This subject may have been beaten so far into the ground most folks wouldn’t think it could drag its moldering corpse out of the fetid grave. And yet it manages to raise its rotted, festering head time and time again. So now, having seen this beast from both sides, I’m going to take my crowbar and bash the subject to a pulp yet again.
Don’t get me wrong. Every writer has a learning curve, and every newbie has to learn their lesson just like the rest of us. I say this sitting from the seat 21 years after I got my first paid gig as a reporter. In that time I’ve been a columnist, reporter, short story writer, novelist and finally, publisher. Just like everything else folks, there’s rules and regs for a reason. It makes all our lives easier. Here’s a short list to help you, help us, and make it easier for you to find success in your career.
Now, I’m going to assume this isn’t your first book. I’m going to assume this is maybe the fourth book you’ve written, and the first three taught you what you needed to know and you’ve established your voice. I’m also going to assume you’ve spent the $200-$600 for a professional editor. (Consider this one of the best investments you can make in your life). I’m also going to assume you’ve grown the mandatory rhino hide to take the rejections yet to come. You’ve got your search engine warmed up, or your Writer’s Market in front of you. Here we go.
Rule #1: Research the market! I cannot stress this enough. Research the market, find the publishers who work with the kind of book you’ve written, and target them for submission. You’ll find all you need about them online on their webpage, in the Writer’s Market, on Facebook. There are too many ways to count to learn about a publisher. DO NOT SUBMIT WORK TO A PUBLISHER IF YOUR GENRE IS NOT LISTED IN WHAT THEY HANDLE! We recently had someone submit an Inspirational Christian story to us for publication. Nothing against that market. Nothing against those stories. I’m of the faith myself. But Dark Continents is a Horror/Fantasy/SciFi publisher. Why would you send to us?
Rule #2: Read the publisher’s guidelines. These will give you specific ideas on what the publisher wants and requires. It will give you more information about the publisher. It will tell you if they are even currently open for submissions. In the example of DCP, we have a six-week submission period open in June and July. Some houses have year-round submission periods. Some houses want synopsis and first three chapters. Some want just a letter and synopsis. Find out exactly what each house wants through their guidelines.
Rule #3: Have a 100-500 word synopsis of your work. I don’t care if it’s 150 000 words, you better be able to boil it down to three paragraphs. Every writer hates doing it. I hate doing it. How do you take your baby, the child you’ve worked on and grown for three years of your life and raised to a beautiful Urban Fantasy novel of 130 000 epic words and sum it up in half a printed page? If you figure it out, bubba, let me know. I have a hell of a time. I have also had different houses require different length synopsis. One place asked me for 100 words for a 100 000-word fantasy novel. Others want more. I work with friends to create several synopsis for the same book of different lengths.
Rule #4: Make sure your work is formatted to industry standard. This means 10-12 font in Times New Roman or Courier New. I say this coming from a newspaper background. Nothing fancy. Nothing that’s hard to read. Pretend you’re writing something for the Chicago Tribune. It has to be clear, concise, and easy to read.
Rule #5: MAKE SURE THE WORK IS COMPLETED! Unless you’re Stephen King, don’t bother to try to sell a book on speculation. The work needs to be completed, and a word count included in the query letter.
Rule #6: Make sure your contact information is complete and up to date. I lost a wonderful Young Adult Fantasy novel this year because the author didn’t have her contact info current. Include a short biography. And by that I mean 100-400 words. We don’t need 20 pages of your life. Hit the highlights. If you’ve only been published in the local newspaper under letters to the editor, don’t worry about it. If you were nominated for a Hugo award last year, make damned sure to mention it.
So there you have it. Six easy tips to make your submission process easier and hopefully will help you find a publishing house for your work. One last thing, if this is a multiple submission, let the folks know. Hopefully though, you’ll have the patience to bypass the shotgun method and start making surgical strikes with your creation. Good luck, and see you in print.