Monday, September 11, 2017

Five Things You Should Know: Before Your First Sale

Most professional writers are continuously writing new work for publication. Before writing for publication, there are five important steps you should take to speed up your work in print:

1. Identify your ideas and subjects of interest.

2. Target your markets and select publishers in these areas.

3. Prepare your submission materials.

4. Contact publishers in your markets and make follow-up contacts.

5. Keep a careful record of your correspondence, submissions, and telephone conversations.

A) Identify your ideas and subjects of interest.

Before using the Writer's Market, list the subjects that interest you. Once this is done, you will easily target the various markets that will support your work.

Make a list of the subjects (non fiction and fiction) you've written about or would like to write about in the future.

As you create your own list of subjects, feel free to add as many entries as you wish. Keep this list handy so that you can continue to add to it. You will find the ones most dear to you will inspire your best writing. Readers are drawn to the author's enthusiasm about a subject they love. Never be afraid to branch out in areas where you're not an expert. Do your research!

B) Target Your Markets and Select Publishers In These Areas.

Some writers will finish their manuscript before they begin to look for a publisher.  This is the typical approach when the manuscript is a work of fiction, such as a novel or short story. Non Fiction writers often target the idea they want to write about to reach a certain audience and marketplace for their writing. They use resources like the Writer's Market, that helps them to develop ideas for manuscripts.

C) Prepare Your Submission.

Your product's preparation for the marketplace must be done properly in order to be successful. In the Writer's Market, there are basic instructions on how to do this. The attachments you send with your manuscript or query will vary greatly depending on the type of project you want published. Research!

Non Fiction work usually is comprised of a one-page query letter to interest a magazine editor. For a book idea, a cover letter, overview and outline with the author's information sheet, how you plan to market your book and a list of competing titles is required along with sample chapters. How many depends on the publisher's submission requirements. Always check they website for changes in people contacts, address changes and submission requirements.

For Fiction work usually requires a cover letter and the completed manuscript for a magazine article. For a book, a cover letter along with the synopsis and sample chapters is required. The publisher may request further information from you.

D) Literary Agents.

Some writers use literary agents to represent their work to publishers. They negotiate contracts on their behalf too. An experienced and well-connected agent can be a great asset when it comes to getting published by a large publishing house or prestigious magazine. Most agents, however, won't consider negotiating contracts for articles and short stories since it's not worth their time for the small commission.

I should note that the Writer's Market is aimed at writers who wish to promote their own work without the benefit of an agent. Check for solicited or unsolicited acceptance of manuscripts. Getting an agent is the more common practice to help with contract negotiations, but it's not unheard of for a writer to skip this process if they are comfortable negotiating for themselves.

E) Manuscript Preparation and Mailing.

Your manuscript should be clean and error free! Ensure it's been edited to the best of your ability and then by a professional editor if you feel it's needed. First impressions are important! You want yours to be one of professionalism and ability.

Use the Writer's Market's format for preparing and sending in your manuscript. Remember to double space your work for easy reading. Always keep a copy of it. Do not staple your pages together. Always provide copies of illustrations, not the originals. Do you want your work back? Make certain you have the correct and sufficient postage amount on your return envelop. I can't stress how important it is to check web sites and the Writer's Market for up-to-date information and how to prepare your information.

I always get a current copy of the Writer's Market to help me with submissions. It's an invaluable resource that every writer should have.

Some Terms of The Trade, Part II Non Fiction


A book proposal is a package of materials providing details about your book. Included should be any awards you've won, your credentials as a writer, education, and some information about the marketability of your work. Include any social media aspects that will enhance your visibility in the market and whether you've established an author's platform, blogs, web sites, or such. This is crucial to have well before you send in your manuscript. A typical book proposal will include sample chapters or a completed manuscript. Always follow publishing houses' guidelines. Check websites.


Write an amazing query letter that actually gets the agent or editor to want to read the proposal.

  • first paragraphs must grab the agent or publisher's attention.
  • There are three questions that a good proposal will make a publisher or agent ask next. Do you know what they are?.
  • Your marketing plan should be unique. Explain why your book will be profitable to the reader and how this notion will be delivered to the reader..
  • Make a list of all the benefits your book provides. Then list some of its features and why you're doing so.
  • What's your intended readership? Why them?
  • Show them that you have a clear understanding about the differences between demographics and psychographics for your book by answering what, when and why. 
  • Identify any contacts or social media aspects that will help to sell your book.
  • Show that you are aware of your competition and why your book is different.
  • What are your qualifications to write this book?
  • Tell them about your author platform.


    This is a periodical directed toward the average reader or layman, eg., Woman's Day, or People.

    Consumer magazines bring you independent test reports, best-buy recommendations and advice many times a year.


    This is also called a trade journal, and is a periodical that provides business and technical information to members of a particular, industry. Such a periodical is sometimes called a technical journal when directed toward readers in technology-oriented or scientific industries.

    It's called a professional journal when directed toward doctors, lawyers, and others in the "professions." Trade publications therefore cover an industry in more minute details than a consumer publication might.

    The idea is that trade publications deliver information that's of value to those who work in a certain field, but might not be of as much interest to the general public.

    Trade magazines are often exclusive as they are not sold at retail chains and are usually circulated to an elite class of subscribers and members interested in the publication's particular industry. For example, someone who likes movies might read a consumer publication like Entertainment Weekly because it covers entertainment. But someone who works in the movie industry will probably be reading publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, two trades that cover deals and other things happening in Hollywood more closely.

    In general, a trade publication will include articles that try to entertain the reader, sell a product (their own or their advertisers), or promote a particular viewpoint. People consider trade magazines to be where they go to talk shop, see who's who, learn who's new, and find out what's new.

    Readers will often find information about:
    • current trends, issues and events
    • news
    • useful products to use or sell, for that profession
    • practical advice
    • ads of interest to people in that profession
    Most articles found in trade publication are not particularly long, two to three pages in length is the norm and since they are written for the professionals in the field, they don't offer explanations of basic concepts as they assume the reader knows the basic concepts of the industry already.

    Some of the most popular types of articles featured in trade magazines could include:
    • Interviewing successful industry leaders. These types of articles allow readers to learn who did what, when, how, and, why from others in their profession, and possibly find ideas to apply to their own business ventures.

    • Answering frequently asked questions and consumer inquiries.  Business readers want to learn about the best and most efficient way to be successful in whatever business ventures they attempt. They want to draw in customers and provide excellent customer relations. These types of articles help teach better consumer relations that lead to more sales down the road for the business owner. Success is the key! Becoming successful is why they read these magazines.

    • "List" articles. Articles written in list formats are readers' favorites. Whether it's the top 10 ways to sell a particular item, or to list must-have products, lists can pack a lot of punch in a small article and tend to be remembered more later on because of its simplicity.

    This is a brief letter written to an editor accompanying a completed manuscript or book proposal. Address the letter to a specific person, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually.

    Don’t waste your time or theirs. Do your homework! If you are submitting to an agent, visit their web site and follow their guidelines!!! I cannot emphasize this enough!

    Make certain to spell the person’s name right. It's insulting and will land your work in the garbage real fast.

    If you use a market guide book or some online database listing of agents or editors, make sure you have the most current information because addresses do change (go to the web site). Many offices change its mailing address…and nothing is worse than seeing mail go to their old address. This shows you didn't do your research!

    You would be astounded by the number of calls or inquiries publishers and agents receive from writers who have not done their research.

    Whatever you do, do not say your book is the next Purpose Driven Life, Eat Pray Love, Left Behind, or The Shack, or that it will sell better than The Da Vinci CodeTwilightHarry Potter, or The Chronicles of Narnia. That shows an ignorance of the market that is best left alone.

    Always Familiarize Yourself With The Market You're Writing In:

    By familiarizing yourself completely with the genre you're writing in, and hoping to submit to, you come across as professional and serious to potential agents or publishers. Knowing what they're talking about makes it easier for you to be assured that you are doing the right thing and being taken care of properly. It also limits the chances of being scammed.

    The following is an example of what you should familiarize yourself with if submitting to the mystery/suspense marketplace. This example can be changed slightly to represent any genre.

    1. Know the Company Name (completely), and all its imprints.

    2. Parent Company

    3. Make certain you have the correct mailing address. Places move, directories get outdated.

    4. Have the correct telephone number as well as the correct Email, and fax numbers.

    5. Ensure you have the correct title and name of the person responsible for reviewing manuscripts. Do not necessarily rely on directories as they can become outdated, people leave firms, etc. Call and inquire about the person you should submit to.

    6. Know the year the company was established.

    7. Know the types of books they published. Review their websites to see former authors published through them.

    8. Know the number of books they've published per year. Again check their website. Research!

    9. Find out the number of queries and submissions they receive per year. This information should be on their website too. If not, call and inquire.

    10. There should be some record of the percent of first-time authors; also sometimes the percent of agented versus unagented writers published through them. (Writer's Market has this information)

    11.  Payment/contract policies. Most are standard throughout publishers, but finding this information out is critical to contract talks.

    12. Find out how long the time period from acceptance to publication of your manuscript will be. This information is available but will require research.

    13. On their website should be acceptable submission formats and other information about submissions.

    14. Included on the website or in the Writer's Market, will be information regarding response times for queries.

    15. Find out if they provide a book catalog of all books published through them.

    16. Included on their website should be manuscript guidelines.

    17. Find out if nonfiction subjects of interest are part of what the publisher is looking for.

    18. Find out if they do accept nonfiction, and any publisher's comments on them, and what their submission policy is. Never assume it's the same as for fiction.

    19. Find out if they are taking solicited or unsolicited manuscripts.

    20. Find out what they are currently seeking. Don't assume they will love what you are writing, research to see if it's a good fit.

    Some Terms of The Trade, Part I

    It really pays to learn all you can about the business of writing and the inner workings of the publishing industry. Having a well-rounded knowledge base makes the process of getting published easier. Here are a few terms to start:

    Advance: a payment made to a writer before the publication of a manuscript.

    Agent: A professional representative hired by an author to obtain and negotiate contracts with publishers.

    Editor: A staff member at a publishing company responsible for reviewing manuscripts and/or preparing them for publication.

    Imprint: A specific line or lines of books offered by a given publisher.  Eg. Cloak and Dagger Books is an imprint of Chesterton Publishing Group.

    ms.: A standard abbreviation for the word manuscript. In the plural, it's mss.

    Publisher: A publishing company or the head of a publishing company responsible for putting your book in print.

    Query: A written request from an author created to interest an editor in reviewing a book proposal or manuscript. A query to a magazine is sent to interest the editor in reading or commissioning an article.

    Reprint: Any edition of a particular book that's published after the first edition.

    Royalty: A residual payment made to authors after books are sold based on a percentage of their selling price.

    SAE.: Abbreviation for "self-addressed, stamped envelope," sometimes preceded by its required dimensions.

    SASE.: Abbreviation for "self-addressed, stamped envelope" sometimes proceeded by its required dimensions or standard envelop number, eg. #10

    Submission: An idea, outline, or manuscript sent by a writer to a publisher for consideration.

    Trade paperback: a paperback book created for the layman rather than the professional or specialist.

    Five Things You Should Know: Before Your First Sale

    Most professional writers are continuously writing new work for publication. Before writing for publication, there are five important steps ...