As a writer, one often feels there’s a special formula to unlocking acceptance from a submissions editor. I used to think so back when I was trying to place my first books. Now, as Managing Editor for WiDo Publishing, I can see how simple it is really, no magic involved. In this post, I’ll break it down to four basic steps.
1 . Have a polished manuscript ready for submitting
What I often see on writer and query blogs is this idea of the query letter’s vital importance, each word and paragraph a make or break deal. It’s true a well-written query can help get your manuscript read, but then the work must stand on its own. I’ve heard Allie, WiDo’s submission editor say more than once, “The query was written better than the manuscript.”
2. The right tone
What catches an editor’s eye in a query? Passion, personality, voice, and a reason to open your manuscript. A carefully crafted query matching every rule and guideline but with no life will not speak as well for what’s to come as will one exuding enthusiasm and strong voice.
Write like you’re communicating with your best friend, the one who loves your writing and can’t wait to read whatever you come out with next. This describes what the submissions editor will become if your manuscript is right for this publisher. Still, maintain professionalism and respect.
A few turn offs are mass market queries, too much familiarity, the “quirky” email to get attention, praising one’s own work “the best book you’ll see this year”, or other oddities such as emails hinting at an unstable personality.
3. Do your research and stay informed about the industry
Researching publishers, being part of informative groups like IWSG and writer groups on Facebook, blogging and communicating with others in the publishing industry can help a writer land a publishing contract. Or, if you choose instead to self-publish, you will be doing it from an informed position, having looked closely at the many options available for writers today.
Despite the abundance of information available online to writers, some are still oblivious to how the industry works. Following are a few examples taken, sadly, from real submissions:
- Promoting the book as a film, even naming actors to star in the roles. Suitable material for a blog post, not a query letter.
- A missive to the troubled world as spoken by a Supreme Being with subsequent rules of behavior. The Bible and other books revered by world religions already have this covered. And if God were to speak to us again, pretty sure it wouldn’t be by submitting His manuscript to a small press.
- And there’s the sweet ones from youngsters saying “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’m sending you my book.” It’s harder to dismiss these hopeful letters with the typical formula rejection. Allie will give these young writers a few words of encouragement when she replies to them.
4. Storming the castle
After many rejections, writers can feel like publishing companies are the enemy and their editors the army blocking entrance to the castle. In fact, editors want to open the castle gate and usher in the right person. Publishers don’t exist without writers and manuscripts but it needs to be a good fit.
Once the manuscript is polished and ready to submit, research places to send it, write the query but don’t agonize over it, and follow the publisher’s guidelines when submitting. Do these simple things and you have every chance of getting an editor’s attention.
WiDo Publishing, and you can find her at her BLOG and WEBSITE.