But if you are willing—then follow these tips while writing your query letters. Just remember, if you are pursuing traditional publishing, you must first win the heart of your acquisitions editor (or possibly her intern and then her). Her job will then be to take your query letter and manuscript to a pitch meeting where the company owner, shareholders, the sales team, the marketing team, and other editors will review it and essentially tear it apart. Why? Because it is at least a $10,000 investment for the company and they don’t want to lose their money. Your acquisitions editor will need to be so convinced by your query letter and manuscript that you are worth that investment so she can stand up to an interrogation about your book and come out victorious. (And believe me, pitch meetings are like war.)
So here are some tips:
- Research the publishing houses you want to pitch to. Know what they are looking for and what they stand for. I worked for Cedar Fort Publishing and Media, which is essentially an LDS publisher with LDS standards, and I received WAY too many books that did not match our standards, which shows me that these authors did not do their homework. It is also important to find out how each publishing company wants you to submit your work.
- Fill out EVERYTHING. Cedar Fort uses a database called Submittable, which walks you through questions about you, your book, your marketing plan, your social media following, your qualifications, etc. If you don’t fill these out, editors will know that you don’t follow directions, don’t take the time to make your book a success, and that you are probably under qualified.
- Let your voice shine. Editors read A LOT of submissions and they all start to run together until they find a fresh voice. Make sure you are professional but still allow your own unique writing voice to shine through.
- Specify your qualifications. When you fill out your bio/credentials, avoid being cute and funny. It is great to have a fun and clever author bio in your book, but this bio needs to act like your professional résumé for writing your book. You are applying to be a business partner with a publishing company. You need to prove to them that you are qualified to write your book. Sometimes that means a degree or experience in a specialty you are writing about. Other times that means proof that you can write something worth publishing. List your education, experience with writing, and any published works you’ve published in the past and how well they sold.
- Have a marketing plan. If you publish a book, you will start your own part-time business. If you do not have a plan on how you are going to market your book or give it the time it takes, you will not see the success you want. Research marketing ideas and prove that you know how to do it by getting connected. Be a part of writing groups. Become a member of a writing association. Master social media. I would actually look up perspective authors’ social media followings all the time, and those followings where a large topic of discussion at our pitch meetings. The larger your connections reach, the more successful and less risky your book may be for a publisher.
- Focus your summary on your main character, the conflict, the consequences, and the core (what the book is all about). This summary needs to be 100 words or less. And fill it with your voice.
- Edit your work. You are working with editors who already have a lot on their plate. Impress them. The more refined your work is when they get it, the better your chances will be. I know I have had many good books cross my desk that needed a few more hours of editing by the author before I would even touch them. I just didn’t have the time to put into it even though I enjoyed the story. If you need help, find friends, or better yet a trained freelance editor like me, to help you refine your manuscript so you can knock it out of the park when you submit it.
Hopefully these tips help! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.