No More Submissions

I know it’s advisable to look for the publishers instructions on how they would prefer you to follow up on a submitted manuscript. However, the publisher that currently has mine is no longer taking submissions, and has taken all that sort of info off their website. What’s the best way to follow up if you’re not sure what they would rather have you do? Thanks.

I think I know who you mean because I regularly visit the websites of all the LDS publishers and I noticed that happening very recently on one site. I haven’t heard any industry gossip so understand that what I’m about to say may be way off base.

If they’ve suddenly stopped taking submissions, they’re most likely in trouble or are going through some restructuring and need some breathing space.

Do you have an e-mail address for the submissions editor? If so, that’s the easiest and (in my opinion) least intrusive way to contact them. Send a short polite e-mail asking the status of your submission. You can mention the change in their website and express curiosity if you want, or not. Give them a couple of days to respond because if they are struggling, they may be understaffed.

You can also send a letter asking the same thing. If you write, give them two weeks to respond.

Or you could call. This is the last option I’d advise because if they’re way past the time when they should have responded, it probably means they’re swamped in the day-to-day business of staying alive.

In any case, if you e-mail, snail mail or call and you don’t get a response within 30 days, you can probably safely assume that your manuscript has been rejected.

I’m sorry I can’t be more definitive on this. As I said, this is my best guess on what is happening, but I could be completely wrong.

Timing Your Submission? Don’t Bother

Are there times of the year that are better to submit than others, or

There’s not a huge difference in when you submit, it just may take longer to get a response.

Timing is more important with the smaller publishers than with the bigger ones because the small ones have each of their employees wearing several hats (ex: editor also does marketing). For those smaller publishers, the big LDSBA is in August, so July and August might take longer to get through the process. Also Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years–give or take a week on either side. Then there’s summer vacations–and there’s no way you can know when that will hit.

Many publishers will create a budget for a specific time span–usually yearly, quarterly. As it gets closer to the end of those time periods, they may have used up their budgets and not really be looking hard until the beginning of the next time period. Or, they may have extra money and be a little less picky just to get something out there. (Not a good plan, but it happens.)

However, regardless of when their budgets begin and end or when they take their vacations, if your book is good enough, it will overcome those obstacles. If their budget is spent, they will hold it over until they have money again.

So, long answer to a short question, No, it doesn’t really matter when you submit.

Would You Publishers Make Up Your Minds Already?


I submitted a manuscript according to the directions of the publisher. Shortly after my submission, however, the directions changed and the publisher now requires additional information. Will the publisher consider my submission under the old requirements or will it get trashed because it doesn’t have all of the components? Should I contact the publisher and offer to send the additional information or keep waiting it out and hope it still might be considered?

Thank you.

Assuming your publisher is reasonable and rational, they will know when they changed their submission guidelines and will allow for a grace period. If they need the additional information, they will let you know. If it will make you feel better, you could send them a short e-mail (no longer than what you just sent to me).

General Submission Standards, According to Me

Response to Josi from the comments trail:
I’ve heard the same thing from up and coming writers–just sure that they need to stand out to the publishers and that submitting is just a formality anyway. Maybe you could blog about what a publisher expects to receive. I know there are details that vary between publishers but there are some general standards and maybe knowing those things would give submitting writers something to build on as they research specific publishers.

1. Finish your manuscript. Have it reviewed and critiqued by readers who know something about books and grammar and plot, etc. Make changes.

2. Research publishers and make a list of those that publish the type of book you’ve written. Prioritize them according to which you’d most like to publish your book.

3. Do in-depth research on each of the publishers on your list. Go to their websites and carefully read their submission guidelines.

4. Divide your list according to who takes simultaneous submissions and who requires exclusives.

5. Decide if you want to send out multiple submissions first (to all those who accept them) or if you’re going to submit one at a time.

6. Prepare your submission according to the publisher’s guidelines. Most of them will be similar with only slight customization needed.

7. If they ask for query only, send only a one page query letter. If they ask for query plus partial, send your query and however many pages they ask for. If they don’t say, send 10 to 40 pages/1 to 3 chapters. If they ask for entire manuscripts, send your query letter and the entire manuscript. If they don’t specify what they want, I suggest the middle of the road–a query and pages. That will give them a taste of your writing ability, but won’t cost you as much.

8. I also really appreciate a brief summary outline that gives me a one or two sentence description of what happens in each chapter. Briefly describe the plot twists and give away the ending. Most publishers won’t mind if you include this, even if they ask for query only. (This will save us both time if it’s not something I’m looking for. If the concept is good, but the first chapters are slow or need work, I may ask you to fix it and resubmit. If I don’t have an outline, I’ll quit reading and just reject. I won’t read through to the end of a mss that needs work just to see how it ends.)

9. Query: One page, white paper, standard business style, 10 or 12 point type, standard font (Times), single spaced. Read up on this online or at the library. Try to find some samples of successful queries. (Kristen Nelson posted some a while back.)

10. Pages and/or full manuscript: White paper, single-sided, 10 or 12 point standard font, double spaced. Center the title and your full name, address, phone and e-mail on the title page. Also include the word count. On the rest of the pages, put your last name, abbreviated title in the top left; page numbers in the top right margin. Read up on this too.

11.Unless they specifically say they accept electronic submissions, submit on paper via snail mail. If they accept queries by e-mail, they will usually ask for them to be included in the body of the e-mail, not as attachments.

12. If they ask for a SASE, include one. If they don’t ask for a SASE, include one. This is standard protocol. A SASE is a self-addressed, stamped, #10 envelope.

13. If you want you manuscript back, send a larger SASE with enough postage for the return trip instead of the #10 envelope. However, most of the time it is not worth the expense to have it returned. It will usually not have notes and it will be beat up and unable to be sent to another publisher.

14. Be polite. Be professional. Spell check everything before printing. Check to be sure your personal information is correct. Check it again. Make sure the editor’s name and company name is spelled correctly.

15. Be patient. The process takes some time.

SAE (yes, you read it right)

I was slammed at work yesterday. Never even made it to the computer to turn it on. I was glad to see that some of you carried on the conversation without me. I really appreciate that. I think that as writers, you learn a lot from each other. I know as a publisher, I’ve learned a lot from your comments here on this blog. I’ve changed some of my thought processes because of you guys. Thanks.

So, in the comments trail, Keith said:

I have been troubled about a submission I made. I may have made a boneheaded mistake.

I sent a SASE with my manuscript but I cannot remember whether I stamped it or not. It may have been a SAE. if that is the case and you received it, would you reject it and would you not send word about it.

Don’t worry about it. I would see the envelope and go “Oops!” and that would be the end of it. If I accepted your manuscript, I probably wouldn’t even use the SASE. I’d call or e-mail. If I rejected, and it was a #10 envelope SAE, I’d just stamp it and send the letter in it anyway. If it was a larger envelope, indicating you wanted the entire manuscript back, I’d have my secretary call you and request you send postage or ask permission to toss it. (Unless I’m sending you notes, there’s no reason for me to mail the mss back to you because usually it’s too hashed for you to send it to another publisher.)

I never accept/reject/read/not read based upon the presence or lack of a SASE. It’s only when no SASE is combined with several other things (attitude, weird font or paper, 4 pg query letter, etc.) that I start thinking mean things about the author.

[Will respond to Josi’s comment another day.]

Rebel Without a Cause

Why are there so many rules for submitting and publishing a book? It seems I can’t even keep track of all of them. So I’ve decided to rebel. I’m going to write the best book I can and submit it however I want. What do you think about that??

If your book is really, really, really, really, really, good (to the nth power), then eventually, someone will probably publish it.

But it probably won’t be me. And it probably won’t be your first choice(s) in publisher.

Here’s the thing–we get so many submissions that DO follow the rules that when we get one that doesn’t, it usually doesn’t even get a serious look. What a submission that doesn’t follow the rules tells us is that either 1) you don’t know the rules and you can’t be bothered to do the basic research to discover what they are–in which case, publishing your manuscript will take a LOT of instruction and hand-holding on our part; or 2) you do know the rules and you think you’re too good for them–in which case you’re going to be a pain in the neck to work with and it’s going to be a fight on every point. Either way, an editor will probably decide that your book will just take too much time, energy and frustration to publish.

If you’re going to keep this attitude, I’d suggest submitting to a publisher who also doesn’t follow the rules. Maybe you can win them over with the force of your personality, or kindredness of spirit. Either that or self-publishing. But you’d better look for a distributor who doesn’t follow the rules too.

Word Count

Beulah, who is fast becoming one of my new best friends because she leaves nice comments and also helped cure me of various aches and pains asked this question:

What is the average word count for the different genres? What would you consider too long/too short?

First let me say, the word count on a book is less important than tight, good writing. You need as many words in your book as it takes to tell a good story. Of course, you can go overboard with this. A 200,000 word romance is going to have a hard time finding a publisher, as is a 7,000 word historical fiction. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts.

There is no hard and fast rule on word count. It will differ between publishers and between authors. For example, books for children and teens usually top out around 40,000-50,000 words. But how long was JK Rowling’s last book? It also depends on the font size your publisher uses and whether they average 250 or 300 words per page.

Here are a few basic guidelines:
Short novel is 15,000 to 40,000
Adult novel is 50,000 to 110,000
Literary novel can be 125,000

As for differences in genres, go to the library or bookstore and take the average number of pages in books for that genre. Subtract about 6 pages for title page, acknowledgments, blurbs, etc. Then divide that by 250 and you’ll be in the ballpark.

Here are some approximates based on page count:
40,000 = 160 pages
62,500 = 250 pages*
75,000 = 300 pages*
90,000 = 360 pages
100,000 = 400 pages
125,000 = 500 pages**

As you can see, this is NOT an exact science.

*Best range for new authors
**Need to be an experienced author or really, really good to publish a novel that’s over 125,000 words.

Don’t Waste Your Money!

I’ve received several manuscript submissions lately that were sent to me Priority Mail. Just opened one today–that has been sitting on my desk for a month.

Folks, Priority Mail gives you no advantage in the query/submission process–especially if you’re sending unsolicited manuscripts. Send it Parcel Post. Or Media Mail. Or even First Class. All are usually quite a bit cheaper than Priority. Unless an editor specifically requests that you send your manuscript Priority, save your money for more useful stuff–like toner and paper.

And if you really want to save money, do not send a full manuscript as your first contact with a publisher. Send a query letter. And don’t let anyone tell you that it’s harder for a publisher to reject a full manuscript than it is for them to reject a query or that we’re more willing to read a manuscript sitting on our desk than we are to ask for one to be sent. That’s nonsense.

When I see an unsolicited manuscript show up on my desk marked Priority Mail, I think, “Poor soul. They don’t have a clue how this business works. This manuscript better be good because I’m going to have to spend extra time educating this author.” When I see a well written query letter show up on my desk, I think, “Great! They’ve done their research. They know something about this business. I probably won’t have to hold their hand all day, every day…yes, I’ll give their manuscript a chance.” (Assuming, of course, the query is for something that I’m looking for.)

Contest + Win = Need to Finish That Novel!

Hi, LDS Publisher!

I have a question. I have an incomplete manuscript that I hope to develop one day into a complete book. A few days ago, I had the idea of sending the first part of it to the Irreantum 2007 Fiction Contest. I’ve had two published authors read it, praise it, and encourage me to submit. According to the website, any fictional form can be submitted, including short stories or excerpts from novels. What I’d like to know is, should I label my submission as an excerpt even though the novel is not finished? If my submission doesn’t win anything, which is very likely, then there’s no problem, but what if it does actually win something and somebody wants to see the entire novel? Would that be a problem akin to the situation you recently described, where an author submitted a query but didn’t have the manuscript finished, and the editor was left banging her head on the desk and forcing a polite “No, thanks,” from between clenched teeth? Or should I call my entry a short story instead? Thankfully, it can stand on its own. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Nerve-Wracked Writer

Submitting to a contest is not the same as submitting a query to a publisher. You never query a publisher on an unfinished fiction piece. But it’s perfectly acceptable to submit a stand-alone section of an as-yet-unfinished novel to a contest, if the contest rules allow that. If you win and an editor wants to see a finished product, just tell them you’re still working on it. They might be disappointed, but if they really liked it they’ll ask you to submit when it’s done. And wouldn’t that be great motivation to get it finished?

(I’ve requested submissions from winners of contests like this before. As long as the author followed up within a year, I was fine. If it takes longer than that to submit the full, I’d worry that they wouldn’t be able to produce additional manuscripts in a timely manner and it’s all about promoting an author while they’re hot.)

As to what to call it, short stories are usually complete by themselves. They have a full story/plot arc and leave the reader emotionally satisfied at the end. Excerpts can have unfinished business. When a short story is expanded into a novel, stuff is added in between the sentences and paragraphs to make it longer and to add depth. An excerpt pretty much stays as is, with chapters added before and after, but not within it. Based on your description, I’d call it an excerpt.

You also need to get some internal motivation and positive thinking going. Tell yourself you’re going to win and that editors will be clamoring for you to submit to them, so you’d better get that thing finished–NOW! 🙂

Seriously, if you win, you can include that in your future query letters.

Complimentary Rejections

[This letter was edited slightly to keep the friend anonymous.]


I’m hoping you can answer a question for me. I have a friend who has written several booklets that are nonfiction on [various] topics. She says she has queried every agent in Writers Market and approached every publisher who does what she writes, and has received nothing but rejections. She’s also contacted every LDS publisher there is […]. She’s wondering what to do next. She says the rejections have all been complimentary, so I have to think that her writing must be at least a little bit good, but I’m wondering if maybe her content is just not selling well or what have you. The only thing I can think of would be to have her break her books up into articles and sell them to magazines, which actually might make her better money than royalties. If you say, $300 an article and you’d have to sell 300 books to get that, or more, articles might be the way to go.

At any rate, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Beulah. 🙂

Hi Beulah. Good to hear from you again. If your friend has that many rejections on the same project, then something is wrong with either her approach or her concept or possibly the quality of her writing.

I went through my company’s logs to see if I could figure out who your friend was, if we had been queried, and why her query/manuscript was rejected. I’m not absolutely certain, but if it’s the one I think it is, her query letter was not very compelling. Part of the notes said, “Not sure what exactly this is…”

If the query I’m thinking of is not your friend’s, this is still a good time to reinforce what a query letter should do. It needs to clearly indicate what the project is. It needs to clearly summarize or include a short synopsis of the plot. And, very important here, it needs to provide a marketing hook. When I finish reading a good query, I can immediately pigeon-hole it into a marketing slot–I know who would buy it, who would read it, how to classify it, how to differentiate it, and how to sell it. If I have questions in these areas, I’ll probably pass. So if you think it might be the query, have your friend submit it to a critique group or to several published authors to get help polishing it up.

The other problem might be the concept. “Booklet” can mean anything from a long greeting card to a small book. Depending on where it falls in that continuum, it might not be something that is selling right now. Booklets go in and out of fashion (kind of like skirt lengths for women). I can’t speak for other companies, but right now we’re just not in the market for anything less than 150 pages.

I think your magazine article idea is a good one, especially if she can sell it as a serialization or present herself as a regular columnist. I’m not aware of any good paying LDS magazines that are looking for that, but there are a lot of Christian magazines out there. She might also try local magazines or even newspapers. Papers don’t pay much, but if she’s never published before, that would give her credentials.

You’re Kidding Me, Right?

Actual conversation after query and partial had been submitted and a full requested.

Author: So you’re saying you want to see the entire manuscript with the idea of publishing it in the spring?

Publisher: Yes. I think it would be great to release it in early March so it will be available for conference sales.

Author: Oh, well, I’m not sure I can have it ready by then. I’ve only written the first three chapters and I just have an outline of the rest of the story. In fact, I’m rethinking the ending so it might take me a while to finish it. I’m really busy right now. Maybe I can have it to you by fall…oh, wait, I’m going to Europe this next summer so fall won’t work for me…

Publisher: Never mind. I’m not really interested, after all.


[P.S. This type of post is just one of the reasons why I am anonymous. If you knew I was Edith Editor at XYZ Publishing, I would never be able to tell you about these types of events. But because I’m anonymous, the Author stays anonymous too and can therefore be an example to everyone of what not to do. And to further the anonymity of the Author, this conversation did not happen this week or even this month. I’ve been saving it so that no one would be able to figure out who the poor clueless author is.]

Submitting During the Holidays

Is December a bad time to submit manuscripts? Or are editors too busy with end of the year stuff? Would they be more or less likely to give a manuscript their full attention during the holidays?

The number one secret to know about editors and publishers is we are people too. We have parties and gift giving and other merry-making to do, just like everyone else. So yes, we say go ahead and submit in December, but chances are it’s going to take a little longer for us to get around to reading it. And one good thing about LDS publishers, we’re rarely working with an after-office-party hangover. So submit whenever you want with full confidence that when we do (finally) get to your manuscript, it will get our full attention–just as it would during the rest of the year.

[P.S. You’ve just stumbled upon the REAL reason I’m running a contest in December. I’m hoping your stories will disguise the fact that I’m too busy ho-ho-ho-ing to write serious posts. And speaking of your stories, where are they??]

Please Use Headers!

I would think this is common sense and it’s in almost every submission how-to guide I’ve ever read, but so many people don’t do this that I want to stress it here.

1. Put your name and abbreviated title in the header line of each and every page of your manuscript. For example, if your name is Jane Smith and your book is How LDSP Got Both Rich & Famous by Blogging, put Smith, J./LDSP Rich & Famous in the top left header of each page (unless your publisher requests you put it somewhere else).

2. USE automatic page numbering. Put them in the top right header of each and every page of your manuscript (unless your publisher requests otherwise). Start numbering consecutively from page one to page end-of-manuscript. Do NOT restart at page one at the beginning of each chapter.

This is why. Manuscripts stay in their boxes/envelopes at my office. I will often take a handful of pages (usually 1st three chapters) from several manuscripts home with me to read at night or over the weekend. This allows me to do a quick read and weed out the ones that aren’t what I’m looking for.

Although I am incredibly organized and coordinated, I have on occasion dropped these pages. Or they’ve spilled out of my briefcase. Or gremlins have come in the night and separated all the pages, scattering them amid my neat stacks of bills and grocery lists. Sometimes, I’ll pass these first three chapters around to various readers, who may or may not be as coordinated and organized as I am. It doesn’t happen very often, but when your pages get separated from each other or out of order, putting them back together is a potential nightmare.

It is extremely easy for you to include this header info on every page. Most software programs can do it automatically. Please file this post under “Publishers are human too” and go check right now to make sure all your manuscripts in progress have this header set up.

More on Book Signings

Here’s an article on book signings. If you’re going to do them, these are pretty good ideas.

Holiday Book Signings

My newest book was just released and I want to do a book signing tour to encourage shoppers to buy my book as Christmas gifts. I keep telling my publisher that I want to do this, and they keep saying it’s a good idea, but so far, no signing dates. Why do you think my publisher is refusing to set up book signings for me?

[Deep breath] Having recently had this conversation with several of my authors, let me say first that publishers do not have the final say in scheduling book signings–unless your publisher is Deseret Book or Covenant, who have their own retail outlets and host signings for their own authors.

As a publisher, even if I thought a book signing tour was the very best way to boost holiday book sales (which I don’t, but let’s pretend I do), my opinion and enthusiasm won’t do us a bit of good unless the book store owner/manager thinks so too. And most of them don’t, because the simple fact is that the majority of LDS author book signings are lucky if they generate the sale of a dozen books. Most common scenario for a single author book signing is 2 to 3 hours of the author sitting behind a table trying not to look desperate while the bookstore customers avoid them like the plague.

Whether or not your publisher can convince a bookstore to host your signing depends on several things: how big the publisher is and what their reputation is; how big a discount your publisher can give the bookstore; how well your book is selling in the store; how well known you are/how many customers you can draw; how many other titles you have to your name; how much it is going to cost the publisher to get you there (are you expecting the publisher to pay travel expenses and per diem or are you footing the bill), etc., etc.

Also, book signings are not a bundle of joy for the bookstores. They have to create a space for you to sign, reroute floor traffic, stock extra books, return those they can’t sell. A lot of bookstores just flat out don’t want to be bothered.

Here are a few other scenario/issues:
1. The Utah/Idaho corridor is where the majority of LDS book sales occur. Most of the bookstores here are DB and Seagull stores who are promoting their own authors with holiday book signings. Yes, they will sometimes let other publishers bring authors to the party, but only if the book is a strong seller and/or they can’t fill the slots with their own people. You get a better shot with some of the independent stores in this area, but not all of them will work with you if you’re a small publisher, or if you’re a lesser known author.

2. Bookstores outside UT/ID are generally smaller stores near a temple. Their bookstore traffic is based on temple traffic, meaning people come to the temple and then drop by the bookstore on their way home. Many of them get very little traffic during the week and are overcrowded on Saturdays. They don’t want you getting in their way on Saturday and they don’t think you can pull enough customers to make it worth their trouble on a weeknight.

3. Local to you, non-LDS bookstores or variety stores might be willing to host your book signing if you’re very local or related to the manager, but they often want deeper discounts than your publisher can afford.

So to overcome that, you or your publisher have to be willing to create an offer they can’t refuse. You have to fit in to their schedule. You have to be sure you can pull in customers. You have to be willing to do all the work yourself. Sometimes you have a better chance if you can get a group of authors to do a signing at the same place & time. But even if you and your publisher are willing to totally foot the expense of a launch party complete with advertising and door prizes, some bookstores will still turn you down.

My guess is your publisher is doing their best and just can’t get the bookstores to agree. We can’t really force them. If you are dead set on doing a signing tour, see if your publisher will consign you some books and try to set something up in your hometown, maybe at the local library or schools or service clubs. Do an event with 4 or 5 other local authors and talk about literacy, or writing, or something that has a literary appeal, then sell your books afterward. Most libraries and some schools will let you do that as a public service, especially if you donate a portion of your proceeds.

Sending Multiple Submissions to a Publisher

Hi LDSPublisher,

A non-LDS publisher only accepts submissions during one month of the year. Is it acceptable to send them more than one manuscript? You’ve stated before that we should only submit one manuscript at a time to a specific publisher, but since this publisher only accepts during one month would it be acceptable to submit 2 different types of manuscripts?

Prolific Writer

The trouble with sending more than one submission to a company at the same time is that even if they like all of them, they are only going to publish one. They will pick one they like best, publish it, see how it sells–then want to see something new from you. If they’ve already seen the something new, it’s going to feel old because it’s been bouncing around in their subconcious for a year or more.

I strongly suggest you send only one manuscript, and send your best. If they like your writing, but the content doesn’t hit the mark for them, they will ask if you have something else and give you some guidelines for what they’re looking for. Then you can send something more tailored to what they’re looking for.

Question for you: Which company only accepts manuscripts one month out of the year? It seems I’ve heard something about that before, but I just can’t bring it to mind.

Submission Counts

On average, how many fiction submissions do LDS publishers get per year?

I have no idea. Right now, I’m averaging about 6-8 per month, but I’m a small house. If anyone knows what the bigger houses are averaging, feel free to chime in.

Simultaneous Submissions

Clarifications have been made to this post. Please re-read.

Can you submit the same manuscript to multiple publishers at the same time?

This is called simultaneous submissions. Some publishers accept them, others do not. Check your publisher’s submission guidelines. If the publisher you want to submit to accepts simultaneous submissions, then yes, you can send your manuscript to them, and to other publishers, who also accept simultaneous submissions, at the same time. If the publisher you want to submit to does not accept simultaneous submissions, then you must submit to them, wait for them to reject it, and then submit to the next publisher on your list.

The reason some publishers choose not to accept simultaneous submissions is because then they can read at their leisure without worry that someone is going to beat their time. This is unfair to the author, as single submissions can kill you. For example, let’s say you have 10 publishers on your A list and you have to query and submit to them sequentially. And let’s say they each take about 6 months to go through the review process. It could take you 5 years to get through them. Who has time for that?

Personally, I think there should be a law that forces all publishers to accept simultaneous submissions. But until there is, you have to play by their rules. If they say they want exclusive looks, and you want them to consider you, then you have to send it to them and no one else until they make a decision.

One more word: If you decide to do simultaneous submissions to publishers who accept them, let the publisher know in the query letter that you have submitted to others as well. You don’t need to tell him/her who else you’ve submitted to, but it is polite to let them know that others are looking at it also. And if you get accepted somewhere, write or e-mail all other publishers who are still reviewing your manuscript and let them know it’s off the market.

Who Do I Send My Submission To?

I have heard that it isn’t a good idea to send out a manuscript “cold”, that you should always send it to an editor. Is this actually so and how would I go about finding the name(s) of who to send the manuscript to? Just call the publisher and ask? Would be taking up valuable time and simply annoying them, thus decreasing the chances they would actually be interested in my book?

Never send your entire manuscript as your initial submission, unless the publisher/website specifically asks for it. This is a waste of money, time and our natural resources (ie: trees).

Send a query letter first. If you send a query addressed to just “XYZ Publishing” with no other indication of who it should go to, it may bounce around from desk to desk for awhile. Depending upon the size of the company, it may never reach the person who would be most likely to read it with a positive response.

First thing you do is check the publisher’s website. Read their submission instructions very carefully. Follow them exactly.

If the website does not contain the name of the editor who accepts submissions for your genre, make a quick call to the company. A receptionist will answer the phone. Be prepared. Say this: “I would like to send a query letter for a [insert genre here]. Who should I address it to?”

The receptionist may ask you a few questions to further narrow down the type of book you are querying, then she/he will say either:
a. Send it to Ms. LDS Publisher; or
b. Send it to the Submissions Dept (or something like that); or
c. Just address it to XYZ Publishing and that will be good enough; or
d. We don’t publish in that genre

You might also ask if you should send a summary and/or the first 10 pages of the manuscript with your query.

This conversation will take all of 2 minutes or less. It is not an incovenience or annoying. Answering questions like this is one of the reasons we hired the receptionist to begin with. The only time a call like this is detrimental is if you keep them on the phone for 20 minutes or longer asking questions about things that are already on their website, or are “common knowledge” (like, ‘what exactly is a query letter’), or are argumentative (‘what do you mean you don’t publish fiction? I prayed about this and the spirit told me I should submit to you, so you should not only take my submission, but I know that if you are in tune with the spirit yourself, you will publish it, and if it doesn’t sell well, it will be because you are a sinful heathen, and…’)

Some companies prefer to get the entire book “cold.” This phone call will help you determine that. I personally don’t like getting a 500 page MS when I can tell after page 1 that I’m not interested and then it’s just a waste of time, paper, money, etc. This is what I like to receive in the initial query:
–a 1 page well-written query letter
–a 1-2 page chapter by chapter summary (2-3 sentences per chapter of what happens)
–the first 10 pages of the novel, starting with chapter 1 (no title page, no acknowledgments or dedication info, no introduction or prologue)

Good luck.

Timing Your Submissions

I’ve previously said that it didn’t really matter when you submitted your manuscripts–and in one sense, that’s still true. You can submit whenever you want, but you may not get read in a timely manner. If you want a reasonably fast reply, July and August might not be the best time to submit to LDS publishers, especially the smaller ones.

For example, I’m still accepting submissions and people are still sending them, but those that arrived after the middle of July are still sitting unopened on my desk. And they will continue to sit there until after the convention.

Maybe this is not an issue in the bigger houses, where you have one job description per employee. But in the smaller houses (defined as fewer than 6 employees), everyone is working on last minute convention activities. This is the time we temporarily stop looking for new stuff and concentrate on selling what we have.

So, if you’ve submitted to any LDS publisher in the past 30 days and haven’t gotten a reply, wait at least until September 1st before giving them a nudge.

Give the Publisher One MS at a Time

I have a completed manuscript under consideration at the third place I’ve sent it. Since I have been shopping the ms around, I have completed another one. My question is; what is the proper way to begin sending out the second manuscript? Do I send it to the publisher that has my first? Do I begin again at the beginning of my list of LDS publishers? Thanks for your help.

Do not send a second manuscript to a publisher who is still considering your first.

Everyone else is fair game. You may send it to anyone who has seen and rejected the first one, or to anyone else on your list—the order is up to you.

Make Sure I Can Reach You If I Want To!

Can I just rant here for a minute?

What is with authors and illustrators who either do not have an e-mail address, do not send it with their submission, or they never check their e-mail?

Or–and this one is very frustrating–they have a great website (that seems to be updated fairly regularly) with complete contact info–e-mails, phone numbers, fax number, P.O. Box. But none of them work! E-mails bounce back repeatedly or receive no reply, phone and fax disconnected, and no response to snail mail.

For weeks now, I’ve been trying to track someone down. I have a contract for them. I have a marketing plan. I have money I want to give them. And I can’t reach them. This is nuts!

And guess what?! I stopped trying. I threw their whole folder in the rejection pile this morning. (Of course, they won’t know they’re rejected because I can’t get a message to them.)

So, if you want to be a published author/illustrator/whatever, here are a few basic communication tips:

1. Get an e-mail address and check it daily.

2. Put multiple avenues of contact on every communication to an editor/publisher.

3. If you use a P.O. Box*, check it at least weekly.

4. If you have a website, be sure to include CURRENT contact information.*

Words of Caution:

  • Don’t post your e-mail address. Spammers love this. Do it with a link.
  • Don’t post your home address. Use a P.O. Box.
  • Don’t post your home phone. If you have an e-mail address (and you check it) and a P.O. Box, that should be adequate.

Manuscript Formatting–No Perfume, Please (Pt. 2)

Is there a particular way of formatting my manuscript that I should know about? If I do it wrong, will they automatically reject me?

Check your publisher’s website and see if they have any special formatting guidelines. You will find that most of them are pretty similar. 99.9% of publishers will be satisfied with the guidelines posted on this website. (Except I prefer Times, rather than Courier. Easier on MY eyes.)

If you do it wrong, it may or may not lead to rejection—depending on what it is you’ve done. I absolutely refuse to read a manuscript that is smaller than 10 pt type and single spaced. Or if the margins go all the way to the edge of the page. Or if it’s in some really obnoxious font that is hard to read, or set in all caps. Or if it’s printed on neon or patterned paper, or paper that has been wadded up and then flattened out again. Or if it’s been sprayed with perfume. Believe it or not, authors will do this thinking it will set them apart from the rest of the slush pile. It does, but not in a good way.

Please Include a SASE

Got an unsolicited manuscript. (Our website clearly states query first.)

It’s not a genre I publish. (Website also states what we’re looking for–again, very clearly.)

No e-mail address in the query. (Ok, not everyone is connected. I’m not in the Writers Market so if the author doesn’t have Internet, I can overlook those first two errors.)

And no SASE.

Can I just say that including a SASE says to me that you’re professional and respectful?

Not including a SASE does not kill your chances with me (as it does with some others in the business), but I do wonder why it’s not there. Are you uninformed? Are you being rebellious? Do you have poor short-term memory? Or are you just cheap?

Or maybe you intended to include a SASE and were mortified to find it still on your desk the day after you mailed your submission.

Because the latter has happened to me, I will respond to your submission sans SASE in a polite and professional manner. But for those of you who may be thinking a #10 SASE is not necessary, please, think again.