There are many articles on the web about what not to do if you want to get published, but there are fewer telling you what to do. I hope this article will help you in your quest to find a publisher that is right for you and your manuscript.
- Research. Take the time to research the publisher. Review the website, read some excerpts and blurbs, even buy some books, talk to other authors. Does the publisher have the type of books you write? Do they have a good reputation? It may seem unnecessary, but being educated helps you make an informed decision as to where to take your baby.
- Read the submission guidelines thoroughly and follow them. There may be times when you are tempted to skim them, or you think, “I don’t really need to know these.” If you are serious about being published by that house, read them. And while you may not need to memorize them, learn what genres they publish, what they expect of you as an author (grammar/punctuation), what they don’t want to see, and how to format your submission. Even if your manuscript isn’t accepted, they will be impressed with the fact that you followed their guidelines because, trust me, when I receive a submission that doesn’t follow them, my first tendency is to reject it. Why should I bother reading this if the author doesn’t have enough professionalism to read the guidelines? Oh, and if a publisher asks you not to include them if you are simultaneously submitting, don’t—especially with independent presses. You may be thinking about saving time, but should the publisher ever find out, and they will, you’ve just closed an avenue to sell your manuscript.
- If there is a person to direct your submission to, be sure to spell the name correctly and know the gender of the person. Just the other day, someone sent me a submission and addressed it “Mr. Baun.” Marci is not a man’s name. Now, I can understand to some degree if the person is not a native English speaker and from another country, but if you are from the States, you should know. And if there is a biography on the site, being from another country is no excuse. So, take that extra bit of time to do it right.
- Grammar/punctuation/spelling. Know all of them. Where do commas go? Should that verb be “was” or “were” or more active? What about quotation marks? Etc. I know this seems basic, but I can’t tell you the number of submissions we receive where basic grammar, punctuation, and spelling rules are ignored or not known. If you have challenges with any of these, buy a grammar/punctuation book and a dictionary and learn.
- Credentials. Credentials are less important than how you write and whether your story is original and pulls me in. You can be a Nebula winner, even a bestselling author, but if the story sucks, I am not going to accept it. However, you can be an unpublished author and wow me. If you want to include your credentials, by all means do, but that’s not what I will base my decision upon.
- Be respectful. Respect the editor regardless of whether you’ve been rejected or not or whether you agree with them or not. Even if the editor is a jerk, be professional. If you respond with a nasty email, you’ve nailed your own coffin should you ever decide you want to submit to them again. And if you post your disgust online, you never know who might see it. It could be that publisher you had hoped to submit to. You can bet they will be unlikely to sign you after that. Often, you’ll be the one who looks bad, not the publisher, because Mom was right: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
- Read the contract before you sign it. What? You say people don’t read their contracts? Yes. How do I know? Because, later, he/she will ask a question regarding his/her rights that can be found in the contract. If an author doesn’t understand a portion of the contract or has questions, it is better to do it before he/she signs the contract. I am always willing to answer any questions an author may have. This is for the author’s protection. While Wild Child Publishing’s contract is pretty standard and protects both us and the author, some contracts can take rights no author should give away without his/her knowledge or at all.
- Be easy to work with. This is important because once an author is contracted, that’s when the real work begins. So if I point out what isn’t working and why (Eg. plot holes, hero/heroine acting out of character with no lead up/explanation for their behavior, inconsistencies, and so on), and the author is open to the suggestions and revising, we’ll move quickly through the manuscript. If an author fights me on every little thing even down to punctuation (yes, that has happened), the experience is not that great for either of us. If he/she disagrees, I am more inclined to respond positively to a respectful letter than a “this is my book, and you have no idea what you are talking about” response. (If you didn’t think I could edit your book, why submit to and contract with Wild Child in the first place?) My one aim for any manuscript is to make it the best possible incarnation it can be. That vision comes from the clues the author has given me within the manuscript, not my own personal preferences. I’m also taking into consideration what an audience is going to expect from those clues as well. For instance, if it’s a thriller and the ending fizzles, you can bet I’ll point it out. There is nothing worse than reading a thriller that races toward the end only to have the final scene fall flat. That being said, if you really have issues with the changes I suggest, we’ll discuss and, if all else fails, I’ll cancel the contract with no hard feelings if it’s necessary…just don’t wait too long to do it. (Not all publishers will do this, by the way.) Also, the easier an author is to work with, the more I will want to work with them again.
- Have a marketing plan. Yes, publishing houses will work with you and help you market, but the lion share of the marketing will be dependent upon you. This includes NYC. Before you even submit, you should have a website, a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. In short, you need to have a presence on the web. This will show that you are serious about your career as an author, and it gives you a jumpstart on your marketing. Waiting until your book is released puts you way behind the curve. And if you post anything of your story online, be sure it’s only an excerpt. Publishers can’t sell books that have already been given away.