I’ve done something recently that I didn’t think I would do ever again: I sent out submissions.
Most of you may know that I’ve been working on my grandfather-in-law’s biography. Progress has been going really well, and I’m hoping to get a draft of most of the chapters done by the end of the month. Granted, that will depend on what life has in store for me, but the way things are going now, it shouldn’t be an issue.
To tell you the truth, I’m not exactly sure why I decided to submit the book to publishers. I certainly didn’t need to. Booktrope already expressed interest in the project, so I have a publisher. Still, something at the back of my mind told me I should see if anyone else was interested. So I sent out some queries.
I think that something at the back of my brain might have been a demon. For anyone who has ever submitted a book, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s a long, tedious process. Let me give you an idea of what’s involved.
Research. Tons and tons of research. I have to find the right publisher that puts out the kind of book I’m writing. There are many different nonfiction publishers out there, but not all of them are interested in biographies. And then some are only interested in certain kinds of biographies—of famous people, for example.
Once I figure out if the publisher publishes my kind of book, then I have to research their submission guidelines. How do I send my information to them? Email? Snail mail? Do they want a query or a full proposal? Who do I send it to? Most publishers have this information readily available, so it’s just a matter of reading and conforming to the instructions.
The query letter. Most publishers want to be approached with a query letter first. The only thing worse than writing a query letter is writing a synopsis. My query letter is a short description of the book and about me so the editor can gauge interest in the project. There are many resources out there that give advice on how to write a good query, so I won’t bore you with that here.
However, what’s important to note is that the query has to be fascinating enough and short enough that the editor will read the whole thing and want to know more about the book. It’s a hard thing to accomplish. I’m still trying to get my query right.
The proposal. With nonfiction, sometimes a query isn’t needed. Some (most) publishers want to see a proposal for the project.
The nice thing about nonfiction is that it doesn’t have to be finished before you can submit it to publishers, but I have to have an idea of what I’m going to do. Most proposals consist of many parts, including what the book is about, the competition for the book, a marketing plan, when it’s going to be finished, how long it’s going to be, and if it will have illustrations. If there are sample chapters, those can be included too. Depending on the publisher (if it’s a university press), I may also have to attach my CV or resume.
It’s a process putting a proposal together. Like the query letter, there are many great sites out there to help with the basic outline of a proposal, but I also have to check the publisher’s site to see if they have any specifics they’re looking for.
Once I have all of my ducks in a row, I’m finally ready to send my query/proposal. More often than not, most places will accept electronic submissions, which is awesome because then I don’t have to make a trip to the post office. Or kill trees.
The whole process is incredibly time consuming. It can take hours, days. And that depends on how many places I submit to.
Then comes the waiting.
Some places are amazingly fast and respond within hours or days. Others take weeks to months to never.
At this point, I’ve only submitted to 10 places, and I think that’s sufficient. As I said, I don’t really need a publisher, I just thought I would see if there was any other interest out there. And it’s not exactly working out for me. Out of the 10, only one requested the proposal (if I hadn’t already sent it). It was for a university press, so the editor took it to the committee, then they rejected it because the market it too competitive and they didn’t think it would do well. Which was fine.
And that’s the other thing I have to deal with: rejection. Sometimes I forget how hard it is. It’s totally expected, but it can still be tough to deal with.
I’ve been spoiled—and not just with Booktrope, my other publishers are fantastic too. There’s something to be said about having a publisher who is willing and wanting to publish my work. It’s so nice not to have to jump through the hoops.
I remember now why I don’t submit like I used to. I don’t have to. And that’s an amazing feeling. But, apparently, every so often I have to remind myself how good I have it.