I made you a chart to use for your convenience. (Follow the instructions below to benefit from it.)
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 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.
HINT: 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.
Attending a seminar is a great way to get to meet an editor or editors!
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.)