Friday, November 6, 2009

Tips to Query a Publisher

Your first step in querying a publisher should be to order the book Writer’s Market. The book is available through for about $30 or check with your local library. Writer’s Market includes 4,000 listings for book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, and literary agents. Most publishers’ listings in the book will tell you if they accept new authors, with or without agent representation, what types of manuscripts they want, what they pay, their contact information, and where to obtain authors’ submission guidelines for their company. Confirm all information by visiting the publisher’s Website if available. Most publishers’ Websites will have authors’ guidelines as well.

Once you have chosen the right publisher and are ready to submit your package, you will need to write the all-important query letter. The query letter must get the attention of the acquisitions editor, or, more likely, an editorial assistant or reader. Many packages are thrown out after the first sentence is read. Your query letter should be a brief one-page tool used to get the editor interested in your book idea. The idea of a query letter is to draw enough interest in your book that the editor will request your entire manuscript be sent. Some editors want to see the entire manuscript on first contact. Check the submission guidelines to determine exactly which method the editor prefers.

Editors change job positions and companies regularly. Don’t assume the listed editor is the current one. Always call the publishing house and ask who the current editor is and then address your letter to that person.

When formatting your query letter:

• Limit it to one page.
• Use single spacing with one-inch margin.
• Use an easy to read typeface such as Times New Roman and a 10- or 12-point type.
• Include your complete contact information including e-mail and phone number.
• Address the letter directly to the acquisitions editor by name.
• Be creative. Get the editor’s attention with a catchy opening line.
• Let the editor know briefly what your book idea is about.
• Include whether or not you have illustrations.
• Inform them of any expertise you have in the subject matter.
• Let them know if you have been previously published.
• Close with a polite offer to send the entire manuscript.
• Thank them for their time and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.

You can locate sample query letters and book proposals in the Writer’s Market book.

When a publisher requests an entire book proposal be sent, your submission should include the following:

• A query letter as described above.
• A chapter summary that gives an idea of your book’s subject and shows in detail how you plan to develop your idea. For fiction books, cover the basic plot.
• An outline of your book’s chapters and what is included in each one.
• Your author biography that includes why you are qualified to write this book as well as any previous writing experience. You can include relevant clubs and organizations you belong to.
• Sample chapters or the entire manuscript. See the publishing house’s specific guidelines to learn how much of the manuscript the editor requests.
• Marketing information. Editors want to who will buy your book and how you plan to reach those people. Be specific.
• Competitive title analysis. Include similar books on your subject and how they differ from yours. Why will your book be better?

Most publishers will let you know through their submission guidelines exactly what they want to see included in your fiction or nonfiction proposal.

If after all your hard work you are rejected by the publishers you submit to, scroll down to an earlier post and read Tips For Accepting Query Letter Rejection.

To learn the entire process of book writing, publishing, and marketing to help you get your book finished, read A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story, ISBN 9780615199245, available at and wherever books are sold.


S1nnerman said...

I think I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time on your blog. It's really good!

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

I had to click on this straight away when I saw the heading on my blog roll. Thanks for a very helpful post. I've been trying to get noticed as a writer for a long time, so obviously this is very useful to me.

Jill Edmondson said...

I think you're bang on with alll of this. I especially like the point about marketing information.

Some authors forget this part and think their work is done when they finish writing the book, but in many ways this is when the real work begins!

Publishing is a business and letting the publisher know that you have ideas to promote and sell your book makes you attractive to them.

Cheers, Jill

angela said...

Thanks for sharing these helpful hints.

Sonsie said...

Thanks for detailing the process! Any chance submissions will be done electronically someday? This process seems needlessly quaint.

author 101 said...

To Sonsie,
Thanks for your comment. Many publishers are now accepting electronic submissions, but for now, I personally don't see it happening for all of them for quite some time.
Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carol -

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'll be happy to trade links. I've also signed up as a Follower here.

Susan :)

Michaéle said...

I also really like I think it is somewhat along the lines of $3 per month but it helps with tracking submissions and keeping up to date with new addresses and editor's names.

I love your blog and will be back often!!!


Scobberlotcher said...

Great, concise advice! :)