Five Common Authors’ mistakes
I can guarantee you that I have make all these and then some.
1: Inexperienced authors write a book that is not publisher-friendly.In other words, they write the book to suit their own emotional or altruistic needs without considering its commercial value. Once the book is completed, they try to find a publisher. What’s wrong with this approach? Most manuscripts that are written without concern for the target audience are not marketable, thus would not be profitable. A publisher may reject a manuscript featuring your grandfather’s World War II experiences, but would welcome a book focusing on blacks in the armed forces during that time period. Your book on selling buttons through eBay may not appeal to a publisher, yet the public might be screaming for one featuring the most unique items ever sold online.
If you had written a complete book proposal first, your project would probably be more
appropriately targeted. And if you’d submitted a query letter before writing your book, the publisher could have more appropriately directed you-greatly increasing your chances of becoming a published author.
2: Newbie authors frequently send their manuscripts to the wrong publishers. Much like doctors these days, some publishers specialize. More and more publishers accept either fiction or nonfiction. Some specialize in children’s stories or textbooks while others focus their energies (and their finances) on true crime, poetry, romance, cookbooks, how-to, self-help, or business books. There’s no such thing as one publisher fits all. You wouldn’t send your collection of poetry to DAW Books, but the editors at Red Hen Press might be delighted to receive it. These editors would reject your fantasy or science fiction manuscript on the spot, but those at DAW Books might welcome it. The publisher at ‘The Last Work’ Press doesn’t want to see books in any of these genres, but send them a good children’s or young adult book with a Catholic theme and you might score with them.
3: Eager authors often set their hearts on being accepted by a mega-publisher. In so doing, they miss out on more realistic publishing opportunities. I’m not trying to discourage you from starting at the top. I have no quarrel with you giving the big guys a whirl. But please develop a backup plan. Vow that if Random House and Scholastic turn you down, you will lower your sights to, perhaps, a more realistic level and opt for publication with one of the many smaller publishing houses. Have you heard of YOLO Books? They publish forty to sixty fiction and nonfiction titles per year and offer fifteen to forty percent royalties. Reads produces as many as thirty-five titles each year in many genres and categories and eighty percent of them are from first-time authors.
4: The most common mistake authors make when contacting publishers is to ignore their submission guidelines. In fact, many inexperienced authors don’t even study them. While there are basic standards for contacting publishers, there are also differences in submission requirements between publishing houses. Most publishers want to see a query letter first. If they are interested in your concept and impressed by your credentials, they will generally request your book proposal. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and this is why it’s crucial to locate and study the guidelines for each publisher before approaching him or her. (See details for locating submission guidelines below.)
5: Too many hopeful authors neglect to make a clear, concise, and clean presentation. Some inexperienced authors believe that a publisher can see through a poorly written query letter to the magnificence of his story. Others are so eager to get their works into the hands of a publisher that they simply don’t finish dotting all of their i’s and crossing all of their t’s. I’m here to tell you that your chances of winning a contract with any publisher are extremely slim when you submit an error-riddled, disorganized, rambling query letter, book proposal, or manuscript. In order to be successful in this business, you have to stop looking at your project from an emotional place and start thinking like a professional. Don’t worry; you can adopt a business persona without losing your creative edge. In fact, if you want to be published, it’s necessary to shift from artist to businessperson on demand. Publishers are bombarded with hundreds of query letters and book proposals each month, Scholastic receives thousands of queries each year and publishes only seventy to seventy-five titles. Strider Nolan receives 1,000 to 2,000 queries per year and publishes five to ten titles.The news isn’t all bad, however. Check out some of the smaller publishing companies. Barricade Books receives just 200 queries per year, and they publish twelve titles. Puritan Press receives only twenty-five queries in a year, and they publish five titles. Whether you decide to approach a mega-publishing house or a smaller one, vow to give nothing less than your most polished presentation. Think about it: What is the point of leading with your second or third best shot when there may be 300 other authors soliciting this publisher with equally good ideas and highly polished presentations? A. Dragonblood>