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

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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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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Some notes on self-publishing

Hi, peeps —

Today, I thought I’d give you an overview of my self-publishing journey. For those not in the know, I am a hybrid author, meaning I publish some of my stuff through traditional houses and I self-publish some of my other stuff. This model works well for me, because I have a full-time day job and I just don’t have the time to really devote to self-publishing all of my work.

Now, before I go any further, I am not at all saying that any one approach is better than another, though you will find people in all camps who wave that banner pretty high. That’s fine. The important thing for you if you’re an author is that there are pros and cons to all approaches. Do your homework and choose the model that best works for you. Some people may be best served through a traditional house. Others may be better off completely self-publishing. And others may choose a hybrid model. The point is, pick the one that best fits you (author, know thyself!) and the time and resources you have.

If you’d like an overview of self-publishing in general, see this post from Writer Beware, posted at the Science Fiction Writers of America.

And here’s hybrid author Chuck Wendig on some pros and cons to traditional publishing versus self-publishing.

So here’s an overview of steps that are involved in self-publishing. That is, the steps I go through. Please add your tips and links to the comments! Share your knowledge and experiences! Share the luv!

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Writer McCrankypants on formatting manuscripts

Greetings, my peeps. (I almost said minions, but that might be taking liberties)

I’m in a strange twilight zone of writing. I’m not really between projects, but I’m hung up on one and it’s preventing me from really jumping into anything else. Not to suggest I’m not working on anything else because I am doing some work on the fourth installment of my Far Seek Chronicles (that’s the sci fi). I’m also working on a few short stories, and those require a different kind of focus than the longer stuff.

Anyway, I’m preparing a book-length manuscript for a typesetter, which is detail work and makes me super cranky, but it’s necessary work. While doing that, I sent some of the scenes out to an expert in the field to check and make sure I’m not Writer McLooneytoons with my take on certain things. Fortunately, he works fast and he’s been awesome and I’m pleased that I wasn’t completely McLooney but I still have to do some re-writes to correct some of the things in those scenes.

Which also creates more cranky in Andi Land.

So what exactly does it mean, this preparing a manuscript for a typesetter? Or for uploading onto the ebook virtual reality deck? Well, intrepid reader, clickety click onward to find out!

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Mysteries explained: The editing process

Hiya, friends. Thought I’d re-post something from Women and Words here (tweaked a little for updating purposes).

This is a post I did on the different kinds of editors and how they figure in publishing. Someone recently found it and pinged it, saying it was “useful.” So I figured I’d pass it along to you.

So let’s go find out about the editing process, one of the mysteries of publishing.

Continue reading

Cool issue of Writer’s Digest

Hey, peeps!

Hope your week is treating you well. Mine’s outta hand, but no worries.

So I finally got around to reading the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest. Writers, if you buy one issue of this magazine this year, make it this one.

There’s a big ol’ piece called “The New Era of Publishing: Making It Work for You” by literary agent April Eberhardt. It’s a good primer for coming to grips with how publishing is changing, and what that means for you in terms of finding the right model for how you want to proceed as an author, regardless of where you are in your writing career.

There’s also an article by e-publishing guru Jane Friedman, called “The Basics of DIY E-Book Publishing,” which is another crash course in that subject, with Jane’s easy-to-understand info and tips. You can find her HERE, too, for more awesome-ness from her guru-ness. (No, SRSLY. Jane Friedman is considered an authority in e-publishing. She’s currently a professor in e-media at the U of Cincinnati and a former editor of Writer’s Digest.)

The next piece is called “Today’s Best Strategies for Savvy Self-Publishers,” by Joel Friedlander, author of a book on self-publishing and an award-winning book designer. Go see.

And one of my personal faves, WD’s best websites for writers. This is their 14th annual “101 Best,” broken down by category like “Creativity,” “Everything Agents,” “Online Writing Communities,” “Jobs & Markets,” and “Publishing Resources.” A couple that readers here might find intriguing include WOW! Women on Writing, an ezine that supports women through every step of the process. Go here. The current issue is about the art of storytelling. Novel Rocket offers tons of interviews and advice from published authors and literary agents. Grammar Girl (she is freaking supercalifragilisticexpealidocious) takes on grammatical quandaries that authors of all levels deal with. Check it out. And one more, to whet your whistle — Coalition of Independent Authors, a group of self-published writers who created the Coalition to gain exposure for their work.

That is just a taste of the 101 entirely useful sites in this list. The catch? You have to actually purchase the print copy of this mag, as these groovy tips are not available at the website. However, there are lots of cool things on the site for writers in terms of tips, writing prompts, exercises, and workshops to consider. So even if you opt not to subscribe or buy this issue, the Writer’s Digest site offers some good info for all kinds of writers.

Happy writing, happy reading!