I was asked by a writer recently how they would go about submitting to a traditional publisher, so I created this (very) basic primer.
- Finish/edit the novel. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this step. Skip it at your peril – an unedited novel is instant death. (Even if they’ll still edit it themselves. ) Some editors will be forgiving and request a revise/resubmit. Only some will be forgiving, there’s no guarantee which one you’ll get. (Most editors are great people.)
- Determine genre and category – https://www.bisg.org/bisac-subject-headings-list-fiction – this is important when choosing a publisher. Many have preferences for certain genres and/or categories. Make sure the one you choose is one they publish and that they’re still accepting submissions in that genre. ex. historical fiction or middle-grade fantasy
- Find the appropriate agent/publisher. There are a number of sites available to help you – http://querytracker.net/ or http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ Take a look at their website to see if books similar to yours are listed. Find the agents/editors that will best suit your work. Some writers recommend choosing the newest agent/editor listed, because they’re still trying to build their listings.
- Write a good query letter – Picture yourself and a hundred other authors. Each of you has thirty seconds to speak to your chosen publishers before moving to the next. How can you make that agent/editor fall in love with your story and request more? The first impression you leave will be a professional query letter that clearly follows their requirements. A typical query letter usually consists of: 1st and 2nd paragraph – Introduction to the book. Don’t be shy or cryptic in your synopsis. Share the vibrancy of your characters and plotline, and don’t leave out the ending. Then, close your eyes and envision who is reading your book. Share that image with us. We don’t expect you to be a marketing expert, but you should be able to tell us who your readers are and why they want to read your book. Last paragraph – about the book and writer. (Title is 100,000 words, the first of a completed three part trilogy. It’s my first novel.) For examples of good and bad query letters see http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
- Wait. Many agents/editors have dozens if not hundreds of queries they’ll consider. It can take three to six months before they respond. Usually they’ll give their possible response time. At the end of that time, if you haven’t heard from them, you can send a letter asking if it was received. Be polite, not demanding. Most will have sent a standard rejection. DO NOT demand more information. That standard rejection letter is to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings.
- They request a revise and resubmit. Follow the instructions. Get it back to them as soon as possible. Do not make major changes, you sold them on the novel. Not only do they want their revisions, they may also want to see if you follow instructions.