Monday, February 22, 2010

So You Want to Submit a Manuscript...

One question that we get pretty regularly from people is “What makes a good submission?” Having spent many an hour reading unsolicited manuscripts, we understand the importance of making yourself stand out. What a lot of writers don’t realize is that it's much easier to be noticed for negative reasons than for positive. We have asked two of our lovely editors here at Peachtree Publishers to give some insight into what they are looking for. Here is what we learned. 

It is important to keep in mind that your cover letter is your way of introducing yourself to an editor. Why, out of thousands of manuscripts, should yours get published? Having an author that is great to work with can be just as important as having a good story. My point is, feel free to brag a little. Let an editor know your qualifications and previous publications. Do you have experience presenting to children at school? Have you been published in a newspaper? Maybe your short story won an award. Tell them; just don’t over share. While we might personally appreciate that you are the leading llama wrangler of your town, unless you’re writing a book about the lost art of llama wrangling, it's irrelevant and takes up space.
Which brings us to the next point—space. Your cover letter should be no more than ONE page. It is a brief introduction to you and your story. It should not include a marketing or publicity plan. Publishers have marketing and publicity departments for a reason. It should also not include feedback you received from your class, your kids, your neighbors' kids, strangers on the bus, or anyone else you’ve read it to. An editor will make their own assessment. Other things that should not take up space but often accompany a submission: Candy. Bookmarks. Stickers. Calendars. Plush toys of your book's characters. Sequins and confetti. Nothing is more annoying than having to clean up confetti that has spilled all over your floor from a manuscript. Presentation is important, but so is professionalism.
Having a professional look for your cover letter and manuscript is key. For some reason somewhere along the line, people started to think that cutesy, looping fonts were a great idea. All a cute curling font does is annoy the people trying to read your letter when they have to squint and turn the paper sideways to try and decipher what is happening on the page. We are not in a Dan Brown novel. Editors do not want to deal with breaking any codes. And while we’re on the topic, DO NOT under any circumstances tell an editor that you have written the next Harry Potter, Twilight, Da Vinci Code book, aptly entitled The Potter Code at Twilight. A good manuscript will speak for itself. 

Lastly, and most importantly, do your research. Alyssa, a former Peachtree editor, says it best: “…do your research. How many books like yours are on the market? Is your idea unique? What age group is it intended for? Is there a demand for this kind of book in the market? If there are other books like yours out there, what is going to make a consumer buy your book over the others? These are the questions the submission editors will be asking themselves as they read your story.”
Publishing is a competitive industry and taking on a new author is a risk for any publisher.  We know hearing back about a manuscript is a long and slow process for writers, but know that we do note professionalism and patience in the early processes. It does not go unnoticed. Have a thick skin, because you will get rejected at least once, if not multiple times. However, we strongly believe that a good story will find a home, so keep submitting.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where Do Your Manuscripts Go? (And Other Fun Facts)

Every day, aspiring writers mail their manuscripts to us here at Peachtree Publishers. Many wonder where exactly they go and why it takes months to hear a response. I'm here to tell you. 

Step 1: Our fabulous USPS carrier brings us big bins filled with mail. 
Step 2: The mail is sorted and manuscript submissions are put to the side.
Step 3: Manuscripts are then stamped with the date they were received and placed in a bin.
Step 4: All manuscripts are moved to the back of the office and filed with the other submissions.
Step 5: Oldest manuscripts are read first. Several months' worth of submissions are in front of the newest arrivals.
Step 6: Each manuscript is carefully read and considered. Promising manuscripts are passed on to a senior editor, while manuscripts that won't work for us are sent back with rejection letters, as long as a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) is included. If no envelope is received, the manuscript is recycled.
Step 7: Once a letter has been sent, every manuscript is logged with the author's name and title info.

It is important to keep in mind that getting a rejection letter from a Publisher doesn't necessarily mean that you are a bad writer, or that your story isn't any good. Sometimes a story doesn't appeal to the editor that reads your manuscript, or simply isn't a good fit for a publisher. It is important to look at a publisher's catalog before sending in a submission to see if your story relates to others on their list. I often tell writers to look up publishers in Writers Market and read submission guidelines before submitting. Knowing who you are sending your story to is very important. For example, we sometimes get submissions for Southern adult fiction because Peachtree originally published in that genre. If writers had taken the extra step and read our guidelines, they would know that we publish children's picture books, middle grade, and young adult books now. In the time it takes us to respond and mail your manuscript back, you could have sent it to a more appropriate publisher.

A few more tips:
  • READ! If you want to write picture books, go to the library and read everything you can. How else will you learn what vocabulary is used for a certain age group, how many pages make up a typical picture book (it's 32, by the way, including copyright page, title page, etc.), or what books are popular right now. This goes for any genre.
  • If you're submitting a children's picture book, include your FULL manuscript. I don't recommend including illustrations, because in the event that a manuscript is acquired, the publisher retains the right to choose an illustrator. 
  • If you're submitting a chapter book, don't forget a table of contents, a summary of the book and at least three sample chapters. An editor wants to know where your story is going but also wants to get a sense of your writing style.
  • Do not call constantly to check on your manuscript. Give a publisher about six months to respond, then you may call. Remember, not all publishers notify you when a manuscript has been rejected.
  • We know when a manuscript is sent to us that it is important to the writer, which is why it takes months to hear back from us. We read every story and give it the attention it deserves. Even as a smaller publishing house, Peachtree gets approximately 20,000 manuscripts a year, so please be patient and understanding about time.
  • Have someone edit your work before sending it in. People will sometimes send in revised editions of manuscripts they have sent in earlier. We cannot sort through thousands of submissions to find yours and switch out the old one for the new one. Be sure that when you mail something it is a complete and final draft.
  • When you include a SASE, make sure that you have enough postage on it and that the envelope is big enough for us to mail your manuscript back if you want it. I would even add extra postage as sometimes the cost can go up over the course of several months.
  • Keep writing. If you are a writer, you will do it whether you are published or not. The more you write, the better you will get.
  • Keep submitting. I am a firm believer in the idea that a good story will always find a home. It just may not be as soon as you would like.
Do you have more questions? Leave a comment and I will answer to the best of my abilities. Keep an eye out for future posts as well, where I will explain about cover letters, acquisitions processes and anything else publishing related I can think of!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some (Hopefully) Helpful Tips for BEA!

Book Expo America (BEA) is coming up this spring and a lot of book bloggers will be in attendance, as well as publishers and book sellers. With that in mind, I would like to give a little advice to those of you attending about approaching publishers.

1.       Have business cards. Or post cards. Or some way that we can remember that we met you.  Publishers meet so many people over the course of a few days. As much as we try, we can’t remember everything. Having a business card makes sure that we have a way to contact you after the show.
On that note—we’d love to hear from you after the show too. We try to keep track of everyone we meet, but it’s always helpful to get an email reminding us of what you are interested in.
2.   Are you a blogger? Talk to us about your blog. How many visitors do you get? What types of books do you enjoy? Are you interested in participating in blog tours or doing reviews and author interviews? Let us know. I can’t speak for other publishers, but Peachtree has a database just of bloggers to contact with catalogs and other information. We want to work with you, just let us know what you are interested in.
3.   On a similar note, de-lurk! Introduce yourself to us. Have you done reviews of our books? Talked to us on twitter? Fans of ours on Facebook? We love knowing that you’re real people that read our books and we want to interact with you. 
4.   Please, for the love of god, do not bring us your manuscript. If you are interested in getting your book published, we are happy to give you information about how to submit a manuscript, who to send it to, etc. Keep in mind, that staff attending a show are not necessarily a part of the editorial staff.
5.   Same deal for wannabe illustrators. If you have a postcard or some kind of flyer you’d like us to take back to the art department, we gladly will, but again the people attending the show aren’t necessarily the right people to pitch ideas to. This is not the time to whip out your portfolio.
6.   When you are visiting smaller publishers, please ask before you take. We definitely bring a quantity of galleys and other goodies to give away, but not everything that is on display is for you to take home. On the other hand, if you see something you must have, let us know—we may have an extra copy in the back or we can always send you something after the show.
7.   The Children’s Breakfast is always spectacular—even we get a little star struck. No need to buy a seat at a table. The breakfast is very light, so you are just as good stopping at Starbucks and buying a ticket for the cheap seats in the back!
8.   Everyone has said it, but wear comfortable shoes—the Javitz Center is huge and places to sit are few and far between.
9.   Have a great show!

Monday, February 1, 2010

January Blog-o-Sphere

One of the perks of my job is reading book blogs. I get to scan the internet to find reviews of our books. That being said, I thought that it would be a good idea to look back at Peachtree in the blog-o-sphere for the month of January. Did you blog about one of our books this month? Did I miss it? Let me know and I will add you to the list! Also, check back Friday for a post on the upcoming BEA as part of the BEA Blog Tour, which started today at Beth Fish Reads.

14 Cows for America
Written by Carmen Deedy
Afterword by Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishers; August 2009; $17.95; ISBN: 978-1-56145-490-7

Jerald & Leslie, January 17, 2009
“…inspiring and touching…”

Sonderbooks, January 11, 2010
“My summary doesn’t convey the charm and grandeur of the book, with its gorgeous paintings.”

Rasco from RIF, January 3, 20010
Mention of books being considered for CYBILS awards

List of recommended 2009-2010 books
Where Teddy Bears Come From
Written by Mark Burgess
Illustrated by Russell Ayto
Peachtree Publishers; August 2009; $16.95; ISBN: 978-1-56145-487-7

What is Bridget Reading?, January 6, 2010
“What a great idea for a book!”

Under the Snow
Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
Peachtree Publishers; September 2009; $16.95; ISBN: 978-1-56145-493-8

Wild About Nature, January 17, 2010
“Bergum's watercolors enable us to see their worlds beneath the snow as clearly as we see the world in our own backyards.”

The Brain Finds a Leg
Written by Martin Chatterton
Peachtree Publishers; October 2009; $16.95; ISBN: 978-1-56145-503-4

The Excelsior Files, January 7, 2010
“In a word, quirky.”