A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How not to approach publishers, part 364758

It's been a busy and stressful few months here at Tonto Towers, so I thought I'd lighten the mood a bit. The 'how not to' blogs always spark debate following a funny or aggressive phone call, would-be author visit or dodgy query letter.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but here goes...
As I got to work this morning, there were two phone messages from writers: one was asking us to phone them back as they are a poet and want to know how to get published and the other from a writer looking for us to publish them... oh, and they'd called round in person at the office before phoning.

Rule number one: Don't turn up at a publishing house (without making an appointment) and ask for advice or whether they will publish you.
Reason: The publisher won't appreciate this approach and it will be awkward as they won't have time for you and will offer very little. You'll come away from it feeling quite rejected and may wonder why.

Grrrr... how many 'we don't publish poetry' posts do we need to write? Some recent emails didn't even have a message. One contained a generic covering Dear Publisher letter attachment with the manuscript as another attachment. I even checked the writer's website and they were moaning on about how publishers never reply. Amazing!

Not too sure how many writers out there have knocked on the door at Random House and asked them to publish their poetry collection, but I'll bet that none of them got a deal out of it.

A good idea would be to send them a letter or an email and introduce yourself. Tell them about the work and ask if they want to see it. If they want to see it, they'll ask. If they don't, they won't. That's the best way to start and certainly the kind of approach that is likely to get a response.

Anywho, I'm not having a go, just posting some thoughts and letting you know how publishers think. Indie publishers probably are that much more approachable than Mr Major, but they still don't have an open door policy. Check the publisher's website. Do they publish in your genre? Do they read unsolicited manuscripts, have certain submission windows, criteria? Why should they publish you, what makes you and your work different/marketable? Find out the name of the person you are writing to, that helps. For example, we once had a submission addressed to 'the poetry editor'. We don't publish poetry, don't have a poetry editor, but if we did, he or she would have a name.

You are selling yourself as much as you are selling your work! If you do get taken on by a publisher, feel free to comment and let us know what approach worked as I'm sure others will be interested.

And speaking of selling... Stephen Shieber will be at Borders Team Valley tomorrow - Saturday 13 from 1pm - signing copies of Being Normal.


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