The other day I had an opportunity to chat with an author I didn’t know. Within a short amount of time, he sent me a link to his website and asked me to read his three self-published novels. I glanced at his site and asked the genre of his books along with a few pertinent questions. Rather than specifics, he offered a vague idea of the concept behind his stories.
I explained that time constraints would not allow me to read his work anytime in the near future and suggested he query reviewers.
“What’s a query?” he asked.
His question shed light on the reason his website offered so little information. He didn’t know how to pitch his books.
A Trail of Breadcrumbs
In the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” the children leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way home. As writers, that’s the mindset we need. We sprinkle specially crafted breadcrumbs for others to find in hopes that each morsel generates interest and ultimately stimulates an appetite for the “whole meal.”
Consider the author I met the other night:
- He caught my attention by introducing himself (breadcrumb #1).
- Mentioned his books (breadcrumb #2),
- Led me to his website (breadcrumb #3).
While we chatted, I visited his site. He’d piqued my curiosity. His website had a professional appearance and appeal, but it didn’t give me a clue as to the content of his books. I’d lost the trail. His nebulous answers turned the trail cold. Momentum diminished and the opportunity to hook me slipped through his fingers.
Know Your Market
It’s important to know your market and customize your pitch. I gather fresh market information from a variety of newsletters. Books like The Writer’s Market offer thousands of markets and pertinent information as to what individual publishers look for in submissions. Search out publications that seek what you offer.
For novel-length projects the majority of publishing houses will not consider unagented manuscripts. If you don’t have an agent and submit anyway, you’ll sentence your manuscript to the slush pile where it will die of neglect with thousands of unread submissions. Don’t waste your postage.
In some cases, you can get around this requirement by attending a writer’s conference. Many conferences offer opportunities to meet with agents face-to-face. If you pitch your idea successfully, they’ll ask to see more and provide direct contact information.
Another item to watch for in the guidelines is whether or not the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts. If the guidelines tell you to query first, put together a professional query letter selling your idea and asking permission to submit.
Have you found more than one possible market? If so, do they accept simultaneous submissions? If you want to send your manuscript to more than one publisher at the same time, this is called a simultaneous submission. Check the guidelines. Many publishers do consider them while others don’t. Know your market.