Sending off a manuscript is terrifying. It is adrenalin inducing, heart-stopping stuff for any writer. But so many writers bail or fail at this critical point. You send your book off to a publisher and get a rejection letter. Then you put it in a bottom drawer and don’t send it again. This is not called submitting a book! Submitting a book is a long process that requires work and persistence.
This is NOT the time to be shy or hold back.
Do you believe in this book?
Did you invest your time in it?
Now you have to change gear from a writer into a sales person and get this book SOLD!
Here are my tips
Check you are sending to the right people
Hopefully if you have read my posts or done any of the courses you know all about genre. This is your starting point in writing and this is where you are going to focus your submission process. It is critical to only send your book to a publisher or agent who works in your genre. This is going to take work. You need to Google them and get a short-list of publishers. Then refine your search to the particular commissioning editor who handles your specific genre. Don't send your book on Gardening on a Budget to a publisher who works publishes Scifi. You need to be specific and focussed. This information you need to get online. It takes time. It is labourious. Do the research.
Cast your net wide.
You have got to send your book out to as many publishers and agents as possible. And then you need to keep sending it out. Now this is not as easy as it seems. Is your book in English? Then look at all the English speaking countries as a first stop. UK, Ireland, Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa.
Send at least TWENTY query letters on your first shot.
Yes that's right. At least 20. This is tough as you may have to really search to find 20 publishers in your genre. But look around. If you are in very niched market (like you are writing in Afrikaans) you may have a limited number of possible publishers or agents. Any sales person will tell you that sales is a numbers game. The more people you contact the better chance you have of a sale. Well now you are selling your book so start working the numbers!
Separate emotions from your proposal
You have done your best now put it to rest. You are going to have to get honest feedback and send it out to be read by very critical people. If you send out 20 query letters you may be 8 replies. You may get no replies AT ALL! That's why it is a numbers game.
Use the feedback
Sure, by the time you send it out it is in a good condition. But if you get feedback they take a good look at it.
Bank on some negative feedback.
Sometimes the worst is just NO REPLY AT ALL! You don't have to appeal to every publisher or reader, just one publisher or agent.
Don't assume it's a NO until they say NO
I need to be persistent as an agent. And you need to be equally so as a writer. I recently spent close to 12 months following up a single manuscript sent to a publisher. And this book was commissioned by them! But the commissioning agent was 'very busy' and just didn't get to it. Then she went on holiday. Then maternity leave. For every email I sent to follow up, only about one out of five were returned. I am the agent in this transaction so it is my job to keep going. But let me tell you that if I was the book's writer I would have taken it very personally, and given up or just thought they had dropped me. In fact it turns out that the publishing company does want the book, they just moved that particular imprint out a year and we got lost in the day-to-day of running a big imprint. So don't give up. If the book is 'in play', you need to keep playing. You will know it is no longer in play when they tell you. It will be something like this.. "Thank you for your submission but we will not be publishing your book / Thank you but this book is not for us, best of luck." That's a no. Now move onto the next mail shot of 20.
OK now get out there and work on your list again. Send more. Keep sending.
Writing any book takes a huge commitment of your time, money and energy.
Always remember that publishers are in the business of looking for exciting new books.
So do the work, send it out and leave some of it to good timing.
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Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, agent and book editor. She is a structure fanatic and book whisperer and is here to help.