Vicki Hinze © 2000-2011
What suggestions do you have about deciding where to send a manuscript? I know of several publishers who have done books sort of like what I have written (comic fantasy). I know about Editors and Predators. Is there a way to make a first choice, or just send it out?
I can’t advise ever just sending a manuscript out. You’ve worked extremely hard to craft this work, you’ve sacrificed time with loved ones or doing other things you enjoy doing to produce it, and you’ve invested yourself in it. It deserves better than a “just send it out.”
I’m not just saying that because I’ve recently survived a life-threatening illness. I’ve always said to only write from the heart. That anything you consider worth your time, effort, and energy–valuable pieces of your life–to write, deserves only the best you have to give it when it comes to marketing. It’s a part of you, and you have earned the respect.
You’re on the right track with identifying publishers who publish similar works. That is a strong signal that the publisher is open to your type of books. But you need to go a little deeper than that. You need to investigate the differences between the similar books on the publisher’s list. Then, see if there’s a “hole,” if you will, in the existing list that your book fills. Similar, yet different. In line with, but not a clone of, what is already there.
Understand that this is important. Publishers compete with other publishers. They don’t want to also compete with themselves.
If they already have an author who is writing the same stories you’re writing, then the publisher is going to spend its energy, effort, and money building the reader base of the author already contracted.
But if that author is producing similar work that has been successful (read that: made money for the publisher) and your work is compatible with–“similar and yet different”–then you have found your niche on that publisher’s list and it will invest in you.
So, look not only for similar works, but for commercially successful similar works that differ from yours. That’s your targeted, first-choice publisher.
It goes without saying that you should investigate that publisher to make sure that it is ethical and fiscally responsible. To do that, check with other writers and writer’s organizations (many track complaints against unethical agents and publishers). To monitor the fiscal responsibility, if possible, buy a share of the targeted publisher’s stock. You’ll learn an amazing amount of information from the reports.
Of all this, the most important thing is to really study the market and find your niche. And again, don’t dishonor yourself or your work by just sending it out without careful consideration.
Frankly, it’s a proven waste of time and money, not to mention the editor’s time. And like everyone else, they’re swamped. So wasting their time with a submission that doesn’t work for them doesn’t endear you to them. It’s the old “You only have one chance to make a first impression” syndrome. With each successive “look” at your work that doesn’t fit, you lose enthusiasm about the editor being given the opportunity to look at your work.
Let’s make sure that’s clear, because it’s important.
You send a manuscript to Editor A. The story-line doesn’t work for her, but she loves your voice and writing style. She asks to see other works. You send a second manuscript to Editor A. She’s excited to get it, reads it within weeks, but it doesn’t work either. She has no choice but to reject it. Six months later, Editor A gets a third manuscript from you. From experience, she doubts it’ll work for her, but she hopes that from her comments you’ve grasped what she’s looking for in a novel. Her confidence that you have is shaky, so the manuscript goes on the stack of those to be read as soon as possible. Three months later, it’s rejected. This time, there is no comment about wanting to see further works. A year later, you’ve honed a fourth manuscript to perfection, reviewed all editorial comments on previous works and incorporated them. This one you’ve gotten down-pat. It’s perfect for this editor and this house. You send it in, and find:
1) The editor has left the publishing house and your work is on a general slush pile, where it remains for the next six months.
2) The editor is still at the publishing house but rather than enthusiasm, when she sees your return address on the envelope, she sighs, thinks “Here she comes again,” and dumps the package on her “to be read” pile, which is high enough to make a decent foot rest. Six months later, yours is finally on top. She reads it and:
a) she loves it. She calls and makes a fabulous offer.
b) she loves it. But she can’t buy it because the house is overstocked. This type book has really been a hot seller and they’ve bought up all they can. By the time your publication date came around, the market would be glutted and sales would be awful.
c) she loves it. But the house has changed focus to different books.
d) she loves it. But they’ve recently acquired another author whose work is too similar. Two months ago, she’d have jumped all over it. You are not amused. Your manuscript was with her four months prior to that time–if she’d opened the envelope. But you say nothing about that because you know why she didn’t open that envelope immediately. Her enthusiasm had waned. And you caused it.
e) she loves it. But sales on this type book are way down. She can’t buy it. Maybe in six months or a year–after the market has cycled, or after marketing has figured out how to tap into the book’s targeted market.
Lots of things change. Many, quickly. The moral of the story is to never underestimate the power of editorial enthusiasm.
Be persnickety, choosy about where and to whom you entrust your work. And remember the words of Somerset Maugham:
“It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
In my humble opinion, that’s worth remembering about your books–a part of your life straight from your heart–too.