The one question publishers hear the most during interviews and convention appearances is, “What are you looking for?”
Every publisher can tell you what they want out of your fiction in their submission guidelines on their website. The things they don’t tell you can be just as important, though, and can determine whether or not an editor within the organization will even open your story or book file to read the actual content. Here are some tips gained from thirteen years in publishing romance, and from a decade more as a writer of both short stories and novels.
10. Find the best publisher/publication for your work. Whether you write science fiction or romance, short stories or epic novels, a writer must know their audience. Sending an erotic romance story to a publisher who only releases inspirational stories is a waste of both the writer’s time and the publisher’s. Do your research before you ever begin to craft a cover letter to make sure you have the best vehicle for your work, and that you represent the mission of the publisher.
9. Follow the submission guidelines. Once you’ve picked the perfect publisher(s) for your work, spend time reading their guidelines. Publishers generally describe not only how they want your work formatted, but also how to write their cover letter and synopsis. Follow these guidelines to the letter, as many publishers use adherence to these rules as an indicator of your willingness to work with their house style and business model.
8. Write a professional cover letter. As tempting as it is to fall into hyperbole about your story, or to find new word combinations to explain how you stand out (If Harry Potter and Buffy had a baby, that would be my book!), stay away from unnecessary cuteness or cleverness. Be succinct, polite, and specific. Tell the publisher who you are, what you’re sending them, and why it’s right for them.
7. Write a short, interesting blurb for your story. I know a lot of writers who dread writing a “blurb”. This is not a detailed synopsis, but a one or two paragraph marketing tool which sells your book to the publisher, and later to the reader. Avoid unusual punctuation, such as em dashes or colons, and remember to cut the deadwood from your words. Keep blurbs energetic by avoiding passive verbs and long chunks of exposition.
6. Include brief marketing ideas. In the electronic age, the marketing plan is practically required for writers. Many publishers now ask for a marketing plan to be submitted with the work. Even a novice writer can form a simple marketing plan of social media, website or blog links, and examples of communities online or out in the larger world, where the story can be given exposure.
5. Make sure you have a web presence to back up your marketing. A do it yourself blog or website and a Twitter account is enough to make most publishers happy. Make sure your email relates to your legal name or pseudonym for ease of contact, as well. Publishers find difficulty in taking a writer seriously when their email nickname is “b1gb00bs204”.
4. Write a solid synopsis if the publisher asks for it. Unlike a blurb, a synopsis should be a page long description of your story that hits all the major plot points, including the ending. This is not the time for coyness or teasing. The synopsis needs detail, telling the publisher you truly understand the themes and plot points of your own story.
3. Make sure you attach everything. Once you have all of your parts, make sure you include them all in your submission, whether by email or snail mail. No publisher wants to have to go hunting for your story file because you forgot to attach it.
2. Proofread. Proofread your email, your blurb, your synopsis. Prove that you know the difference between your and you’re, between a period and a comma. A typo in a cover letter or synopsis can mean that the publisher never even opens your story to look at it.
1. Be professional. While fiction writing is a creative endeavor, publishers need authors to work effectively and professionally with their editors, artists and proofreaders. List pertinent publishing credits, but don’t self-aggrandize. If you’ve been referred by a member of their staff or another author, mention the connection, but don’t belabor it. Don’t tell them how it doesn’t matter that your story is about vampires when they asked for dragons, you’ll be their bestseller because you’re brilliant. Let your work speak for itself.
These tips can help you get through the initial slush pile readers and submission editor reviews. Naturally once you get to the point where someone is reading your fiction, the best way to get published is to present an amazing, well-written story.
Every publisher wants that, no matter what the genre.