Submission guidelines can sometimes be vague, especially those at publishing houses it seems. You may find their guidelines to simply say something like: send your manuscript or proposal to email@example.com.
Okay, so at least you know the address where you are supposed to send your submission, but you want to do things the proper way. You know that a little personalization can go a long way and is just good etiquette. The most basic of personalizing is addressing your letter to the correct person i.e. an editor who takes submissions for the type of manuscript you are submitting. But what if there is no information on who specifically to send to in the submission guidelines?
This is the time to use your researching skills!
See if the website has an about us page. Sometimes you can find editors listed. But don’t stop there. If you do find the names of editors you need to dig deeper. See if you can figure out which books they have edited. That means doing an internet search using terms such as their name + editor + name of publishing house + (Here is where you get creative.) Terms such as interview, edited by, twitter, blog, etc. See what you can dig up.
If you cannot find any mention of editors on the publisher website, don’t despair. You can still use internet search to help you figure out who the editors are. Use a search term such as: Name of Publishing House + Editor and see what comes up. Sometimes you can find a lot since so many people have their own social media accounts. Sometimes you can also find random information such as a bio listing from a conference they attended or an author they have worked with. You never know!
Another helpful thing you can do is to have a market book at hand. Many times the listings include names of editors. But beware. You still need to do an internet search and try to make sure the person still works at the publisher they are listed at. The information in Market Books can be old even by the time the book makes it to publication. Things can change quickly in the publishing world. So do your due diligence. That being said, a market book can be a great jumping off point to help your in your research.
Ask in a writer chatroom (or two… or three…), especially genre specific ones. Someone in the chat may have worked with the publishing house and may be willing to give you a tip.
What if, after exhausting all of your resources, you absolutely cannot find one single editor’s name at the publishing house you want to query? Well, it’s my feeling that if you have looked in all the places and have found not a single iota of editor information then they aren’t expecting you to use a name on your letter. Lots of people (most?) probably aren’t because it is so hard to find. Don’t sweat it. If your manuscript is something they love, you not knowing their name isn’t going to be a deal-breaker.
Great ideas! I’ve also heard that some publishing houses don’t actually know which editor will be reading your work. Apparently they like to hold a “reading meeting” where they take all the queries – no matter whom they are addressed to – and each grabs from the pile. If an editor sees something of interest, she (or he) will point it out to others in the room. So sometimes it really doesn’t matter… if you have something worth submitting!
True, at some publishing houses editors read through the slush pile together. Sometimes interns or assistants are first readers. Your query isn’t always going to go straight to the person you’ve addressed it to but that’s okay. You have still shown that you’ve done your research if you do address it to a specific editor. No harm done.
This is hugely helpful. Thanks!
You’re welcome Becky! Glad you found the post helpful.