Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shopping for the Right Publisher—by Elizabeth Spann Craig

blog1 For the first time ever, my son asked to go shopping with me on Sunday. This was a real jaw-dropper, since our usual modus operandi has involved my going to the store, buying clothes, and forcing him to try them on later at home. Then I’d return what didn’t fit or what he didn’t like. And this was worth it to me because he was such an unhappy shopper and made the experience miserable for both of us.

But this time he was raring to go. He wanted a new pair of jeans, some new shorts (we’re entering a cold streak, but it’s still pretty warm on normal days), a sweatshirt, and some other things.

That day, he got hungry at 2:00 in the afternoon (two hours after eating a filling lunch of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, yogurt, chips, and a plum). He ate a barbeque sandwich, edamame, and grapes. Two hours later, he ate a huge plate of alfredo pasta.

He’s thin as a rail.

I’m guessing he’s growing.

This influenced where we were going to shop. He wanted cool clothes. I figured he would outgrow them very, very soon. Old Navy was my pick…no Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch on this shopping trip.

When I was shopping for a publisher for Pretty is as Pretty Dies (necessary, because my first book from five years ago was with a small publisher that has—as many small publishers have lately—unfortunately gone under), I had a shopping plan, too. I needed a larger publisher with a more substantial print run. I needed to approach a publisher that wouldn’t require me to have an agent--which, at the time, I didn’t have. I needed someone that was currently open to admissions. I needed a publisher that published humorous cozies. I looked to ensure the publisher published regional mysteries, too. I found Midnight Ink and they were a perfect match for my manuscript.

All the writers I’ve ever spoken to have had similar shopping trips. You increase your chances substantially by not sending your YA book to a romance publisher. Or by not sending your 120,000 word mystery to a cozy publisher (who will be looking in the 75,000 word range.)

Publishers are shopping too, of course. Some of the things they’re looking for: conflict, hooks, riveting beginnings, original characters, and a strong voice.

They’re also looking for basic things like correct spelling, good grammar, active voice, showing-not-telling (some of the time, anyway), and some indication you’ve done your homework (their name is on the query, you’ve spelled their name correctly, you know the type of books the house publishes, your manuscript isn’t extremely long or extremely short, your query doesn’t state that your neighbor/child/cat loved your manuscript, etc.)

If I’d been looking for a suit for my son, we wouldn’t have gone to Old Navy.

If a publisher is looking for non-fiction, they’re not going to come to me. If I’m looking for a cozy mystery publisher, I’m not going to submit to Forge.

But if we do our research and have the merchandise publishers are looking for, both sides will get what they want.

Shopping Tools:

Writer's Market : Online, or in bookstores and libraries (be sure it's this year's edition)
Literary Market Place: Same as above

Online searches--Have a publisher you're interested in? Google the publisher's name + submission guidelines. Then, look at the publisher's website and see what their most recent releases are. Check those books out from the library or look for them in a bookstore and compare them to your own.

Elizabeth Spann Craig
Pretty is as Pretty Dies—Aug. 2009
Memphis BBQ series—May 2010


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Another thing they are looking for - someone with a proven track record. Someone who has already had a moderately successful book. Someone with a speaking platform. Someone who is celebrity enough to attract readers.

Oh, and many publishers also want something else - a marketing plan with the query letter!

And let him eat - my nephew is 6'4" and still thin, but eats like a starving wolf.

Glynis said...

My son left home a chunky,5'4" at age 18. Five months at uni he came home a slim, 6'2" !! He grew so fast he hurt and so did my purse, I had to buy everything new.

Book talk: It is so good to find useful information on a blog. As a newbie to novel writing, I need all the help I can get. Thanks for the info.