Sometimes I think editors get a bad rap. We're accused of being thoughtless, cruel, and insensitive people who enjoy making up ways to toy with the hearts and souls of aspiring writers. Not so! All of us (really!) at Islandport are or have been aspiring writers, who have anxiously sent out query letters and proposals. So I want to take a moment to share our Top Ten Tips to writers who send queries and proposals our way, to make the process clear. I'm focusing here on the process of submitting, not the actual writing of a book (I'll save that for another post).
#1: This seems so obvious to us, so I'm not sure why people overlook, ignore, or avoid this, but this is the first step: Read our submission guidelines! Here's a link to the SUBMISSION GUIDELINES on our website. These are linked from every single page on our website. If it says no poetry, then why do we keep getting poetry? If it says to send submissions for children's books by post, and not by email, why do I keep getting them by email? If it says we are focused on New England, why do we get Hungarian self-help books?
#2: Remember the basics. Write a nice cover letter. Include the date on your letter. Make sure your e-mail address is on your letter. Make sure your mailing address is on your letter. Make sure you include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with adequate postage if you want us to return your manuscript.
#3: The Internet is your friend. There are vast - vast! - amounts of information available online about how to submit a manuscript. Use this information. A small amount of legwork will go a long way.
#4: Never send your only copy! This applies triple if you are sending artwork. Yes, I do feel horrible because I recycled a 400+ page manuscript, only to find out later that the author (who did not send a SASE) had sent her only copy (and apparently lost the disk it was stored on). But I refuse to feel 100% responsible. Is that wrong of me?
#5: Do your research. Here's what we mean by competitive title research. What other books are exactly like yours, and might - or might not - compete against yours in a bookstore? For instance, if you have written a book about walking trails in Maine, how many other books like that are there? Are they new, or out of print? How are they the same, or how are they different, from yours? How will your book compete in this very, very crowded market?
#6: Make it your best! Don't send a rough draft or work in progress. Don't say, for instance, "I don't care about grammar and syntax; I'm only concerned with content." We want you to care about grammar and content. Don't say, for instance, "Can you tell me how to turn my idea into a book?" For that, you should be turning to writing groups, courses, workshops, and so on. We should be the last stop on that journey.
#7: Proofread (both your manuscript and your proposal). If you are submitting to several publishers, that's fine, but let us know as a courtesy. And please don't address your letter to Islandport and use the name of another editor/person/publisher. It doesn't really impress me if your letter says, for instance, "I believe my book would be a great fit for Salt Pond Press."
#8. We are not a vanity press. If you have a finished product and you want to pay someone to print and distribute it, that's not us. There are lots of other places to turn. See Tip #3.
#9: Please don't call or visit the office! Just because we're a small publisher doesn't mean we have unlimited amounts of time to answer questions you can find answers to somewhere else; it's actually the opposite!
#10: Be patient. Three to six months might seem like a ridiculously long time to wait, but we get lots of submissions, we read them all, we reply to them all. Many of us work part-time. All of us do many different things beside read manuscripts. If three months passes and you haven't heard back, please see Tip #9.
Hope this helps. Now I've got to get back to reading manuscripts!