5 basic tips for approaching a publisher

Hi, friends!

I thought I’d reprise some basic tips for approaching a publisher (since I am one).

I’ve talked a bit about this in the past, most recently, these 5 tips for finding a publisher that’s right for you. But let’s get down to some essentials.

So let’s say you’re interested in publishing a manuscript you’re working on and you decide to approach a house. Here are some tips to help you do that correctly.

1. Make sure your manuscript is finished. This may seem obvious, but it’s not to some writers, especially those who are just starting out. I get it. You’re working on a novel and you’re really excited about it and you want to get it published. BUT…

There’s an old saying: “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” What that means is, don’t do things in the wrong order because it’ll cost you time and effort at the very least.

Most publishers do not want to see a partially-written manuscript. Publishers don’t grant contracts on the basis of a chapter or two (unless you’re a long-established author). They may read the first few chapters, but they will only do that if the manuscript is complete and the query letter and synopsis piqued their interest and if the manuscript fits their lists.

So don’t send an email to a publisher saying you’re working on a manuscript and you have X words done. They don’t care. They want the COMPLETED project, not 10,000 words of a draft.

2. Do not ask a publisher to assess the first few chapters of your unfinished manuscript to “see if you’re on the right track.”

Time is money, people. You want someone to assess your work? That’s what editors do, and they’re professional and offering a service. So pay them. Or get some fab beta readers who are willing to work with you.

This scenario — asking me as a potential publisher to assess part of an unfinished manuscript — has happened to me more than a few times in the past and just so you know, it’ll get you tossed out the airlock at almost every house you try this. I’m an exception, because I’ll explain to you that this is not how you go about approaching a potential publisher and I’ll probably provide you some links to resources that tell you how to effectively approach a publisher with a submission. Then I’ll toss you out the airlock, but gently.

Unless you’re a dick in your approach. In which case, no resources for you. Just a “we do not consider unfinished manuscripts. If you’re looking for guidance, we recommend you consult with beta readers or hire a developmental editor,” and then we put your name in the “hell, no” forever file.

It is not a publisher’s job to assess your work or help you write your manuscript so they can publish it. That’s a developmental editor’s job, and you should hire one if you’re having trouble writing a manuscript. Or hire a writing coach. Or chat with your beta readers. Don’t have any? Get some. It’ll save you getting flung out a publishing airlock and/or being put in a “hell, no” file.

3. Put a professional query packet together so it’s ready to go. This includes your FINISHED manuscript; a query letter (no more than 2-3 paragraphs that includes your background, bio, and any other things you’ve written); brief synopsis (no more than about 250-300 words). And have a longer synopsis ready to go in case a publishing house requests one.

The key here is to look professional. You want a publisher to take you seriously? Then put together some serious materials that help a publisher get a sense of who you are and what your writing approach might be. Don’t forget to have a website for your writer self ready to go to include in your contact materials.

Caitlin Berve has some great info on query packets at Ignited Ink. You should go see.

4. Make sure you read the submissions guidelines THOROUGHLY and prepare your query packet and manuscript accordingly. If you don’t do that, a publisher will wonder what other instructions you ignore. Every publisher is different, so make sure you know what each one is looking for.

And with that in mind, make sure you send the right query packet to the correct publisher. This has happened to me more than a few times, too — I’ve gotten query letters addressed to someone at a totally different house.

Details are important, friends.

5. It’s okay to ask if you’re not sure about something in a publisher’s submissions requirements. It’s okay to send a quick email to ask for clarification. Be polite and get to the point immediately in that email. Don’t go on about the project you’re working on or your super-sexy query packet. Just ask your question, say please and thank you, and go about your business. And if the publisher doesn’t respond to that one little email, well…maybe you’ll want to approach other houses instead.

All right. Just remember, publishing is a business. Think of approaching them as if you were getting ready for a job interview. You want all your materials ready to go, and you want to present yourself as a fellow professional. Don’t give them reasons to think otherwise.

Happy writing!

5 tips for finding a publisher that’s right for you

Hello, friends!

I thought this week I’d chat a bit about finding a publisher (if you decide to go that route rather than self-publish) and pass along some tips for doing so.

“Look! Yonder! A potential publishing house!”

I’ve been on both sides of this fence in that I spent a few years as an acquiring editor at a “mainstream” house. I’m also operating in that capacity at my own publishing venture, Dirt Road Books.

But I’m also a published author, and I, too, have had to deal with finding a publisher for my work.

Newsflash: I have indeed been rejected by publishing houses. In the F/F publishing world, I’ve been rejected by three.

I’ll talk a bit about rejection in the publishing world in a future blog. What you need to know now about it is that it happens to everyone and don’t take it as a personal rejection of you. That’s something you need to acquire in a writing life, is a very thick skin.

Before I get into this, my years as an acquiring editor and gate-keeping editor, essentially, allowed me to learn a whole lot about different publishing houses, something I made sure to do so that I could send an author to a house whose list was a better match for their manuscript. I continue that practice today, and I also try to offer some constructive critique to authors about their projects.

Newsflash two: this is not the norm. Most rejections from publishing houses are short and to the point: “sorry, we’re not pursuing this project kthxbai.”

I’m an exception, though I know there are other acquiring editors out there who try to take a few extra minutes to offer something to an author beyond that, but when your inbox is overflowing with submissions and submission queries and you’ve got other business to deal with, I understand where they’re coming from.

So you’ve got your novel written, beta-read, re-written, edited, cleaned up, and ready to go. YAY, you! You’re interested in working with a traditional publisher, so now it’s time to go forth and find one. Continue reading

Mistakes Were Made: On editing, proofing, and why errors get through

GREETINGS, fellow travelers.

I was talking with my colleague, fellow writer/editor/publisher R.G. Emanuelle this morning (and if you have not read her work, her latest is an awesome F/F gothic thriller/mystery).

R.G. and I are co-founders and co-owners of publishing venture Dirt Road Books. We and 4 other authors got together and launched it in 2017. R.G. and I come from traditional publishing back in the day; collectively, we have over 40 years of experience in publishing (omg dinosaurs roaming the earth).

Both of us worked with publishing houses before ebooks, way before the availability of platforms as we know them now, so we’ve been editing and proofing manuscripts in various formats for a while.

Today we were talking about typos and errors that sneak into the final product, and I thought I would offer some thoughts about how and why that happens, and I’ll do a comparison of old-school vs. new-school processes in publishing a manuscript.

Also, it might be valuable for readers who don’t have a background in publishing or editing to understand the amount of work that goes into a manuscript, whether its format is print or ebook, so you understand why books are priced the way they are. Sure, you can say that “ebooks should be priced even lower than they currently are because they’re just electronic files,” but the fact is, the manuscript behind that ebook went through an ass-load of work before it got ebooked. You wouldn’t do a ton of work on contract for a pittance, would you? Or for free? Well, there you go. Just something else to ponder.

Anyway, let’s break this down. Continue reading

10 things to help you get your manuscript ready for submission

Hi, peeps!

So here we are in a new year and I know for a fact that bunches of you are working on manuscripts and once you’re done with your draft, you’re going to hopefully get it submission-ready. That is, you’re going to prep it in hopes that a publisher will think it’s awesome and sexy.

First things first. Not all houses accept a full manuscript for a read. They might just want the first few chapters. Or maybe the first few chapters and the last few. That’s fine. The point is, if you have a full manuscript that’s ready to go, you can easily extract the chapters or first 50 pages or whatever it is the potential publisher may want to see. And you want those to be clean and ready for viewing. So here are 10 things you can do to help you get it that way.

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Tips for Newbies

HI, kids!

Ermahgerd. I’ve been crazy busy over at Women and Words, the other place where I blog and admin and carry on. We’ve started a Women and Words podcast, which is me and my co-admin, author Jove Belle, chatting about the week’s crazy/fun and other things related to writing, editing, publishing of interest to LGBT writers and readers. We hope.

You can find us AT THIS LINK RIGHT HERE (or, the Lesbian Talk Show).

I also just finished up a novella that’s in editing AND I’m getting ready to go through the edits of another project AND my colleague R.G. Emanuelle and I JUST RELEASED our second anthology of food-themed romance and erotica (F/F). It’s called Order Up: A Menu of Lesbian Romance & Erotica. Our first food-themed anthology, All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance and Erotica, was a Lambda finalist last year. Hope you check those out. Heh.

And now, onto the business of this blog. I got to thinking about this because I’ve been working with some new writers, and I thought some quick n’ dirty tips might prove useful to those of you who are on the cusp of publication or have JUST published something If so, GO, YOU! And if that’s the case, then you need to…

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How not to be a jerk when you promote

Hi, peeps!

Happy Friday n’ all a’ that. Oh, and don’t forget to turn your clocks forward this weekend, if you’re in a place that does that whole Daylight Savings Time thing. If you’re not, well, stay asleep.

ANYWAY. Let us discuss some promotional tips. Please start with this blog by fab spec fic author Delilah Dawson titled “Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.”

And then, after you get pissed at her, read the follow-up, “Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promotion that Actually Works.”

Okay. The point of Dawson’s first post was to get you thinking about how you go about promoting your work. Everybody knows you have to do some kind of promotion. But there are good ways to do it and not-so-good ways. Dawson lays out the not-so-good ways in the first post. And then she lays out the better ways in the second.

I like to think of self-promotion as “not being a jerk” and I already subscribed to Dawson’s approach before I actually read her blogs. So here’s a list of 10 things I recommend, culled from my own experience and Dawson’s advice, with regard to self-promotion as an author.

Shall we?

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Crisis of Faith (in writing)

Greetings, peeperas y peeperos!

I hope this past weekend was awesome for you.

Me, I’ve been having deep thoughts all over the place, like these over at Women and Words.

And the ones I’ll be revealing here. Don’t freak out when you start reading. Read the whole thing. There’s an HEA.

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Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up: a lesfic panel

HEY, peeps!

Whew. Just finished up the all-day soiree that is the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up, which happened in Seattle (LUV ME SOME SEATTLE) this past weekend at the amazing Seattle Public Library downtown. Wow. What a facility.

Seattle Public Library, downtown branch (from Wikipedia)

See all about the GRNM at THIS LINK.

I moderated a panel dealing with the future of lesbian romance in terms of subject matter, publishing, and promotion. Panelists included fellow authors Jove Belle, Jill Malone, R.G. Emanuelle, and Kate McLachlan.

One of the things that came out (see what I did there?) in the panel was that there appears to be “parallel universes” of LGBTQ fiction. That is, M/M appears to have the most established infrastructure in terms of things like networks and professional review sites as well as a greater presence at conferences and book events followed, distantly, by F/F and then trans and queer.

So let’s chat more about this, yeah?

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Why the hell are you writing a new edition?

Hi, all! Hope the weekend treats you well.

I decided — after some comments (some cranky; others not so much) I got regarding my decision to reboot my first mystery, Land of Entrapment — that it might be a good idea to explain what a new edition is and why some authors decide to do it. LoE for website

There are many reasons authors come to these decisions. We don’t wake up one day and decide, “Oh! I’m going to re-do one of my earlier works and re-issue it! Won’t that be fun?” Because not. It’s not fun. I mean, some of it is. But for the most part, it’s stressful and time-consuming and the longer the book stays off the market, the less opportunity there is for readers to read it. And authors never make this decision to piss people off. Trust me on this.

So let’s chat about some of the reasons authors decide to create a new edition of an earlier work.

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Some publishing tips

HI, peeps!

Behold! The Ides of March!

I threw my Facebook page open to the winds and asked people what topics they would like me to blog on. It seems the top answers are “publishing” and “how-to.”

I’ve already blogged on those topics (I’ll post the links here so you can go see), but I can do a relatively quick overview here.

So. Let us begin!

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