Queries and pitches (part 1)

“I’m thinking about just self-publishing. Finding a publisher is too hard!”

I’ve heard that more than once. I’ve thought that more than once. But self-publishing isn’t always the best idea. Actually, it can be one of the worst ideas if you want to succeed as an author.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes self-publishing is the right thing to do (there’s a whole ‘nother post in there somewhere…). But, don’t let your reasoning be “because getting a publisher is too hard”. And definitely don’t let it be because you’re afraid to put yourself out there! Seriously, we’re talking about being afraid of putting yourself out there while you’re putting yourself out there!

If you’re afraid of people telling you your writing isn’t good or pointing out problems, you’re going to have to get over that eventually. A great strategy for that is reading what’s out there, learning craft, and getting some alpha/beta readers and maybe even hire an editor or two before unleashing your writing on the world. Understand what you’ve got and make it quality work before you send it out. Once you’ve done that, there’s no shame in sending it out.

There may be no shame. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any nos. there will probably be a lot of them. I’ve never met a genuine writer who doesn’t have a rejection letter or two (usually a lot more).

But if I get a no, that means my work is bad. Right?

Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s the work. In which case, please see (and follow) my previous advice. But sometimes it’s the approach you’re taking and the agents and publishers you’re approaching.

In a previous post, I’ve talked about knowing your audience and realizing you have more than one.{link} Agents and publishers are one of those audiences. And, you need to understand them at least as well as you understand your reading audience.

You won’t get very far if you send your fantasy novel to a textbook publisher. Even if they mistake the book for an actual textbook, they’re probably not set up to print the final product you want.

You’re also not going to get very far sending your accounting textbook to a romance publisher (unless there’s an audience that’s really, really into numbers (and I mean in a way that’s probably not church approved)). So, first step, do some research and make sure the publisher you’re sending to publishes for the market and audience you want.

While you’re doing that research… Look into who you’ll be working with. It’s not always easy to know who the players are at a publisher. But, the more you know about them, the more you can tailor your query to them.

It’s also important to read the publisher’s submission guidelines! There are a lot of books out there and many people writing books. The front-line manuscript readers are looking for reasons to reject your manuscript, not reasons to accept it. So, don’t give them any easy excuses:

  • It doesn’t matter if Comic Sans is the ‘cooler’ font. If they say times new roman, use times new roman.
  • If they say electronic submission only, don’t send a typed (physical) copy
  • If they say the accept manuscripts from September to May, don’t send it in June.
  • If they say “no (insert genre here)” don’t send it to them! There are reasons for publishers to stick to certain markets and reasons for you to find a publisher who knows the market you’re going for.

Give them what they want on the simple stuff. Never ignore the guidelines or irritate prospective publishers for ‘artistic’ reasons. Modern publishers want to know you’re a professional business person/writer. The artist stuff comes later (and if you’re really an artist, that will come through without you having to force it).

“Ok. Ok. I’ll research publishers and make sure my query fits their guidelines. But what else should I do to get published?”

Gotta say it… That depends. Once you know what they’re looking for in a query, there’s a lot you can do to improve your chances of getting accepted. But, talking about that will take more than one post.

Next time, (part two of the series that is…) I’ll talk a bit about pitching. That’s the one where you’re actually talking to a person. It’s both easier and scarier than it sounds. It follows a lot of the same rules as sending a written query. And, if you do it right, it can really help with getting published.

We all have things to learn, dear reader. Learn yours well. And, I’ll see you next post.

Published by Farangian

I'm a writer (fiction and non fiction) with a Masters in Psychology. I am also a sculptor, metal smith, lapidary, tutor/trainer, and eternal student. The name Farangian comes from the name of a fantasy world I created called Farangia. That name comes from Farang with is a term that the Thai use for westerners.

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