Writer Wednesday—Book Submissions

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.

Unique viewpoint/story.

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.






Writer Wednesday—The Cost of Doing Business

There’s a lot of debate and discussion about how best to promote one’s books, and it mostly centers around cash. If you have a product, aka a book, that you’re trying to sell, you’re in business.

As the old adage says, “You have to spend money to make money.”

There are two basic ways to promote and market your book:

Pay someone to do it.

Do it yourself.

I know quite a few authors who opt for the first, and I don’t quite understand why. You could pay someone to market your book if you had a lot of spare cash sitting around, or if you have better things to do with your time.

For myself, I definitely qualify in the second way, but certainly not in the first.

Plus, I like to be hands-on. No one is going to do for my book what *I* am going to do. They just won’t care “enough.”

The biggest problem with paying someone is knowing what or if they actually accomplish. Now, if you pay someone to promote and market and your sales suddenly zoom up, that’s wonderful! But what if they don’t? Either the company/person you paid didn’t do anything, or enough, or your book stinks.

But maybe your book doesn’t stink. Maybe they just took your money.

No, I don’t know which companies are good and which are bad. Consult Preditors and Editors. I know authors who claim to have had good experiences with bad companies, too. But I have to wonder if their idea of “good” is the same as mine . . .

What bothers me is the amount of money these companies, good and bad, often charge to do the same things YOU could do, for free.

The first thing you need to understand is the difference between “promotion” and “marketing.” Promotion is where you put out reminders about your book, so no one forgets about it. Marketing means you are actively pursuing sales channels.

No one should pay for promotion, not with the availability of social media. But you have to be visible—and that means opening up those privacy settings. Your friends are going to get mighty tired of hearing about your book, plus you can’t take advantage of all that “six degrees of separation:” if no one can easily share your promo posts, no one will see them.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to 2,999 “friends.” Quality is often overlooked in favor of quantity. All those “like me and I’ll like you” invites may garner a couple sales, but it’s really just a trade-off of people trying to up their numbers. I’ll let anyone follow me on Twitter, for example, because all kinds of people read books—but that doesn’t mean I’ll follow them back. This isn’t grade school, after all.

Another thing that authors often do is join groups. Writing groups, author groups, etc. Again, be choosy. How many groups can you realistically keep up with? How much of your time is spent being “social?” Which ones have the most value for you?

The trap you may fall into is promoting and marketing ONLY or MOST OFTEN to other authors. This is like going to a conference and trading books or buying the book of everyone who buys yours. You might get home and say, “Wow, I sold 20 books!” Yes, but you also BOUGHT 20 books, most of which you probably won’t read and therefore won’t tell anyone about either. Exactly what the others are saying/doing.

Sure, writers and authors read books. But it’s a big world out there. Don’t make the mistake of thinking TOO local . . . social media or in real life.

Read my marketing book when you have a chance. It’s there, in plain English: find your target reader.