Make a list…or don’t.

85I am not the most organized person.

Wait.

I take that back. I do pretty well for someone who refuses to make a list. My kids get dressed and fed on a regular basis, and sometimes even get bathed. That’s got to count for something, right? But I definitely can be one of those clichéd frazzled moms that goes to the grocery store and comes home with peanut butter cups and barbecue chips but forgets the dish soap she went for in the first place.

On a pretty regular basis, I come to my husband discouraged and downtrodden, whining, “I am just so overwhelmed! There’s so much to do, and I don’t know how I’m going to remember it all much less do it all!”

And he always, so patiently and helpfully asks, “Have you made a list?”

Um. Well, no. I suppose that might help. Maybe.

This disorganization has found its way into my writing and submitting life as well. I like to think this is a sign of creative genius, but there are definitely down-sides. With my most recent middle grade novel, I spent a year writing my first draft without any sort of real direction. I just sat down to write and went where it took me. That led to some wonderful surprises in my writing, as I took my main character to places unplanned and unimagined at the time I started. BUT. After the initial draft was done, it took me three years to really get the manuscript to the place it needed to be in order to be a marketable novel. Three years. Three years to take all of those pieces, rearrange them, fill them in, and structure them into a story.

Now it’s totally possible that this is just my creative process, and it will never change, and I will always need 4 years to complete a novel. But I can’t help hearing my husband’s voice in the back of my head asking me if I’ve made a list. And I can’t help wondering if maybe, just maybe, I should try it.

So this time, as I am preparing to write my second middle grade novel, I’ve decided to do something different. Something so foreign to my writing process. Something I’ve never done before. I’m going to make a list. And it’s scary because I can’t help thinking, what if this totally stifles my creativity? What about the unplanned and unimagined surprises? Who will buy the peanut butter cups and barbecue chips?

SG coverI’m reading a wonderful book called STORY GENIUS by Lisa Cron, and she walks you through making a blueprint for your novel. It has been a fascinating process for me. And I am finding myself making surprising discoveries in the planning. What started out as a light, funny premise I’ve discovered has a more serious underbelly. As I’ve explored my MC’s motivations for the light and funny things, I’ve learned some things about her that I didn’t know when I started. And I’ve been delighted to discover that there are still peanut butter cups and barbecue chips! They are showing up in the planning, and they taste just as good.

Making a blueprint might work. It might add depth to my story, it might make my main character more believable, and it might make plotting easier. Or it might not. That is an unknown right now. But here’s the thing I’ve realized. It doesn’t matter. Because choosing to do this thing that is so outside what I’ve done before is helping me to grow as a writer. Trying something new is going to have one of two consequences…either it’s going to work, and my novel writing is going to get better, or it’s going to fail, but I will have learned something in the process. Either way, I win.

So, my point here is not to tell you that everyone should make a list. But it is to encourage you to try something new. Something outside of what you normally do. It’s possible that you haven’t related to a single word of this blog post, because you are a list-maker. That’s amazing, and I admire you! If you are a list-maker type, try writing without a plan, and see what happens. If you usually only submit to an agent after three months of thorough research, try entering a twitter pitch contest! Whatever type you are, try something else. Bust out of your old routines and see if trying things brings a new level of creativity and inspiration to your writing and submitting life.

So make a list…or don’t…just don’t forget to pass the peanut butter cups.

Posted in Inspiration | 9 Comments

Rejection … the Writer’s Reality

Last year, I started my agent search in earnest. I had dabbled for a couple of years, participating in the occasional Twitter pitch contest and dashing off the odd query. But this time I researched and compiled a list of agents — in Excel, so you know I was serious. I sorted the agents, and sent out queries to my top picks. The great agent search was on!

When the rejections started to roll in, I brainstormed ways to soften the sting. Rejection chocolate? A good wine? Both had their downsides. Now, my family will tell you I’m a competitive person. Maybe it’s the cutthroat way I play the board game Clue or all my smack talk during bowling. If there was an opportunity to win at rejection I was all in.

Thus, Submission Bingo was born. Many of you joined in and played along last year. Every time we got a rejection, we were one step closer to five in a row and winning the game.

I didn’t shout “bingo” in the first round of the game, but I did win by submitting: I got an agent, and the whole thing happened far faster than I imagined. Somebody liked me. Somebody liked my book. Now everyone else would too – right?

Not so fast.

When my agent sent my book out on submission a couple of months later, reality crept back in. The writer’s reality. Rejection. Not everyone loved my book as much as we did.

I asked my agent to share feedback from editors. Some said nice things. Others offered criticism, most of it far more frank than I’d received during my agent search. Ouch! Everyone had feedback about the book’s structure, its marketability, and my writing. As I read through the emails, I longed for the days of “no response means no.” I was racking up the rejections — again. Was this normal?

I turned to published writers for a reality check. It wouldn’t always be this way, right? I just had to get past this first sale, and THEN rejection would be behind me?

Wrong again.

Rejection, it turns out, is the norm.

Each project is completely different, and one sale does not always guarantee future sales. One book may go to auction, but the next gets multiple passes. One book becomes a bestseller, while the next is rejected by critics. Some books sell in a couple of weeks, others take months, even years. Some never sell at all.

Rejection isn’t something writers “get past.” It is something we learn to live with every time we produce new work and send it out into the world. 99% of the time, our publishing journey will be filled with rejection … from agents, from editors, from critics, and sometimes readers.

This seems like a real bummer, but somehow realizing that ALL writers get rejected at ALL stages of the game made me feel better. Ultimately, I figured out…

The only way to WIN as a writer is to write something YOU love and take each rejection in stride.

It’s a tough lesson, and it’s one I learn again every time I submit something new.

So, whether you are subbing to agents or publishers, submitting your first book or your 10th, we kick off another round of Submission Bingo today. I hope you’ll download the card and play along. (Warning: This time I’m going to take you all down!)

Here’s how the game works.

  1. You may use an agent or editor rejection to satisfy one square only. I know that one rejection email may contain many of the phrases on the card, but no cheating.
  2. All rejections have to come from your current submission round, starting today. No mining your files.
  3. I will send chocolates to the first person to score five in a row (sorry, I can ship to the U.S. only). You can get five in row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Shout Bingo here or in the Sub It Club Submission Support Group.

Hopefully you will be a winner in other ways before you fill up your card. If not, buy yourself some rejection chocolate and query on.

“Submissions Bingo” … when you lose, you win.

Posted in Rejection | 25 Comments

Introducing Kirsten Larson

You may have noted that I put out a call for bloggers a while back. Today I’m happy to introduce our first addition to the Sub It Club team… Kirsten Larson!

Now, you may already know Kirsten from our Sub It Club Submission Support group and her amazingly fun Rejection Bingo that she gifted us all with last year. Kirsten writes picture books, especially nonfiction. She’s the author of 26 nonfiction books for the school and library market, some yet to be published! She also writes nonfiction for children’s magazines from time to time. Today Kirsten is here to do a little q & a so we can all get to know her:

Kirsten Larson

Kirsten Larson

Tell us a little bit about your writing journey so far.

In 2016 I started my agent search in earnest and joined Sub It Club for support. My agent recently sold my first picture book biography (sorry, can’t share details yet).  I’ve also submitted magazine articles and queries to children’s magazines (Boys’ Life, Boys Quest, ASK, Odyssey, etc.). Finally, I’ve submitted packages for work for hire gigs, so my experience with querying is pretty diverse.

What have you learned from your submission experience?

I’ve learned rejection is part of the process, and it only takes one yes. As long as I am working on something new that might lead to a “yes,” I can deal with the “nos.” Each rejection has been a learning process and ultimately has led to better work. Before my picture book sold, the editor asked me to revise and resubmit — over the holidays, no less. However, saying yes to the R&R not only bettered that manuscript (and led to a sale), but also gave me insights on another manuscript. We have to stay flexible.

Any thoughts on how the publishing industry works?

My view is that it is a sloooooooowwww – moving industry, and we need to be patient. However, we shouldn’t sit idly by while we wait for that “yes” or “no.” We always need to be producing new work and sending it out when it’s ready. I also strongly believe that the writing community is a close-knit and supportive one. Writing is a tough road, and we need to stick together. That’s why I love Sub It Club.

What type of blog posts can we expect from you?

I am delighted to join the talented Sub It Club blog team, and hopefully I can bring a new perspective on querying and submissions. I plan to explore new avenues for submissions, like magazine work, nonfiction, and work for hire. I will talk about the submission process after you’ve found an agent, revise and resubmit requests, and more. I’m also always happy to cover topics that most benefit everyone, so if you have suggestions, please feel free to share them below.

I am excited to have Kirsten joining us! I’m so looking forward to her posts on the school, library, and magazine markets. I know she’s going to have all sorts of insightful information for us. And guess what? She’s kicking things off with a brand new round of Rejection Bingo tomorrow! Woohoo!

Watch for Kirsten’s posts, and until then, you can learn more about Kirsten at her blog: kirsten-w-larson.com. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KirstenWLarson.

Posted in About the Club | Tagged , | 18 Comments

How to Write a Query Letter – A Basic Breakdown

Whether you’re drafting your first ever query letter or have written a whole bunch of them, the truth remains the same: query letters can be tough. Each manuscript is different. Heck, each query letter is a little different! Even when you’re querying the same manuscript to multiple people you still need to take the time to change your greeting and personalization for each submission. We get a lot of questions via our various Sub It Club outlets about query letter writing. Many people just want to know where to start. It’s time for a query letter breakdown!

A query letter should contain three important parts: the hook, the book, and the cook. Maybe you’ve heard that one before. I don’t know where it originated but it’s a catchy way to remember the main things you need to cover in your query. Here’s the breakdown:

Opening: Dear (Agent or Editor Name):

1st Paragraph: The Hook Pitch your story in one to five sharp sentences. Show the reader what makes your book unique. Make them want to read more! Think character and conflict. (Check out agent John M. Cusick’s post, A Pretty Much Foolproof, Never-Fail, Silver Bullet Query Opening, for a superbly helpful formula.)

2nd Paragraph: The Book Give your TITLE, genre, and word count. You can add in a bit more information about your manuscript in this paragraph too, but keep it tight. Remember, you want to lead the person reading your query to want to get to your manuscript and read it. You do not want to spend so much time telling them about your story that they might decide they’ve heard enough. There’s a fine line!

3rd Paragraph: The Cook – Here’s where you get to give a little bit of information about yourself in a bio paragraph. Keep it writing relevant. Publications can go here, of course. If you belong to a writing organization, that can go in your bio. For ideas on possibilities for your bio paragraph, along with some thoughts on what you should not put into it, see Submissions 101 – Query Letter Bio.

4th Paragraph: Sign off – This last paragraph can be a good place to mention your comparable books or why you have chosen to query the person receiving the letter. Be sure to tell them what you are sending so they are clear. (For example: You will find the first five pages pasted below. If it is a query letter only with no pages simply ask if they would be interested in reading the manuscript with an offer to send it at their request.)

Closing: Sincerely, or whatever business-like end to your letter that you prefer.

Viola! That is a very basic query letter format. There are certainly variations on the ways you can order the information. If you have a really good reason for submitting to someone such as a conference opportunity, a request, or a reason they may connect with your story, it might be good to put that in the first paragraph. Some people like to start with their TITLE and book information. Is that showing your manuscript’s uniqueness? That’s for you to decide. The more queries you write the more you’ll see that the shifting of information happens as you work to find the best way to showcase your manuscript to the specific person you are querying.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure that your pitch does not make promises that your manuscript doesn’t deliver.
  • A query letter is a sales letter but don’t be over-the-top salesy. Show the reader what you’ve got and let them decide on its merits.
  • Keep your query letter to under one page. Shorter is preferred. Think about keeping your query letter email short enough so the reader won’t have to scroll, not including pasted pages, of course.
  • Proofread your query. Reading it aloud can really help you catch confusing wording, typos, etc.
  • Don’t sweat it. Writing your query letter may take longer than you think it should and that’s okay. Query letters can be tough but that’s how writing can be. You’ve got this, and Sub It Club is here to help. Members of our private Sub It Club Submission Support Group are welcome to post their queries in the group for feedback anytime. It’s also a pretty good place for commiseration!

Feeling like you want to read more about queries? You can find more breakdowns in our Submissions 101 series of posts. If you want to see some successful query letters, take a look at our Query Letters that Worked.

Here’s a little tune incase you need some query letter writing music:

Posted in Query Letters, Submissions 101 | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

April 2017 Contest Roundup

SIC Contest Roundup

Contests! I’ve added quite a few new ones to the list this month. As always, you’ll find them in date order. Members of our Sub It Club Submission Support Group are welcome to post their pitches and queries in the group for feedback anytime so be sure to join if you aren’t already there.

Best of luck on your entries!

March:

3/31: SCBWI Work In Progress Grants – Open to SCBWI Members. PB, CB, MG, YA fiction or nonfiction. Selected works will be presented to a hand-selected group of acquiring editors.

3/31: Don Freeman Illustrator Grant – Open to SCBWI Members. Submit you Picture Book dummy or portfolio for a chance to win a $1000 grant.

3/31: Karen & Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award – Open to unpublished SCBWI Members over age 50. Submit your work in progress for a chance to win $500 and free tuition to any SCBWI conference.

April:

4/1: 1st Five Pages Workshop – Open to MG and YA. Receive mentoring and feedback over the course of a 3 week workshop. Read the Workshop Rules for entry details. Participants will receive agent feedback. One chosen entry from will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from agent Justin Wells of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

4/1: Scholastic Graphix ContestOpen to Graphic Novels for kids. U.S. Residents only. Up to 5 winners will receive an offer to publish their work with Scholastic and a $15,000 advance.

4/1: Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest – Open to humorous poetry not to exceed 250 lines in length. One entry per person. First prize of $1,000, second prize $250, plus 10 Honorable Mentions receive $100 each and the top 12 entries will be published online. Entry via Submittable.

4/5: #TKA20 – Open to Adult, YA, MG. Pitch Knight Agency agents Deidre Knight, Pamela Harty, Elaine Spencer, Melissa Jeglinski, Travis Pennington, Nephele Tempest, Kristy Hunter, and Janna Bonikowski via Twitter using the #TKA20 hashtag between 9am & 5pm EST. See the #TKA20 post for specific info.

4/5: #KidPitOpen to Board Books, Picture Books, Easy Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction. Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #KidPit hashtag between 9am and 3pm CST.

4/5: #AdPit Open to Adult and New Adult Fiction and Nonfiction. Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #AdPit hashtag between 9am and 3pm CST.

4/7: #P2P17 – Entrants submit a query and 5 pages of their draft manuscript to freelance editors. Each editor will select an author to work with for 5 weeks of intensive manuscript development to prepare for an agent round. According to the #P2P17 Twitter feed this even has been postponed.

4/9: #RevPitThe contest did not specify genres. Read the participating editor biosWriters are paired with freelance editors to revise their query and first five pages for an agent round. No participating agents are listed at this time.

4/10: An Agent’s InboxOpen to YA & Adult Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller, and Horror. Enter your query and the first 1,250 words of your completed and polished manuscript.

4/15: Common Good Books Poetry ContestOpen to poetry based on the theme “Poems of Experience”. U.S. Residents only. Ten poets will receive prizes of $250 each. Entry via U.S. Postal service.

4/23: Inked Voices – Open to a writer of Literary or Upmarket Fiction of a diverse background novel related to their experience. Enter via form. Winner to receive entry to the Inked Voices workshop (which includes feedback on the first 15 pages of your novel) with agent Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates.

4/25: #DVPitOpen to Children’s and Teen Fiction and Nonfiction pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #DVPit hashtag between 8am and 8pm EST.

4/26: #DVPitOpen to Adult Fiction and Nonfiction pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. Pitch your completed manuscript via Twitter using the #DVPit hashtag between 8am and 8pm EST.

Upcoming:

5/?: QueryKombat – “a bracket style competition where 64 query letters and first pages are matched against each other until only one is left. There are six rounds of competition that last the entire month of June and our expert judges leave notes and determine the winners. Agents request from the entries between the 1st and 2nd round, but there’s a catch. No agent requests are revealed until an entry is knocked out of the competition. Entries are known by their fun nicknames. Surviving entries are allowed to revise twice over the six rounds.”

6/8: #Pitmad Open to all genres. Pitch your manuscript via Twitter using the #Pitmad hashtag between 8am & 8pm EDT. Only pitch 3 times per project.

6/22: #PBPitchOpen to picture books. Pitch your manuscript via Twitter using the #PBPitch hashtag between 8am and 8pm EST.

6/28: #FaithPitchOpen to “completed Fiction that falls under the categories of inspirational, faith-based, biblical worldview, or Christian.” Picture book through Adult categories. Pitch your manuscript via Twitter using the #FaithPitch hashtag between 8am and 8pm CST. See the contest page for a list of age category and genre hashtags.

8/15: Pockets Fiction ContestOpen to stories for children of 750-1000 words. Winner to receive $500 and publication in Pockets Magazine.

Know of any great contests I missed? Please link us up in the comments!

Posted in Contests | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Postcard Post: Kelly Murphy

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Sub It Club and The Postcard Post! And who better to help us celebrate than author/illustrator Kelly Murphy?! I first saw Kelly’s illustrations when a friend recommended I check out her work in the middle-grade series NATHANIEL FLUDD, BEASTOLOGIST. She thought I’d like it and she was right– I loved it. So, YOU be sure to check out all these gorgeous postcards and the links at the end to see more of Kelly’s work because I think you’ll love it.

Born and raised in southeastern Massachusetts, Kelly Murphy is an accomplished children’s book author and illustrator working predominantly with traditional and mixed media. Kelly has earned an E.B. White Read Aloud Award for illustrating the New York Times Best Seller Masterpiece, and has enjoyed working with stellar authors such as Richard Peck, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Robert San Souci, and R.L. LaFevers. On the side of these numerous and versatile creative achievements, Kelly has engaged in a lasting involvement with art education and is currently a member of the illustration faculty at her alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design.

kmurphy_unicorns_front

How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?

I’ve always been a bit self-indulgent with postcards and perhaps that method is not strategic for receiving new work. I like choosing images that I personal enjoy rather than images that are so specifically targeted for certain markets. Images with a lot of mood and maybe a touch of mystery are my favorite. I love to have my viewer ask, “What’s going to happen next?”

Do you prefer text on the front of the postcard with the image or do you prefer all text on the back of the postcard?

I typically have my website on the front of the card. If art directors/editors want to pin up my card (*I hope they do*),* they can easily track me down without having to remove it from the wall. Additional contact info and recent clients are usually on the back.
*I bet they do! 🙂

postcard-4inx6in-h-front

Seasonal postcard with a great character and narrative.

Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?

Except for bookmarks that may announce a book release, I typically always make new artwork for postcards. It’s such a pleasurable challenge to make a new illustration that hopefully displays all of my best qualities.

Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
More often than not, I stick to a stand alone image. I love the idea of a picture that creates its own world, full of characters and questions. However, I do have a New Year’s card series that I’ve been doing for the last nine years. They have a certain theme of wishing “cheers” in a different language together with a festive drink recipe. The first winter I was pressed for time and decided that I would make a quicker black and white image to send. Afterwards I was so excited because I was being considered for more middle grade and chapter book illustration. That black and white card was a real game changer, and it was born from time constraint!*
*Ha! You never know, do you?

kmurphy_NewYears_2006_2016fronts

New Years cards from 2006 to 2016. Proof positive of yearly mailings!

How often do you send out postcards?

When I first started some years ago, it was every four months. I’d send out roughly three hundred cards each mailing.* I tried to keep it up for the first eight years or so. Now, I do one a year. Before 9-11, I saw a trend of illustrators fabricating gorgeous print packets. Afterwards, the Anthrax scare of 2001 and worried mail rooms made the postcard the best option again to promote one’s work.** I really would love to send more each year.
*Wooow!
**Ah. I never thought of that but it makes sense.

NY 3 cards

A closer look at a New Years card (front, inside, back). Self-promo with a recipe for seasonal cheer. Win-win!

Who do you target with your mailings?

Publishing seems to be the market that really responds to postcard mailings. There’s something about its pace and the way they archive samples of artist’s work. I really only send postcards to publishers. In addition to art directors and editors, I make sure to send it to assistant editors and designers.* Often times, they are the ones bringing new work into meetings and one day they will be in the decision position. Various forms of social media are more conducive for high paced editorial work. I mentioned self indulgence of my imagery earlier, and I fear this is where it fails me. Sometimes, my imagery may be just a bit too mature for the publishers of early picture books, therefore making my postcards unsuitable. I hope that even if it is a tad mature, the editor/art director may see something valuable in the communication of idea and mood.**
*Great idea!
**I hope so too and I think many probably do.

kmurphy_Ronan_front

Another fierce character that makes me want to know more.

How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?

Aye yae yae. My mailing list is a hot mess! It’s the kind of organization only I can understand. I know there must be an easier, alphabetical way.* I have all of my addresses in Microsoft Word, in label format, which  makes it terrible to find anything quick. Address changes are entered at the bottom of the form, and if I am really feeling spunky, I’ll try and update the main entry. I used to hand write all of my cards, which took forever, but I still think it’s the best way. Anyone have 5 more hours to add to each day, because I need it! I can confidently say that I have no tips to give for this question! In regards to acquiring names for a mailing list, I love to troll Society of Illustrator’s Original Art Show catalogs.** They list all of the winning books’ info, including publisher, art director, and editor.
*Ha! You aren’t the only one!
**That is a very clever idea. Illustrators, take note: great tip!

kmurphy_Matilda_front

Book promo postcard (front)

kmurphy_Matilda_back

Book promo postcard (back) with excellent use of typography and graphic elements from the book.

Do you have any tips on the production process?
I’ve always loved type and design, never feeling threatened by its different creative calling. The easiest way to talk about type is to envision it having a voice. A chunky, dark, blocky text has a deep monotone voice. Script has an often soothing melodic voice. Then I ask myself what voice works with the pretend narrator of my image. Do they have to get along or can they actually be jarringly different that it creates a conceptual conflict? I try to see the unison of type and image as a healthy marriage, offering respect and support for each other,  while allowing each to shine in their own individual way. Legibility is the goal that binds them together. The other important factor of postcard design is the “show stopper” effect. Perhaps it has a bold, bright design that catches the eye across the room. Or, maybe it’s such a subtle image that forces the viewer to bring the card even closer to the eye. It needs to be an image that makes the viewer stop and think for a moment in their busy day.*
*I’m restraining myself from filling this response with asterisks! I need a really giant one. So much sage advice.

Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?

Got Print is my all-time favorite. Moo’s got a slick style, but ultimately Got Print has so many options at such a fantastic price.

A big thanks to Kelly for sharing her work and knowledge!

Be sure to check out Kelly and her work all over the internet:

Website: http://www.kelmurphy.com
Twitter: @yllekyhprum
Instagram:
yllekyhprum
Blog: http://didyoudrinkmybeer.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kelmurphy

And I enjoyed this Picturebooking podcast interview with Kelly too: http://picturebooking.com/015-kelly-murphy-finding-your-artistic-voice/

If you’re joining us for the first time at The Postcard Post, you can catch up with a general article on postcard mailings for illustrators and previous featured illustrators in the archive (there’s a tab above too). And you can see recent posts by clicking on The Postcard Post under CATEGORIES on the right sidebar of this blog.
See you next month.

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Posted in Illustration, Postcards, The Postcard Post | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Look Into Publishers Before Submitting

There are lots of publishers out there. Of course, you’ve heard of the big ones, but smaller publishers abound. There are good ones and questionable ones. It’s especially easy these days to put yourself out there as a publisher and start accepting submissions. That means it falls on you, the person submitting your work, to make a decision about whether or not a publisher is someone you want to work with. Doing a quick check BEFORE you submit can save you time, trouble, and possible heartache.

The company website is the place to go for a quick rundown. Let’s face it, researching publishers can take a long time. But taking a few minutes to go through a publisher’s website can tell you a lot. Here’s how I do a quick assessment of a publisher along with some questions to ask yourself:

  • LOOK AT THE SITE ITSELF –

Is the site put together well, and in a logical and pleasing manner? A good website design quickly shows a publisher takes pride in their work and understands the importance of putting your best face forward.

Is the site well-written? Are there typos and grammatical errors? If so, are you okay with that sort of thing happening in your book?

Is it a free site or is it hosted? A company that serious about what they are doing is going to have a their own .com. Are you okay with a company that does not want to put out the money on what seems to be a simple business necessity these days?

  • LOOK AT THEIR BOOKS –

Judge the books by their covers. Are they professional looking? Would you be happy to have a cover that looks like the ones you see?

Are the book descriptions well written and enticing? Would you be happy with the sort of sales writing you see on your books?

What if the publisher hasn’t released any books yet? This means the company is new to editing, printing, marketing, etc. Are you prepared to be a test run?

Do they publish in hardcover, paperback, e-book, print on demand, or a combination. Are the formats you are hoping to have your book published in included?

Lots of times that quick search is all it takes for me to make a no decision. I don’t waste too much time on a publisher if I’m not impressed with what I see. But If I am okay with the previous elements, I dig deeper.

  • READ THE ABOUT PAGE –

Who are the people running the company? Who are the editors? What is their experience? Click on links if they offer them. If there is not enough information on the page, do an internet search on their names and see what comes up. Sometimes you find that the books being published by the company are written by the people running the company. That’s when it starts to feel like a self-publishing front. Do you want your book to be associated with this?

Or does the company not even talk about the people who run the company? Why not? Do an internet search on the company and check out their social media. Add “editor” or “publisher” to the search and see if you can find any additional information.

  • READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES –

From what the guidelines say, does it look like the company understands the genres they are working in? If not, do you want to work with someone who may not know your genre well?

Do they have any mention of the author paying the publisher, whether it is a vanity imprint or a hybrid model? How do you feel about that?

If you’ve looked over all of these elements, are okay with what you see, and feel the publisher might be a good match for your work, it’s a good idea to see what other information you can find about them via online search. Writers do talk about publishers in various forums and on websites. Take a physical look at the publisher’s books as well, if you can.

While you cannot know what a company’s contract will be like, you can do your best to make a decision as to whether or not a company may be one you would be interested in entertaining a contract with. If you don’t like what you see, it is much easier to pass up a publisher when you don’t have an offer in hand. (Those offers can muddle a writer’s decision making!) If you do submit and get an offer be prepared to study up on contracts, ask lots of questions, and negotiate. 

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