Free Writing Advice and Tips
From a Professional Book Editor


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Should I Submit My Book via Certified Mail?

Manuscript Submission
Decide on your market
Compile marketing info
3. Decide on publisher
4. Learn criteria
5. Find address
6. Follow criteria
7. Be patient

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Simultaneous Submissions

What publishers REALLY want

Coming Soon!

"Quick Tips"
100 editing, publishing, and marketing tidbits of information for writers

Compile Marketing Info

Manuscript submission is a process that seems to baffle many beginning writers. The following free tip is about compiling marketing information to include with your submission. (If you haven't already, see "Decide on your Market.")

Follow these simple steps to submit your manuscript:

1. Decide on your market
Compile any marketing information that you can
3. Decide on your publisher
4. Find out the publisher's submission criteria
5. Follow the publisher's submission criteria
6. Try to be patient after you have submitted
7. See number six

Manuscript Submission: Step Two

Compile Any Marketing Information that You Can

Previously, we looked at deciding on your market, which included determining who would read your book, how your book was different from those already in the market, etc. However, once you have decided on a market, it is always helpful to build up as much factual information as possible about your book's market before you even submit it to your chosen publisher.

Statistics, Statistics, Statistics--If Possible

Assuming you followed step one, you know some of the other books that are similar to your book. While it is fairly easy to find out what books are similar to yours it is not always easy to find out how well these books are selling. If you checked Books in Print, you should have been able to determine if the book is still in its first printing or if it's a later edition. It's not much but if you have no other statistics, at least it's something to give your future publisher.

One of the best sources is to call the publisher. However, this is a extremely delicate phone call. Whatever you do, do not just blurt out, "So how many copies of this book have you sold?" For that matter, don't even mention sales. Instead, say something like "I'm interested in purchasing this book, but would like to know if the book in the bookstores is the most recent release. Is this book still in its first printing and first edition? If not, what printing is this in and will there be a revised edition? If it is still in its first printing, is there another printing due out soon? Will there be any revisions in the next release?" Be sincere in this conversation. An even better approach is to go out and buy the book so you can really study it. That way, you can start your conversation with some sincere praise and say, "I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Will there be a second edition? Is the author still writing? Is it-" You get the idea.

If you sense hesitation or suspicion on the other end, hang up immediately and pull your phone cord from the wall. Well, okay, it's probably best to fess up and say you're blundering your way through marketing research for your own book and would they mind giving you a ball park sales figure.

Whether the phone call turns suspicious or not, you may want to mention that you're an author and that you're thinking about writing a similar book. Would they be interested in taking a look at it once you have completed the manuscript? Be bold, but be polite.

And that is so important to keep in mind in this whole conversation: be as polite as possible. You're poking around in a publisher's business, so be delicate. Most publishers are tolerant because they know that there is no way their book will be the end-all-be-all book of a given market and that there is always room for one more book. That's why you should ask them if they would like first crack at your book when it's done. They may or may not decline; depending on the focus of your particular book, there may not be enough of a market on a given topic to warrant a second book or they may not want to publish a book that would be competing with one of their authors. For example. If you're writing a book about dogs and dog training, you could approach a dog book publisher and they might be interested. On the other hand, if you're writing a book about a rare dog breed with a small following, and they already have a book on that particular breed, chances are they will not be interested in your book and would view it as competition.

Compiling the Information

The key here is to make it simple to read and concise. Publishers are busy and acquisitions editors are the most harried of the lot. But first, a little publishing secret.

A Publishing Secret

At some larger houses, some "acquisitions editors" aren't editors at all. They're college interns or recent college graduates. These large houses get thousands of submissions per year, some even receive 100 or more manuscripts per day. Therefore, they are forced to hire interns to weed out the better submissions and then pass them on to an actual acquisitions editor who will then decide if your manuscript fits their needs. This is one reason why it is critical to be as professional as possible. Many manuscripts are passed on to the next level simply because it looks professional and it looks like the author knows what they are doing.

In your cover letter, be sure to mention the marketing information sheet that you've enclosed. On a separate sheet of paper-not in the actual cover letter-list each book you've found that is similar to yours. Next to it, offer any statistics that you have found.

Here's an example:

Title Number of Printings Edition Approximate Copies Sold
The Princess and the Pea Seventeen 1st Over 250,000; NY Times best seller
Princess of the Forest Five 1st 30,000
The Princess Finds Her Prince Two 1st Unknown
The Little Princess Unknown 2nd Unknown

Of course, any more details that you can come up with would be great. If you don't know the answer, don't be afraid to say "Unknown." The publisher certainly won't take your marketing analysis as being engraved in stone anyway. They'll do their own checking and will probably have better resources than you do anyway. (They may, in fact, know someone who published The Little Princess and be able to find out why it's not doing very well and why they had to do a second edition of a book that shouldn't have had a second edition.)

You don't need to impress the publisher with your investigative skills. The main idea is to show the publisher you're professional and should be taken seriously and also to tweak their interest. Show them these types of books do well and that will intrigue them.

Show them how yours will, hopefully, do every bit as well and perhaps even better because of an edge that you have and you'll definitely get their attention.

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