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How to Pick a Publisher
One of the most baffling, and disappointing aspects of novel writing is the rejection letter. Many new writers are frustrated after receiving 5, 10, and even 20 rejection letters.
Writers are told not to be disheartened, or quit submitting their manuscript to publishers.There is a better way to become published, but it is difficult, so few writing instructors tell writers abut the art of selecting a publisher.
Both editors of my Are You Ready to Submit series asked the same question, Why do you spend so much time explaining the publishing industry? The answer is simple, so writers know how to win a publishing contract before they start writing their book.
There are more than 5000 publishers. The annual book sales in the US average about 26 million a year. Thousands of books sell each year.Thousands of books sell well.
This is because publishers find a niche they can service, and give bookstores a stable product they can market.In the publisher’s eye, a book is nothing more than a commodity to sell, like a house, a jewel, or a chair.
Each publisher looks for something different. Even if they are not formula novels, there are similarities in the books published by different publishers.
Write For Publication
When teaching the online course, ‘How to Write and Edit a Novel,’ I ask students to look into publishers before finishing their novels. Many writers have a list of five favourite publishers they want to handle their books.
I then tell writers to ask themselves why they want that publisher to handle their manuscript.There are several good reasons. The writer may like the stories, the characters, the interesting plots, how easy the story is to read, the level of escapism, etc.
There are a few bad reasons.The publisher pays advances, they appear lenient on their guidelines, or the genre is reputed as being ‘easy.’
Then, I tell the writers to write for publication. Do not write away, without aim or form, and then hope some publisher wants the novel.
The Marketable Novel
One reason why writers should pick a publisher before finishing their novel is so they can write a marketable novel.
There are two types of novels. The artistic novel is one born in the writer’s creativity with little thought of the reader’s desires or publishers needs. These receive the most rejection letters. Writers must randomly submit, hoping one publisher is looking for their particular novel.
The second is a marketable novel. It is similar, and hopefully better, than what their favourite publisher is currently selling.Face it, publishers are in business to make money. Hand them a book they can sell, and they ‘will’ accept it, even if it needs work.
Genre is vital to writing a marketable novel.There may be 1000 romance publishers, but they do not all publish every sub genre.There are dozens of subgenres for the romance genre. Each of these are divided by types of character development, intensity of conflicts, and plots.
Submitting to a publisher, on the single merit that they handle romance novels, or fantasy, or erotic, is an exercise in futility that will result in dozens of rejection letters.
Writers who do not research publishers, looking for the one house where they belong, are forced to play ‘submission roulette’. This is a game where the writer submits, to publishers just because they publish romance, or thrillers.
I honestly believe that there is a publishing house for every manuscript. Knowing which publishers handle the type of story, character, conflicts, and plots that you are writing, or changing your novel to fit their needs, will reduce the number of rejection letters a writer will receive.
Suzanne James is a writer and publisher. She runs Inspired Author, a free resource for writers, and WritersOnlineCourses.com.