When you are developing your manuscript and your book proposal, start developing your wish list, those dream publishers or agents with whom you’d love to sign. As you peruse the shelves or search competitive titles online, pay particular notice to who’s publishing each title. Notice if certain publishers keep coming up again and again, which might indicate that they publish regularly into that category or genre. For instance, if you are researching spiritual books, you might find that Hay House or Thomas Nelson crop up again and again. Write them down; they might be the first publishing houses you add to your wish list.
Now, the fun part. Investigate those publishers! Hop online and look at each publisher individually. Note what books they are promoting on their home page, and then search by genre. See if they offer a mission statement or an explanation of their different imprints. Do you like what you see? Will your book feel at home here? This is an easy exercise that you can do in your pajamas or while watching TV.
If you think the publisher may be a good fit for your book, check out their Submission Guidelines. Virtually all publishers offer them online. Here, you’ll find out if they take unsolicited proposals or if you’ll need to work with an agent. They may also indicate how to send the proposal (e-mail vs. snail mail), how many pages it can be, response time, and other pertinent details.
Some other fun ways to compile your publishing wish list:
- Look through your own bookshelf and make a list of the publishers of your favorite books. Jot down any names that may be on the acknowledgements pages.
- Write down the sections of the bookstore where your book idea could possibly live, aside from the obvious.
- Make a separate wish list of the qualities you’d like in your publisher (lots of hands-on interaction with editor, big book advance, prestige, etc.). Now rank them in order of importance. When looking over your list, take into account these priorities.
In our workshops, we get this question a lot: What’s the difference between a cover letter and a query letter? Here’s the answer.
A cover letter is one page. It is what you attach to your complete book proposal when submitting it to agents or publishers. It is included as a teaser only, introducing the title and concept of your book, who you are, and why you are sending it to this particular agent or editor. (This shows you’ve done your homework and aren’t just blanketing Manhattan with submissions to anyone and everyone.) There is no need to go into extensive detail about your book in the cover letter; your goal is to simply pique enough interest for the reader to flip immediately to your impressive proposal—which you’ve crafted according to our awesome Business of Books plan.
A query letter is more fleshed out, as it stands in place of your proposal. Many agents require a query letter only, and will then request a full proposal if the concept intrigues them. So, in essence, your query is a mini-proposal, sent in advance. Think about distilling each of the key sections of your proposal—including your Intro, Competing Titles, About the Book, About the Author, and Marketing)—into a separate short paragraph. Be sure to close with the fact that you have a full proposal at the ready if (when!) they want to see more. Case in point: One of our former clients sent out three query letters via email to agents, per their guidelines, and two of them responded the next day asking to see more. This clever author had a polished, complete proposal ready to send right away, while the interest was fresh. Soon after, she signed with one of those two agents (and was published within the year).
Both the cover and the query letter should set the tone and voice of the proposal, and also highlight why your idea is strong and why you are the person to write it. Sell it!
For more helpful tips on your proposal, the submission process, and all things publishing, buy our Publishing Toolkit. It’s Jen & Kerry in a binder!
Fresh back from Book Expo America, we’ll be champing at the bit to share everything we learned from editors and agents. We have ways of making them talk…
So, on June 27, we’re kicking off our new online classes with a timely and helpful seminar for anyone at any stage of the publishing process. What Every Publisher Wants You to Know: Selling Your Book in Today’s Marketplace will help you create a proposal that’s built to address publishers’ current needs and requests.
Learn the latest of what publishers and agents are looking for…right this minute! Armed with insider intel gathered at BEA—the world’s largest publishing conference—we’ll reveal what publishers and agents say they clamoring for in the current marketplace. No matter where you are in the process or what kind of book you’re writing, learn to create an attention-grabbing proposal by giving editors and agents exactly what they want. Our 90-minute online seminar will cover:
- The proposal components that are crucial to landing a publishing deal
- Rookie mistakes to avoid during the submission process
- The aspects of an author platform that matter most
- Fine-tuning your proposal to address today’s publishing climate
- The one thing that agents and editors want you to know
June 27, 7-8:30pm PT | Click here to register!