Tag Archives: publishers

The Publisher Checklist

One of my resolutions/goals this year is to submit more. I was fully prepared to submit some of my stories last year and had everything ready to go. I had several polished stories and a checklist of publishers for each. Hesitation and procrastination held me back. I should have been sending more out as soon as I got replies back, but I hummed and hawed over whether the stories were really good enough and whether they needed more work before sending on to the next. I had a good year in 2011, though. My success rate for submissions in terms of short stories/competitions was nearly 50%. I should have submitted more! I also got positive feedback from publishers on some of my children’s stories, which should have encouraged me. So this year I’m resolved to submit more–especially in terms of my children’s stories.

The Publisher Checklist

When submitting, it’s vital to keep track of what is being sent to whom. That’s why I keep a publisher checklist as a spreadsheet in Excel. I want to share that with you, in case anyone else finds it helpful. Of course, it can be applied just as readily to agents if you happen to be submitting to agents.

– Name of publisher (or agency). Those highlighted in red are those who are currently closed to submissions. It’s a good idea to check back every now and then, though, as sometimes they reopen for short periods of time. Those highlighted in yellow are those to whom I have submitted and am waiting to hear back from (I haven’t started submitting this particular story yet). Those highlighted in blue are the ones I have heard back from.

– Contact name. Most publishers request for you to address the submission ‘to the editor’ or something along those lines, but for those who have a specific contact name I add them to the list. This is especially important if you are submitting to agents, as agents would prefer you address them by name rather than ‘dear agent’.

– Contact details. This is where I list their postal address and/or e-mail (depending on how they prefer you to submit). I also list their phone number.

– Query done? A simple yes or no here. As you can see, I’ve only written our a query/cover letter for Scholastic for this story at the time of this post. I usually write a generic query/cover letter for each story that’s ready to submit, then I copy it into a new Word document and tailor it to suit each individual publisher, keeping their individual guidelines in mind.

– E-mail/Post? Some publishers prefer submission by post, others by e-mail. It’s important to note this down as it will determine how you format your query/cover letter. (For example: a postal letter requires contact details at the top of the letter, whereas an e-mail requires them at the bottom.)

– Simultaneous submission? Here I note if a publisher specifically states they are not open to simultaneous submission (they will not accept submissions that have also been subbed elsewhere–it has to be exclusive). I also mark the box red so I don’t accidentally send to them when I’ve subbed to other publishers.

– Reread submission guidelines? Here I paste a link directly to the submission guidelines. I won’t send out my query/cover letter until I’ve marked this box with a green YES.

– Stamped self-addressed envelope? For those who require postal submission, a SSAE is required if you wish to receive a reply and your manuscript back (in the case of a rejection). This gets a tick when done.

– Sent? Once the submission had been sent this box gets a tick (plus the publisher gets highlighted in yellow).

– Date sent. So I can keep track of how long it’s been out on submission.

Expected wait time. This is how long they estimate it will take for you to receive a reply. Once I’ve sent the submission, I make note of what date I should expect to hear back from them.

– Reply received? Once I receive a reply, I note the date and whether it was a rejection or not. For a rejection I highlight this box red. For requested edits it gets highlighted yellow. And if it gets accepted: green.

– I then have subheadings for stages of edits if they have been requested (eg: edits requested, date edits sent).

It’s important to regularly recheck details and update the list. Addresses and contacts can change. Some publishers are only open at certain times or close down submissions if they don’t have room for anything new.

How do you keep track of your submissions? Do you keep some kind of checklist?

 

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Why You Should Double-Check Submission Guidelines

Only a couple of months ago I compiled a list of publishers to query. I made up a spreadsheet with details such as contact details, whether they accept e-mail or postal submissions and a link to their submission guidelines pages.

Today as I was polishing up a query letter to send out to one of the publishers I thought I should double-check their submission guidelines. I’m so glad I did, because some of their guidelines had changed drastically since my last visit. Their biggest change: previously they only accepted postal submissions, now they only accept e-mail submissions (postal submissions are now ignored). Imagine if I had simply gone by the details I had saved only few months ago – I would have been prepared to send my submission by post.

On double-checking another publisher’s guidelines I noted they are no longer accepting unsolicited submissions. If I hadn’t checked, I would have sent my submission and it would have been a waste.

The lesson here is to ALWAYS double-check the submission guidelines before you send, even if you think you know them already. Guidelines change, submissions close or open and editors/agents may leave. Yesterday the guidelines may have said to post your letter with your first three chapters to Paul Newton, but today the guidelines may say to e-mail your letter with a synopsis to Lisa Simpson or submissions are now closed until June.

And if you’re the kind of person to keep a spreadsheet or Word document with publisher details, make sure you update it regularly (and still double-check the publisher/agent’s website before you send).

Preparing to Query

You’ve written your query, got it critiqued, edited it and polished it, now it is ready to get sent out to agents or publishers. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s the scary part. What if I *gasp* get rejected? It’s true, it could happen, and I’m sure when it does I will feel low and consume a truckload of chocolate. But maybe, just maybe, someone out there will love my story as much as I love it so it’s worth the risk right? And, as I keep reminding myself, J.K. Rowling was rejected quite a few times before someone picked up Harry Potter. The question is, who do I send my lovely polished query letter to?

Do Your Research

As tempting as it might be to send your query letter to every agent/publisher in the country, in the end this would be a waste of your time (and money spent on postage if you’re mailing your queries) and a waste of time for the agent/publishers you send to. In many cases your query letter will go straight into the shredder, or your query e-mail will get deleted without a second glance. Why? Because you didn’t do your research. Imagine you have written a picture book and query it to a dozen or so agents/publishers who don’t accept picture books. That’s time and effort wasted. Make sure you read submission guidelines before you submit a query to any agent or publisher to ensure they accept the type of book you are querying.

Make a Wishlist

Since I’ve been researching publishers while polishing my query I’ve created a Word document of all the publishers/agents who accept picture books (I also have another document of the ones who accept YA fantasy in preparation for when I start querying my novel). By keeping this list I don’t have to go back and find them all again when it comes time to query, as I have saved all the information. You can set out the list any way you want, but I tend to set it out like this:

  • Name of Publisher/Agent
  • What types of books they accept
  • Are they open to submissions
  • Contact information
  • Link to website
  • Any other important notes

I set my wishlist out so that the ones I intend to query first are at the top of the list and the ones who aren’t open to submissions now, but may be at a later date I put at the bottom to remind me to check back.

Check If They Are Open to Submissions

Some agents/publishers may be closed to submissions at certain times of year, or may be inundated with queries so close submissions until they catch up, so make sure you check and take note of when they’ll be open again if they mention it. I have a colour coding system (because I love colour coding) – On my list where I note if a publisher/agent is or isn’t open for submissions I highlight green if they are open, red if they aren’t currently open for submissions and yellow if they’re currently closed, but will be open again in the near future. Don’t forget to keep checking back.

Keeping Track of Your Queries

I remember a while back a writer on Twitter mentioned keeping track of who she was querying to ensure she wasn’t sending letters to the same publisher/agent twice, and to keep track of who had replied, whether they requested partials or fulls or asked for edits. There’s a good chance when you query you will be querying multiple agents/publishers at the same time, I know I will (imagine sending one at a time and having to wait up to 6 months for each reply! I know agents are much quicker in replying than publishers, but you may still have to wait to hear back.) And then if you query maybe five at a time, you don’t want to accidentally query someone again after they already rejected that story. I’m setting up a spreadsheet in Excel to help me keep track of my queries. When complete it will include:

  • Name of publisher/agent
  • Date sent
  • Estimated response time (most will state their response time on their website)
  • Reply received
  • Rejection/Partial/Full
  • Partial/Full sent
  • Edits requested
  • Edits sent

Do make sure, particularly with publishers, that they don’t mind you querying others at the same time you are querying them, as some ask that you don’t query others while you have a submission with them. Read their submission guidelines carefully and make a note of it.

Be Prepared for Rejection, But Keep Believing in Yourself and Don’t Stop Writing

Even the best have been rejected, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King both had stories rejected, so don’t give up hope. Remember it’s not just about having a great story, but finding the right publisher/agent at the right time who is right for your story. Even while you are waiting to hear back, keep polishing your craft, start some new projects, and if your current story doesn’t find a home, you’ll have something new and better ready.

(*Note: While in the US it is more usual to query agents, rather than directly to publishers, in Australia there are still many publishing houses who accept unsolicited manuscripts and not many literary agents, hence why I keep referring to both agents and publishers in this post.)