Katie, right on with your comment! Are you sure you’ve never looked for a publisher? I’m really just about to explain your advice in detail…
I’ve read all the recommendations for choosing a publisher to submit to: read books in your genre and write down publishers of books you like, check Writer’s Market, subscribe to Publishers Weekly, ask published friends (as if everyone has them), join SCBWI and read their Market Guide, etc. All those things are great. I’ve done them. But, I still end up with a list of about 20 publishers that could work. So, how do I know which to submit to first? I have to find the best fit.
This is how I do that:
- This is the hardest, easiest, and perhaps most important step. I make sure my manuscript is as polished as I can make it! When I think I’m there, I proceed to step 2.
- I check the publisher’s website to make sure my manuscript is something the company publishes. If I have a 250 word picture book and they only publish easy readers over 500 words, it isn’t a match. If the publisher accepts picture books with a word count under 300, but doesn’t read unsolicited manuscripts, sending it there will probably just tick them off. Once I know they’ll (potentially) read what I have to offer, I continue to step 3.
- I read the publisher in question’s book list and compare it to my work. I make sure what I have is similar to, but not the same as, what they’ve recently published. For example, if I have a book about squirrels going nutty and the publisher has nothing with anthropomorphic characters, it probably isn’t a good fit. If the publisher just published a story about squirrels, it probably isn’t a good fit either. But, if the publisher has stories with animal characters but none with squirrels, they could work. In that case, see step 4.
- From that same book list, and sometimes from a trip to the book store, I write down titles that are complimentary to my story and why. In a previous cover letter, I wrote that my book would fit well with an already published book on a certain publisher’s list because it uses humor in a similar way. This shows that I’ve done my research and attempts to show the publisher that the book would fit well on their book list. With titles and reasons in hand, I can begin step 5.
- I write a cover letter for that specific publisher. No, I don’t have a form letter that I change the address on and send to another publisher each time I get a rejection. Each publishing company is different, and I think it will give my book the best chance at publication if I treat them that way.
These five steps may seem like a lot of work, but if it gets my book published, it is worth it. And since I never know which publisher will think I’m a good fit, it is worth it every time.