First and foremost, we need to target the proper publishing houses for our work. The Writer's Market is a good source to see what various publishers are looking for It would be a waste of our time and theirs if we send a query about a romance novel to a publisher who only publishes biographies or cookbooks, or vice versa.
When writing a query it's important that our spelling is correct, and not to go overboard trying to impress an editor with a book or article. It's best to simply state what our book/article is about, the kind of audience it will attract and why. Perhaps citing another similar book, and how ours is different. Mention past publications, if any.
One page queries should be the goal. We can save our long description for a proposal, if asked for one. Grab the editor's interest with the opening sentence. But no bragging. After all, is bragging a turn off to you? Well, most likely it will be to an editor too. Not a good idea to say something like: I am a fantastic writer and I know you will love my latest novel. OR, I'm sure my novel will be a best-seller.
Yes, we might very well be fantastic writers, but that doesn't always qualify our book or article for publication. It's the topic, the market, and the needs of the publishing house that all come into play for a book or article to arrive at publication.
And as far as it becoming a best-seller. No one can foresee that scenario ahead of time. Sometimes the least likely book becomes a top-selling one, and another that seems to have that potential, doesn't. Our work is in the hands of the readers, along with good marketing. That is what makes or breaks sales.
Most queries are not answered quickly. It might take up to two months or longer for a response. Do not call the editor week after week to see if your query was read. Send a short follow up letter if its been four or more months without any response.
There are publishers who accept simultaneous submissions...meaning, we can send a query to them and also to others who state the same. This way we have more than one editor considering our query. Again, The Writer's Market will give all that information about every publisher listed.
And then we wait...that's the hard part. But it can be a fruitful time of improving our project, and comprising a second list of publishers to send queries to, should all the ones we sent warrant a rejection. And if that's the case, read any comments that might have been added to the rejection to make some changes. Most times, however, we will receive a basic form letter rejection, although some editors will scribble a note or two as to the reason why it was rejected, which can be helpful and often encouraging...or not.
Many of us writers have a 'rejection' folder in our file drawer - it doesn't mean we will never achieve our publication goals. Here are some rejection comments sent to now famous and best selling authors, taken
from the site: The International Civilian. Entitled: Rejected Best Sellers by Craig Brunton:
“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling…”
Writer: Dr. Seuss
Aftermath: 300 million sales later and he’s the 9th best selling fiction author of all time.
“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough…”
Writer: J.D. Salinger
Book: The Catcher in the Rye
Aftermath: After the initial rejections of the book, he did a rewrite and went on to sell 65 million copies. A few well known assassins later, Holden Caulfield is a generational icon.
“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years…”
Writer: Vladimir Nabokov
Aftermath: Rejected by every major publisher. (The subject matter probably had A LOT to do with that). Anyway, the author goes to France and lands a deal with Olympia Press. The first 5000 copies quickly sell out. The novel is then published by all those that initially turned it down, and reaches combined sales of 50 million.
“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull…”
Writer: William Golding
Book: The Lord of the Flies
Aftermath: 15 million copies.
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature…”L. Frank Baum
Book: The Wizard of Oz
Aftermath: 15 million copies plus the, arguably, most well-known movie of all-time.
“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell…”
Writer: Stephen King
Aftermath: Random House rejected his first novel, The Long Walk. He put that book aside and decided to write a new novel. Carrie would sell 1 million copies. At the time of this post, his total number of books sold is over 350 million, placing him number 16 on the all-time list.
“This will set publishing back 25 years…”
Writer: Norman Mailer
Book: The Deer Park
Aftermath: He won the Pulitzer Prize. Twice.
So, let us not throw in the towel, so to speak. One of us might be on this list one day. And if not, that's okay too. We can still enjoy our God-given gift of writing in many other ways...blogs, web sites, journals, and even self-published works. Just keep the words coming.