First published on 19 Dec 2012. Updated on 19 Dec 2012.
…do your homework!
“Just say it was a children’s author: first of all, they have to think about what sort of writing it is, and then look very carefully at what publishers they want to approach. It’s useless, if you’ve written a children’s manuscript, to approach a publisher that doesn’t publish children’s books. And you’d think that sounds odd, but it’s amazing how often that happens.”
…know your market!
“The more you can show a publisher that you know about them and what they do, the better: it shows that you’re serious. It’s amazing how often people don’t know, or say ‘oh, I don’t actually read other authors, I’m only interested in doing my own thing’. So they don’t know what’s out there or what publishers are already doing.”
…look at the publisher’s requirements!
“A lot of publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Some publishers do, others will at certain times – I think it was Allen & Unwin who had a pitch-day Friday. And if a publisher does not require an agent, it’s a good idea to find out who is the best person to address your letter: the admin or editor in charge of the section you’re writing for.”
…make a compelling approach!
“You’ve got to craft your letter very carefully. People are time poor and they want to do right by people writing for them, they don’t want to leave you languishing for too long. You’ve got to be as succinct as possible: say who you are, a brief synopsis of your work and anything else that might give you an edge: if you’ve won a short story competition or have particular inside knowledge that no one else would have, you have to sell it.”
…sell yourself (slight return)!
“If you don’t come up with one yourself, your publisher will do it for you anyway. People like to sum things up: ‘Grisham meets JK Rowling in this torrid take of incest and mayhem’ or whatever [Laughs]. I know that can seem terribly trite, but you have such a short window of opportunity: if you don’t grab someone by the throat, it’s hard to go back.”
“At the bottom of it, publishers are looking for great writing and a new voice. They’re looking for great storytelling. If you’re a storyteller, people will want to listen to you.”