Free Writing and Publishing 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
Decide on publisher
4. Learn criteria
5. Follow criteria
6. Be patient

E-publishing article
Article and thoughts on e-publishing and e-books

Future Tips:

Simultaneous Submissions

What publishers REALLY want

Free Writing Tip

Manuscript Submission, Part 4:
Learn Submission Criteria

So far, we have covered deciding on your market, compiling marketing information, and deciding on your publisher. Now what?

If you followed the advice in step three, then you have a nice list of potential publishers. You have their contact information, you have an idea of the types of books they publish, and you have a sense of how large they are.

What you need to do now is to confirm the information you've found and there are two ways to go about it. The first is the least intrusive: simply find their website and use it to obtain confirmation of their address, submission policies, person to send your material to, and so forth. However, some companies either don't have a website or it's impossible to find. In such a case, you're left with option number two.

Now, brace yourself because what I am about to tell you flies in the face of what many of you might have read in various writers' magazines and books. So, before I continue, let me say a few words about writers' magazines.

First, I have no problem with them. Overall, they will give you some pretty good advice on writing--how to improve it and so forth--but they are not always correct when it comes to the submission process. When I first started editing, I was on the side of the "publishing fence" (or perhaps more accurately, the "publishing wall") that involved getting a book ready to be submitted to a publisher and, hopefully, inside their door. As such, I told my writers to follow the guidelines offered in the various writers' resources to the letter. Now, after having worked at a publishing house and seeing things from the other side of the fence/wall, I can tell you that not everything they say is necessarily correct.

In other words, good guidelines but not words to die by.

Having said all that, option number two is to go ahead and give them a call.


Yes, I know, you've been told you never ever call a publisher.

Generally, that's true. You do not call them to pick their brains. You do not call to speak to the acquisitions editor. And you most certainly do not call just to chat. What you can call about it to obtain their criteria for submission.

Keep in mind that the information you've so carefully researched in the LMP is a year old. The publishing industry is in constant change. Editors change houses, smaller publishers change addresses, publishers change their focus or branch out into new venues. So all you're doing is looking for confirmation at this point.

That means a simple call like this:

"Hello, you've reached XYZPDQ Publishing, may I help you?"
"Yes, I'm a writer and I am calling to confirm your mailing address. What I have is 123 Main Street, Anytown, Anystate, zip. Is that correct?"
"Yes, it is."
"And I understand that you publish adventure novels, is that still correct?"
"Yes, it is."
"If I send a self-addressed stamped envelope, would I be able to obtain your guidelines for manuscript submission?"
"Of course."
"Thank you very much. I will send that out immediately."

See how simple that is? Straightforward, you have just three questions, and you're done. The whole conversation takes place in under 30 seconds.

So why do so many writers' resources tell you to never call a publisher? Two reasons. One, they're generally right, because you really don't want to bother a publisher. That's the surest way to get your manuscript rejected. But if all you're doing is calling to confirm, then that's not a bother, that's being professional. (If you don't have the right address, your carefully crafted letter of inquiry may go astray and it might be weeks before you get the undeliverable letter returned to you.) The other reason is that too many amateur writers get too excited or nervous when talking to publishers and really do end up bother publishers. As a result, if you take their advice to call a publisher and you end up bothering them and your manuscript is rejected out of hand, then you will think they give bad advice--which means you won't buy their next book.

Always, always think of yourself and handle yourself as a professional, and that includes calling to confirm information. When you do call, again, present yourself as a professional by being polite, straightforward, and brief.

Now, one last thing to point out here: this phone call is still just information gathering. This does not mean you are preparing to submit your manuscript. Calling to confirm information is not about getting their address so you can immediately submit your materials. That, again, is unprofessional. Instead, you immediately send out a polite, short letter to ask for their submission guidelines and include a SASE so they can send it back to you. Put two stamps on the envelope for good measure.

Once you receive the information, follow it to the letter. And that's the next tip in this series.

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