How to Be an Author Publishers Want to Work With
August 22, 2011 Leave a comment
Despite examples to the contrary, publishing isn’t a secret society that we’re trying to keep everyone out of. We want authors to find us, we want to share our expertise and help writers move forward—especially if we think their material is valid and well written, and if they prove they can follow instructions, communicate clearly, and work hard. Obviously, we don’t know everything, but with some very unprofessional and alarmingly off-target submissions coming in lately, we thought we’d offer some advice to writers out there who are looking to become published authors.
1. Follow the publisher’s submissions requirements to the letter. If there’s one rule you acknowledge, please make it this one. Many publishing companies won’t even look at your submission if you can’t follow instructions (for an example, see ours). Even if you think your book is a special case, don’t skip anything.
2. Do your homework. Know the competition and identify the audience for your book, then find publishers that specialize in those areas. This will probably require you to do some research, but if you’ve already put in the effort of writing a book, this shouldn’t be considered a monumental task. Even if you haven’t yet written the book but are proposing it, this research will only serve to clarify your purpose and organization of ideas. Here are some considerations:
- In what subject areas does the publisher publish and does your manuscript fit? If they don’t publish fiction, don’t send your romance novel. Don’t send your manuscript to every publisher out there—it’s not a fit for every house’s line, and we can tell when a submission is a mass mailing rather than a tailored, targeted piece. Save your money and time.
- What are the competing titles for your proposal, and how is your book like or unlike them? And don’t say there’s no other book like yours, because you’ll just look lazy or arrogant. If you don’t want to look up comparables, we won’t do it for you. And then we’ll pass on your manuscript.
- Who is the audience for your proposed book? In other words, who is the publisher going to be able to sell this book to? Don’t say, “My book is for everyone!” If you really think about it, you know that’s not true. And despite the romantic notions about publishing, it’s still a business: we need to know where you see this being placed in a bookstore and what groups we could target with sales, marketing, and publicity.
3. Learn how publishing works. Publishing is a difficult industry to learn about, whether you’re an author or someone considering an editorial, production, marketing, or sales career. There are a few books that are helpful, but if you love everything digital, there are a lot of great blogs geared toward educating authors (some favorites include the archives of Editorial Ass, Editorial Anonymous, PubRants, Janet Reid, Pimp My Novel, and The Intern; check out the blogrolls at each of these to find even more publishing blogs. And check out Query Shark if you don’t know what query letter is). Once you know a bit how the industry works, you’ll understand why tip #1 is so important.
To be continued, with tips 4-6, tomorrrow…