Why I Don’t Do Cold Submissions–Usually

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How to Sell Your Mss to the Right Editor

When you write “The End” on the last page of your story (novel or picture book), it’s time to start marketing the story to editors. For this, you need a business hat.

Let’s think about marketing.
If you sell Jaguars–those beautiful classic cars–what is the best way to sell them?

You could join a local Jaguar Club, populated with enthusiasts who love these cars and while you’re visiting with club members, you learn that five people are looking for a real classic in red–and yours happened to be red! Bingo! You probably have five people interested.

Or, you could open up a phone book, close your eyes and stab at the page. Open your eyes, see what name/address you identified and send the car over to that person’s house. You could let that car sit at their house for three months or six months or twelve months. You know nothing about this person, except their mailing address, yet you think because you’ve got a classic red car that they will buy that car?

Crazy! That’s cold submissions and it’s just plain wrong.

Know What Type Mss an Editor Wants to See

You must know something about the editor and what they want and like. That means research.

Blogs. Many editors these days have blogs where they lay it all out. What they like, don’t like, what passions they have, what they are currently thinking about. Search out blogs for editors whose lists seem interesting on the surface. For example, the Agent Spotlight here is great, with a breakdown of which agents rep YA, MG or PBs.

Google that Editor or Agent. You’ll be amazed at the interviews you can find about or with some editors/agents. On the other hand, sometimes, the editor follows a very strict policy of limiting info on them and their list online. You won’t know until you Google. Here’s a nice list of the Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers editors, with information on what sorts of books they acquire. This is a great STARTING POINT to research these editors more. Don’t forget to research the publishing house, too. Here’s an overview of Philomel/Penguin (see also the other imprints overviews here).

Test:

Which S&S editor does this describe? Post the answer in the comments–first one to answer gets a free BOOK TRAILER MANUAL!
“She is actively looking for middle-grade, especially boy, but anything not too girly, edgy YA, and sports-themed books for any age.”

Conferences. For editors who have a low profile online–and lots of them do–look to conferences as a place to meet them. When an editor presents about their company and their list, you’re more likely to find a connection that makes a difference. If you’re a member of the Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators, you can find a listing of conferences online.

When (Almost) Cold Calling Works

Does cold calling ever work?
Let’s go back to the Jaguar example. If you heard–doesn’t matter how you heard, you just heard–that Joe Brown wanted a red Jaguar, should you give him a call and ask if he wants to test drive your Jag? Yes!

Notice: you didn’t send it along and let it languish in Joe’s driveway for a year!

When a call for submissions goes out, or the grapevine reports that at this conference, Important Editor said they are looking for a manuscript on XYZ–then, you can safely query or submit. That’s the only time an almost-cold call has a chance of selling.

Selling manuscripts to an editor is about developing a relationship that is based on mutual respect for your writing. You can’t get that without submission a manuscript; but you can’t sell without knowing something about the editor or agent, either.

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2 Comments
  • Kara Parlin
    February 22, 2012

    That would be editor Courtney Bongiolatti, of course!

  • Darcy Pattison
    February 22, 2012

    Bingo! And you even spelled Courtney’s last name right!
    Darcy