Tip #3: Do Your Homework
Want your book to get the attention it deserves from the acquisitions or submissions committee? “Yes, of course,” you say? Once you send your manuscript or book to a publisher, agent, or distributor there is a lot you can’t control. What you can control is putting your best foot forward to give yourself a good shot at being accepted by researching and thinking out how you submit your work. Here are a few ways to do that:
Do follow the application instructions to the last letter. It may sound elementary, but if you don’t respect the different application processes of the publishers, agents, and distributors you submit to, your book has a better chance of ending up at the bottom of the stack, or thrown in the rejection pile.
Don’t send a mass cover letter, impersonal queries, or book proposals to every publisher in the phone book. Most publishers and distributors have a system in place to help them evaluate or process submissions and require specific information; if you don’t provide the information in the format they need, you may not be considered. Correct spellings of names are important as well—no “To Whom It May Concern” allowed.
Do research the company before you send in your book. Read about the companies to which you submit so you have an understanding of how they work and what they are looking for. Different companies have different terms, specialties, and services. Your marketing book has no business sitting in the submission pile of an agent that specializes in historical fiction. Before you waste your time and money submitting, take a look to see if the company you’re submitting to provides what you’re looking for.
Do pay close attention to the application process of each individual company you submit to. Call or look online to find out what the publisher, distributor, or agent requires for consideration of a book. Some may need a submission form filled out, a book proposal, a synopsis, a marketing plan, the book or manuscript itself, a budget proposal or any combination thereof.
Do consider professionalism and organization when you submit. Make sure your handwriting is legible and make sure your documents are neatly organized with a professional greeting and signature. I know this sounds like lame advice from your college career counselor, but as someone who squints over chicken-scratch submission forms, making guesses about titles and ISBNs… it matters.
Also, if you’re submitting to a literary agent and use Twitter, check out #Queryfail Day, a recent Twitter event that showcased egregious submission errors collected by agents. And if you’re looking for agents to submit to, Jeff Herman’s annually updated Guide To Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents is a great place to start.