Friday, March 20, 2015

Where Will You Send Your Manuscript?

You have now finished your manuscript and it is time to get that project in front of those editors and
agents. But as you clear off your desk to start that project, you are overcome by a sense of panic. There are simply too many names out there. Arrrgggghhhh!

It is true. There are a lot agencies out there with an even larger group of agents in each of those businesses. Add in the even larger list of publishers and agents. Then you factor in the lines within each of the publishing houses and this becomes a huge nightmare (or so it seems).

In reality, your project is not going to go out to every one of those individuals. Yes, you will likely do multiple submissions, but it is not going to be a huge list. I am a firm believer that your project may be suitable for 10 and at the most 20 potential locations. Please note, that is an approximate number. In some cases, the number may be smaller depending on the genre your write.

Deciding where to send your project is a matter of narrowing down your search. You want to find the right match for your project. This goes further than simply the agent or editor acquires the genre. Now it is a matter of matching the voice and the style.

Hopefully, you started this process before you started writing. In other words, you have been researching a particular publisher and the line for some time. You know the voice and the style inside and out. When you wrote your story, you were essentially channeling that company through your characters words and actions. I have spoken about that idea here on the blog in the past.

But let's assume you didn't. Now what? For today's blog, I am only going to focus on finding a publisher and the right agent.

Start with your huge list. (For me, I have a couple of starter lists with 50-100 publishers. I have already narrowed these down because I know they focus on romance and women's fiction.) From that list, you start sorting. You match word count to your story. You match genre with your story. You get rid of those who might need an agent only submission. At this point, your list should be getting smaller.

Now that your list is smaller, it is time to start matching the voice of the story. This is where you have to really "know your stuff". You have to be completely objective here as well. You are looking for the place where your writing could really fit. You are looking for common themes, styles, plots and dialogue and narrative approaches. I joke about this in one of my seminars I teach on this subject. The Rakes you would find at Avon and Harper Collins would never attend a party with the Rakes from St. Martins or Grand Central. They might be in the same time period, but they just would not hang out with each other.

At this point, you will create a two or three level system. Divide the list into groups starting with the Dream list and those that most fit, down to the lower list of pretty good matches. I would not recommend sending all of the projects out at one time. You may get some feedback from that first round that can give you insight into how to reshape the project for round 2 or 3.

As you draft your query letters, it is time to really do some creative writing! Query letters are like cover letters for jobs. Each letter will be unique and highlight different things that publisher really likes in a story. If publisher X likes plot issues, then bring those to the top of the letter. If publisher Y likes character driven stories, then back off on the plot and stress the characters.

The key here is to think. This doesn't mean you will get a contract. What this does mean is you may be able to reduce the number of rejection letters you get simply because you sent projects to people it would have never worked with in the first place.

For me, it is now time to start putting proposals together for one of my clients.

Have a great weekend!

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