Or, how to get your manuscript accepted by a book publisher.
I blog about this quite often, it seems; why? Because of the sheer number of submissions I receive, approximately three a week, on average. Now, considering that window is open twice a year for 2-3 months each time, that works out to nearly one ms sent to me each day. Maybe half of those authors actually follow the guidelines on our website.
First, yes, it really does help if you know someone—networking, ya know? That doesn’t mean your odds of a contract are better, but you’re more likely to have your ms read, at least.
Second, how you introduce yourself matters. If you send a blank email with your ms attached, it probably will go straight to the rejection file. On the flip side, if you send a long-winded into of yourself, your book, your mom, your cat, and so forth, the publisher will be bored by the third paragraph and will probably send the whole thing off to “reject.”
Third, the manuscript itself is, of course, the most important part. Numbers one and two will get you to that point quicker. Speaking for myself, I look for several things:
Good writing—this means spelling, punctuation, flow, etc.
Do I get excited or get chills or want to keep reading?
And finally, can I sell it? Is this something readers will want to buy?
Once I have positive answers to these things, I’ll look at the author and see what kind of platform he has, how easy he is to get along with—if you’ve sent me three emails re the same ms, and a few follow-ups, forget it. You seem desperate, but even more, we don’t even know each other and if this is an indication of future communication, I’m not interested. Typically, I don’t even look at that ms.
And don’t use a thesaurus to beef up that cover letter/query—I can tell. If you use three-letter words and then throw in something like “antidisestablishmentarianism” when another three-letter will suffice, I’ll know. I probably won’t look at that ms either.
Platform IS important. Do you have a website? Blog? Facebook page and other social media? If not, you better get something fast if being published and selling books is important to you. RHP is a business, like most or all publishers, and no one wants to spend a thousand dollars on a book if the author himself isn’t interested in selling a lot of books.
All of these things, combined, will increase or decrease your chance of a publishing contract. But sometimes your ms isn’t accepted for other reasons. It could be that we’ve received a glut of the same type of story, or the same genre. It could be because we think another publisher could do a better job—and in many cases, we pass your ms along to someone who might be interested.
Note: if you hear from a publisher you don’t know, such as Smoking Gun, Deadly Writes, Blank Slate, or others, it’s not a scam—just professional courtesy.
Why haven’t you heard back? Many publishers do send rejection letters. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it—no one wants to tell someone “no.” I don’t. I hate that. But I don’t have time, either, to send detailed reasons for that “no.” Usually, you won’t hear anything if your ms is rejected. I’ve mentioned this before, but if you haven’t heard anything in a few months, follow up. Once, please.
And one last thing: follow the publisher’s directions. I can’t stress this enough:
Do not submit when submissions are closed.
Do send the format, size, file type, etc. requested.
Do remember to attach whatever you’re asked to attach—I’ve had a number of those lately. “Here is my ms.” Um, where, exactly? Hey, it happens! Check spelling, too, even in the subject line of an email. Received one the other day and the subject was “fubmission.” Seriously. Once, I misspelled an agent’s name in the subject line. Oy. Someone I know misspelled his book title. Oops.
Usually, though, it gives a publisher a nice chuckle . . . But if funny is your thing, make sure it’s actually funny . . .
So, read, learn, practice, and increase your chances of acceptance. Remember, just because you want to write and you “have a story inside,” doesn’t mean it should always come out and be viewable to anyone else. Just because your mom said you should write a book, doesn’t mean anyone else wants to read it. Harsh, but true.
In light of all the posts on this topic, and the many questions I receive, I’m now offering a new service: Query That! Just click on the letter icon, top right on the sidebar, and copy/paste your query into the email. Be sure to put QUERY in the subject line.
Cost is $10, via PayPal.
I’ll critique and proof your query and provide one follow-up email, in case you have additional questions. Turnaround time is three days.
You need to create a standard reply:
“Dear BLAH, Thank you for letting us read your manuscript. Unfortunately we don’t feel that we would be suitable to publish such a piece. You have some interesting ideas, and please don’t let this rejection deter you from trying again in the future, it’s just that this isn’t for us at this time. Good luck for the future, RHP.”
I did, for a time. But that’s not quite right either… sigh.
Robin, this is the ultimate rejection letter, feel free to use it if you wish..haha!
Dear (Mr.) (Mrs) (Mz) (Mx)
Thank you for submitting your new romance/horror novel, The Crazy Cat Lady, subtitled ” How my Cat caught a Mouse”.
After closely consulting with several beta readers and our editing staff, we have decided not to publish this heart-warming, wonderful 2,749 page manuscript about your cat at this time.
“The Crazy Cat Lady’ has some unique and creative elements.
Using size 22 FatCat Curly Bold center-justified throughout the book was really creative, and the 1025x 1600 large-format photograph of your cat with that ball of pink wool with your thumb in the picture at the bottom of every page was a brilliant trend-setter. The catch-a-mouse storyline is exhilarating throughout.
With heavy hearts and not easily discouraged, we felt the manuscript and accompanying cover art (the cat/ dead mouse theme) does not quite meet the guidelines of W&WPE (Woof & Woof Publishing ) at this time.
We recommend you persist with your writing career and may we suggest submitting your manuscript to Acme Audio Books for their consideration.
We at Woof & Woof Publishing wish you the very best with your book.
Woof & Woof etc. etc.