Giving Birth to Your Book, Part 2: All Cleaned Up, Now Where Do We Go?

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If you’ve gone through the steps mentioned in the previous blog entry, Giving Birth to Your Book, Part 1, you’ve already written, proofread, received feedback from readers and other writers, and rewritten several times, and you’re happy with the finished product. Now what do you do with your baby?

1.  Be sure it’s ready. I know, I know. I’ve already said this, but it can’t be said often enough. Don’t even think about submitting your work until it’s as good as you can possibly make it. Be sure you’ve followed the steps listed in Part I before you proceed to step #2 below. Remember, your project will rarely get more than one shot at a publishing house.

2.  Study the Writer’s Market and The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. In the world of writing and submitting for publication, these books or online products can be your best friend. Each book lists contact information, submission guidelines, editorial needs, and payment information for the publishers of books, magazines, greeting cards, plays, and other specialized publishers. Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writer’s Market Guide specializes in Christian publishing information. Both books offer additional resources and tutorial guides, such as information on agents, conferences, websites, and writing instruction. But the primary focus of each resource is to help you find the best fit for your book. This will take time, but you must research these books! Don’t make the same mistake I did. I didn’t think I had time to study the market–and consequently I dashed to publication in a mere 7 years! Study the market and you could save yourself lots of time and money.

3.  Research internet writer’s guidelines. In this day of technology, more and more publishers post their guidelines on their website.

4.  Learn the lingo. Both market guides have a glossary of terms listed in the back of the books. You’ll also want to check out Jane Friedman’s Writing & Publishing Terminology 101.

5.  Find a good fit in the market guide. If a publisher of children’s books says they don’t want picture book submissions, don’t waste your time and theirs by thinking your amazing “baby” will be the exception to the rule. It won’t. (Yes, when I initially started sending out my first book, I thought that once the editor saw my beautiful baby, he or she would do anything to publish my book–including throwing out the entire editorial calendar and revamping their marketing strategy to make their guidelines fit my baby–even if the company had never published juvenile mysteries!)

6.  Follow the instructions in the market guides. This is a biggie. If it says not to send out simultaneous submissions, don’t send out simultaneous submissions. If it says to send one chapter, don’t send two. If it says to send the submission by snail mail, don’t email it. (Yes, there still are a few who request snail mail submissions.)

7.  Invest time writing a great query or cover letter, whichever the editor prefers. If you don’t know what a query letter is, see #4. And whatever you do, don’t say, “It starts off a little slow, but if you’ll just stick with it to page 21, it’ll be really exciting.” If that’s the case, perhaps your book starts on page 21. For more information about openings, read my earlier blog entry, Hook ‘Em!

8.  Be professional in your submission. I’ve personally heard editors tell stories of the ridiculous things some writers have done to get the editor’s attention. Believe me, this is not the kind of attention you want! Instead of elevating their chances of publication, the writers were eliminated from consideration by the following unprofessional actions:

  • Writing on the outside of the envelope: “Your next best seller is inside this envelope!”
  • Sending the submission on hot pink or lime green paper or anything other than plain white computer paper. (One editor repeatedly received one writer’s submissions on the backs of recycled paper. And I’m not talking about environmentally-green paper. I’m talking about the backs of previously-used, printed-on-the-other-side paper!)
  • Putting it in the wrong format. If you’re unsure of proper formatting, check out this earlier blog post, Formatting Basics. There are hundreds of websites that cover it as well.
  • Enclosing tickets to athletic events. (One editor admitted that he opened an envelope, found tickets, removed them, and returned the submission to the writer–unread. After all, he reasoned, the writer enclosed the tickets as a gift, and a gift is something given for free.)
  • Saying, “God told me you are to publish this book.” I can promise you, the editor’s response will be, “Well, when God tells me to publish it, I will.” (Now, before you get bent out of shape, yes–God often leads us to write words, but He is responsible for what He does with it, not us. When we insinuate that a publisher will be out of God’s will if he or she doesn’t publish our work, we immediately cut off communication.)

9.  Before submitting, call the publishing house for confirmation. Editors move and change jobs quite frequently. Before you send or mail your submission, call the switchboard (NOT the editor) and ask if Jane Doe is still the editor to send it to. If it isn’t, be sure to ask for the correct spelling and clarify the gender title.

So there you have it–the second half of how to get your book ready and in the hands of editors. I wish I could promise you that by following these suggestions you’ll be sure to see your work in print, but I can’t. But I can tell you that if you follow these steps, you’ll certainly be miles ahead of where I was when I started sending out my first book. That’s why The Christian Writer’s Den is here. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. 🙂

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  • EdieMelson

    V, Susan’s right. Definitely eBook material! Blessings, E

    • Thanks for your confirmation, Edie. Definitely something to consider. 🙂

  • Such great advice, Vonda. This material would make for a great ebook!

    • Hmmm…now that’s something to think about! Thanks!