When Do You Contact A Publisher?

Contacting a publisher is at the top of every prospective author’s list. The time to do that is what’s questionable.

You’ve completed a work of art and are ready to let it out in the world. After cursory investigation, you decide a publisher is the better route than self-publishing. Now that you’ve decided you’re ready, you begin with an internet search for the right publisher.

All is going well. You’re getting quite a list of potential publishers and are feeling the eagerness to submit to one and all. At this point, you’ve decided your masterpiece needs no further work because you’ve done the best job possible so you compile your list and begin to assemble your query package. After all, all of the experts on the internet agree that despite what a publisher’s guidelines say, you always query with three chapters and a synopsis.

Stop right there. Back up. You’re missing quite a few important steps.

First of all, what have you done beyond writing your book and going over it looking for errors? Have you enlisted the assistance of a critique group or beta readers, to identify areas that need work? Have you done a thorough, word-by-word edit of the book, in order to ensure you haven’t missed anything at all? Have you ensured you don’t have any missing plot points? Are there any continuity errors?

Yes, you seriously need to do these things. They are the mark of a true professional. Yes, you will have to spend another few months ensuring your book is submission ready. Your only other option is to submit and be turned down time after time.

Fast forward six months. You’ve taken the time to do everything necessary to ensure your book is truly submission ready. You’ve spent hours upon hours writing and refining your synopsis. That’s perfect. Your first three chapters are so tight if you tossed a quarter on them, it would leap across the country.

Yup, you think, I’m ready now.

You go back to the publisher’s website and are irritated they don’t follow the rules your experts have told you to go by. You’re frowning and wondering how to get your synopsis and the first three chapters in the single upload allowed, all the while ignoring the fact this particular publisher requests a full manuscript and no synopsis.

No problem, you think, I’ll just lump everything together in one package. That’ll make it easier for the submissions manager to read through my masterpiece.

And you get a rejection. It only takes less than an hour after you uploaded what you thought was the perfect query. Turns out this publisher is serious when they say “send me the full manuscript not a query.” Not only that, but they haven’t invited you to resubmit with the full manuscript.

Time to step back and remember the very important rule of submitting to a publisher…

Read their guidelines and submit your polished query and/or manuscript the way they want it done.

That’s right. You aren’t in charge of the publisher. The managers in this company have these rules for a reason. They’re gauging your ability to read and follow the rules. Ask yourself if this were a company you were working for and someone applied for a job but only filled out what they wanted to on the application how you would feel? Would you be willing to hire them because they think they’re right for the job? Would you even look beyond the misspelled words and fancy rhetoric to see that this person might be worthy of your time and attention?

Probably not. You’d do as this publisher has done, told them thank you but you’re not interested and move on.

So, when do you contact a publisher?

Not when you want them to consider your book and desire a positive response prior to publication.

Not when you haven’t done all the background work to ensure you have the best book possible.

Not when you’ve read their guidelines but decide the opinions of many individuals on the internet are more important than the publisher.

The time to contact a publisher is when you’ve carefully read all of their guidelines and prepared your submissions according to them. The time to contact a publisher is when you are ready to follow their rules. The time to contact a publisher is, most importantly, when you’ve decided to release control of your book and become part of a growing group of authors who are with this publisher.

The most important thing to remember once you make this decision is that this publisher probably knows more about the book industry than you do.

About the K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair game when plotting a new story.

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Ana Calin said…
I love these posts. As a small business owner myself, I value people's ability to follow instructions, since I have to follow clients' instructions, too. Probably what it takes when submitting to a publisher is the attitude of an entrepreneur - you want to get this client, and the client is always right. You research and respect the client's preferences. It's the right attitude.
Which reminds me! The reason I often get frustrated when translators send me queries (I own a translation business) is that they tell me a whole lot about themselves and their experience, with no prices and no focus on what my company needs. I reject all of them, goes without saying, and only work with the few who show a minimal interest in the company's needs.

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