Ok – you have found some publishers who publish the kind of book you have written. Submit to one publisher at a time. Publishers receive hundreds of manuscripts on a regular basis, so if they learn that your manuscript is doing rounds elsewhere they are likely to reject it outright, without reading it. If you have to send it to more than one publisher at a time then state this in your covering letter.
It is best to have a list of possible publishers in mind that you can send your book to one at a time; rejections are commonplace – if not the norm – for new writers. Be persistent though. If your book is good and you approach the correct publishers in the correct way, sooner or later, you will get a response.
Guidelines for writing your letter of inquiry
Before you submit your manuscript it is best to send the publisher a letter of enquiry. Introduce yourself, your work and ask if they’d prefer to receive the first three chapters of your book or the whole manuscript. Here are some tips on writing your letter of enquiry:
• Start your letter with name of the person, usually the editor, you’ll be submitting to, and make sure you spell their name correctly. This information can be obtained either from the publisher’s website, the latest Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (A & C Black), or the latest Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books).
• State the length of your book in words rather than pages because the number of pages can vary, depending on the size of the margins and the spaces in-between. A fictional a book has to be more than 50000 words to qualify as a novel, although most publishers will find this too short. 80000 words is considered a respectable length by most publishing houses. Children’s books are usually shorter. One should look at the length of the books previously published by the house you are submitting to.
• Include a short synopsis – no more than a few sentences – and make sure the story or subject appears interesting and leaves the publisher wanting to know more. Important note: some publishers do prefer a longer more detailed synopsis, so it is best to check out their specific requirements.
• Include a short biography, highlighting information relevant to the book you have written; for example, if you are a botanist and have written a book on gardening or a science fiction novel, in which alien vegetation threatens to take over the earth, then do mention your qualification. As long as the information is interesting and in some way relates to the book, include it.
• Mention any other professional publications, as this assures the publisher that your work is of a publishable standard. Do not, however, mention any publications that are not professional; for example: school magazines or vanity press.
• If you have won any awards for your writing, or the subject you are writing about, do include this in your letter.
• Mention the books you intend to write in the future, as publishers are more interested in writers who can keep the manuscripts coming rather than one-book-wonders. Publishers are interested in investing in a writer, not just a book, because one book is unlikely to earn a lot of money, while a writer – who can produce book after book – will eventually earn his keep.
• Mention what market your book is aimed at and what makes your book different from other similar books that have already been released.
• A letter of enquiry or cover letter should never be more than one page long because publishers, already swamped with manuscripts, don’t want to endure long letters of enquiry. If the publisher requests for more information, either in response to your letter or in their submission guidelines, that is another story – otherwise keep it short.
Submitting your letter of enquiry
By now, you have researched the publisher you are about to submit to and written your letter of inquiry. If the publisher’s website or reference book listing said they were open to receiving letters of enquiry via e-mail or fax then make use of this medium. Most, however, if not all, publishers insist on having all letters and manuscripts from new writers mailed. When mailing to a publisher be sure to:
• Include a self-addressed envelope, so that the publisher can respond to your enquiry without incurring any expense. Usually if there isn’t a self-addressed envelope, the publisher won’t respond.
• If you are submitting to an overseas publisher, be sure to include International Reply Coupons and be prepared to wait a little longer for a response.
• Check on the publisher’s website or listing in one of the references books – Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books) or Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (A & C Black) – to see how long the publisher usually takes to respond to letters of enquiry and submissions. That way you will know how long you have to wait. It can take a long time to receive a response from a publisher but the important thing is to get cracking on your next book, while you wait.