- Get someone to proof your manuscript before you send it to an editor
- See section on “Additional information for manuscript guidelines.”
A query letter is a letter that goes to an editor WITHOUT your manuscript.
- A cover letter briefly describes your book and entices the editor to read on.
- A query letter, on the other hand, needs to grab the editor’s attention so that they will request that you send your manuscript to them.
- Write a letter as if you were writing a blurb for their upcoming catalog or for “flap copy” on the inside front cover of a hardcover book.
- Letters should be short and to the point. (One page only)
- If you have credentials, put them in. (If you have published before or if you are an expert in the field you are writing about.)
- Put in a disclaimer (This is an exclusive submission for 6-8 weeks.)
Submit the whole manuscript (Don’t worry about supplying illustrations. Publishers have their own illustrators that they want to use).
Submit an outline with three sample chapters. They like to see your writing style.
Children’s chapter books:
Submit an outline with a sample chapter . They like to see your writing style.
Submit query letters to a lot of magazines.
(It’s silly to write a whole article on a topic no one is interested in.)
- In the Writer’s Market there are over 4,000 places to sell your work.
- Go to a bookstore.
- Look at all the books that are similar to yours.
- Write down who published them.
- Go to the bookstore.
- Find the books that are similar to yours. Find at least ten.
- Note who published them.
- Write the publishing companies on your chart.
- Now, go home.
- Look up the publishing companies in the Writer’s Market book.
- Next to the company name, write in:
- How many titles per year they publish.
- Their first time author percentage.
- What their unagented percentage is.
- Their royalties.
- Their advances (find ones with an advance and royalties – not flat fee. Also avoid publishing houses that base royalties on wholesale price. Royalties should be based on retail price.)
- Any notes you may have.
- When you are at the bookstore looking at books that are similar to yours, look in the acknowledgements to see if the author thanked their editor. If they did, write the editor’s name down and use it in your cover letter. (Of course, always check and see if that editor is still working there.)
- Only look into recent books – editors change their strategy and their marketing goals each year.
- Some publishing companies may not be in your Writer’s Market book. That is good and bad. Maybe they just missed the deadline. (See “Advantages and disadvantages of big publishing companies versus small ones.”)
- Now pick ten companies out of the Writer’s Market book that you feel are appropriate for your list.
- Add them to your list.
- Follow same procedure as before.
WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR CHART OF YOUR TOP 20 (A compiled list of your top 10 from the Writer’s Market and 10 from the bookstore):
Look at the percentages to get your “best odds.” Example:
- Company A publishes 100 books a year.
50% are from first time authors
(50 books are from first time authors)
Company B publishes 200 books a year.
10% are from first time authors
(20 books are from first time authors)
BEST ODDS — COMPANY A
- Rate your top 20 publishing companies (1-20) in order of “best odds.”
- Send out your first manuscript to number one on the list.
- Every 6-8 weeks send out your manuscript, again. This time to number 2, etc.
From your top 20 list, request that they send you their catalogs and guidelines. (Before you send out your manuscript) This way you will be able to see what kinds of books they are putting out now.
- Write down publisher you sent to
- The date you sent it
- How much it cost to send
- To what specific editor you sent it to
- Your manuscript title
Sticky note when the 6-8 weeks is up so you know when to send it out again.
- The way to get started
- You get more personalized attention
- The editors actually answer the phone themselves
- They more easily acquire new writers
- The competition is less fierce
- They have smaller print runs
- They give smaller advances
- They give smaller royalties
- Their distribution – may not be that great
- Not as much personalized attention
- Editors rarely answer their phone
- Many publishing companies don’t take unsolicited manuscripts
- Many publishing companies only take manuscripts through agents
- Competition is fierce – as many as 10,000 manuscripts come in a year
- They have larger print runs
- They give larger advances
- They give larger royalties
- They have better distribution
- Once you meet an editor, you can write to them directly. (Of course, remind them in your cover letter that you had met them at a certain seminar, etc.). Your manuscript is now “requested material.” It is no longer “unsolicited.” Now you can write “REQUESTED MATERIAL” on your envelope. (Believe it or not, now your mail will be forwarded directly to the editor instead of heading off to a slush pile.)
- You meet other authors
- You may meet an agent
- Everyone has same concerns you do
- You can get outsiders to critique your manuscript
- Critiquing someone else’s manuscript is good practice
- You can network
- Many editors prefer to work with those writers affiliated with an association
- Most associations have newsletters (See the “additional information” section for a list of associations to join.)
- Newsletters will tell you about:
- Upcoming seminars and conferences
- Who you can speak to about a concern topic
- The best places to send your manuscripts
- The latest updates on editorial changes
- Changes in submission guidelines
- What editors are looking for
- People who have just been published
- Articles of interest
ONLY GET AN AGENT THAT IS A MEMBER OF THE AAR (Association of Author’s Representatives)
- Get the book, “Guide to Literary Agents.”
- A “GOOD” agent is just as hard to get as a “GOOD” publisher is for your book.
- Many good agents aren’t actively acquiring any new clients.
- Get a recommended agent – maybe someone in your critique group can recommend one.
- You may meet an agent at a seminar.
- You are going to get rejection letters! It is part of being an author.
- Don’t take them personally.
- Don’t rewrite your book every time you get one.
- Many rejection letters are form letters.
- If an editor actually writes something personal…write down their name and send them your next book.
- When an editor writes something personal…frame it.
- Many rejection letters don’t even have an editor’s name on it.
- A few books may even come back to you unread.