As a beginner about 20 years ago, I didn’t have a clue about connecting with editors. I thought all I had to do was look up a publishing company’s address in the Writers’ Market Guide, send off my manuscript after I wrote it and revised it once, and then wait for the check to arrive in the mail.
Boy, did I have a lot to learn! Over the years, I’ve accumulated some wisdom that I’d like to pass on to you. Each of these “talking points” could be developed into an essay of sorts, but for convenience’s sake, we’ll just make a quickie list for you to ponder and then, in turn, to analyze your own progress in becoming a published author:
1. Study the market and make sure your manuscript matches what the publishing company is looking for. This is the number one reason that writers are rejected. A story about your favorite pet cow won’t make it in a horse magazine!
2. Follow the submission guidelines to the T if you even want to be considered. If the editor wants a proposal or a query letter first, then learn how to do those two “writing projects” well and submit them first.
3. Have your manuscript critiqued several times by other writers you know (like in a critique group). If you have the financial means, hire a freelance editor to refine your copy. If you don’t do this, the editor at the publishing company might read only one or two paragraphs of your submission and go no further because of poor writing. “Duh, shure eye kin spel; did eye miss sumpthun?”
3. If you have an editor who is interested in your work, send it to him/her immediately. The longer you wait, the fuzzier his/her mind will become about your query or proposal.
4. Be patient. These days it can take anywhere from three months to six months, maybe longer, to hear from an editor. The sad thing of late is that some publishing companies are not responding to writers’ queries or manuscripts unless they have been accepted. This can become a frustrating waiting game with no end. Therefore, find companies that accept multiple submissions, and send five or six out at a time. If you’ve heard nothing after six months, I suggest emailing or calling the editor, but not before.
5. The best way to “connect” with editors is to attend writers’ conferences. Yes, you have to dig deep into your starving author pocket to pay the conferees’ fee and other expenses, but in this business, it takes money to earn money.
Of the four book contracts I’ve acquired, three of them came from meeting editors at writers conferences. I’ve also had poetry, children’s short stories, and articles published in magazines by meeting the editors at conferences. Editors love to “connect” writers’ names with their faces. It’s a big plus for you and them alike.
So there you have a few tips to help you get started on the road to publication. Next time, I’ll address the topic of working with an editor once you get that acceptance letter or phone call.
I remember my very first phone conversation with an editor who wanted to do my Keystone Stables series (nine years ago already), and it was a thrill which I shall never forget.