5 Things You Can’t Control
1. Publishing is a business.
Writing is a personal expression. Book buying is an emotional choice. But publishing is a business. And publishers are in the business of making money. If they don’t think your manuscript will make them money, it will be a much harder sell.
2. The number of manuscripts submitted in a given year.
A publishing house can publish only so many manuscripts a year and still make a profit. That number may vary from year to year depending on how the previous year went.
3. The number of available slots a publisher has for new writers.
New writers are the lifeblood of a thriving publishing house. We need new stories and new perspectives and new ideas. But we also need to make money, and established authors are less of a financial risk than a new author is. The number of available slots for a new author may be small, but those slots are out there.
4. Other submitted manuscripts that are similar to yours.
Trends are tricky to predict and even trickier to manage. What happens when a publisher receives multiple manuscripts that are similar in style or audience—they pick the best one and send the others back. That may not mean that those rejected manuscripts are bad; they just weren’t the best one of the bunch for that particular publisher. Don’t write for a trend; write the best book you possibly can. That is what will catch a publisher’s eye.
5. An editor’s or agent’s mood.
Even the best editors have bad days and, as harsh as it sounds, sometimes when you are having a bad day, you make bad decisions. And sometimes you say no to a manuscript you might have said yes to on another day.
5 Things You Can Control
1. Do your homework.
Research your genre. What else is being published? How much? Which books are like yours in style or audience? What are people buying? Answering these “big picture” kinds of questions will help you make sure you submit your work to the right agent or the right publisher at the right time.
2. Follow posted submission guidelines.
Guidelines are there for a reason. Read them. Love them. Follow them. Guidelines can vary from publisher to publisher, from agent to agent, so make sure you personalize your submission as appropriate. It will only take you a minute or two, but that could be the difference between making a good first impression and not making an impression at all.
3. Write a killer cover letter.
The cover letter is one of the first things an agent or an editor will see of your work. Make sure you have a good hook, that you clearly explain what your story is about, and that you highlight how awesome you are. We want to like your book—and a good cover letter often gives us permission to do so.
4. Showcase your talent.
Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect before you submit it, but it does have to be the best you can possibly make it. Write, rewrite, review, rewrite it again. Do whatever you have to in order to make sure you are showcasing your strengths of your story.
5. Deal with a rejection letter.
Rejection happens. A lot. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your career. If Publisher A says no, that doesn’t mean Publisher B will too. If Agent A passes on your idea, scout around until you find an agent who will say yes. Persistence pays off; I promise.
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Lisa Mangum is an editor at Shadow Mountain, and the author of the award-winning Hourglass Door trilogy and After Hello. Besides books, Lisa loves movies, sunsets, spending time with her family, trips to Disneyland, and vanilla ice cream topped with fresh raspberries. She lives in Taylorsville with her husband, Tracy.