions you can showcase your online presence: website, blog, social media like Facebook, Twitter…just some things to consider since publishers, for the most part, will go looking at your sites to get a better handle on you and your writing, the same way you should have researched them.

One important aspect is knowing who your target audience is. We’ve had queries when authors are asked who their audience is have come back with ‘everyone, every age.’ If you are writing a middle grade book then your target audience is not ‘everyone, every age.’ This only shows the submissions team that the author didn’t contemplate the audience. 

Jumping back to read the submission guidelines: if asked for the first three chapters, send that. If asked for the full manuscript, send that. Don’t waste time sending a query and asking a house if they are interested. Once again, this only shows the publishing house the author didn’t bother to read exactly what’s posted in their guidelines.

And to follow on that thought…never send in a first draft. Although a writer may believe it’s good to go, a helpful tip is to have several drafts done, looking at various objectives in the book to tighten. Once the book is thought to be finished, send it to beta readers for input. First impressions count. Not all houses offer suggestions where to improve the manuscript. They are swamped with submissions, house details, and other areas to find the time to sit and critique each manuscript.

Please inform the publisher in your query letter if the book submitted was already published with another house. They need to have a release letter. 

Be professional. Give your publishing credentials, other books and/or self-published books on the market, reviews links, awards won…brag and be proud.

Let the house know that you are open to edits if contracted.

Understand that most houses have their own art department. They will NOT accept cover art outside their house.

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