A word (or three) on submissions

Posted: May 24, 2012

Today I am working my way through submission queries to Yotzeret. The bad news is that there are a lot. The good news is that there are a lot. Yotzeret Publishing has somehow found its way into the hearts and address books of many writers, for which I’m very grateful. It’s awesome that you’re so interested!

Intended from the start, Yotzeret has had surprising success in the niche market of books that are “too religious” (or “too Jewish”) for larger, secular publishers, and “not religious enough” for most Jewish publishers, many of whom focus on scholarly nonfiction works or works that represent a more orthodox practice.

Which brings us to today. I have sitting next to me over two dozen queries, proposals, and manuscript portions. Since Yotzeret can only publish 2-3 titles per year (at this time), and slots are already filled for the rest of 2012 and most of 2013, the math shows that only one-eighth of these have a shot at making the cut. This is actually pretty good; many publishers only consider a tenth of the queries they receive, and the big publishers consider far less than that.

Here are some ways to better your chances of your manuscript being accepted, or at least considered:

  • Follow the Submission Guidelines on the website. They’re there for a reason.
  • Do not query by email. It’s too easy for email to get lost, overlooked, or marked as spam before I ever see it. Send a paper query via snail mail.
  • Do not query by messaging or commenting on our blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. Send a paper query via snail mail.
  • Remember that publishers have minuscule marketing budgets, so please do not write about how much you’re looking forward to going on a publisher-paid international author tour.
  • Understand that you will need to do the majority of the marketing work. Include in your query exactly how you are willing and able (including financially) you are to market in order to contribute to your book’s success.
  • Do not expect to get rich, be on the New York Times bestseller list, or be asked to cast all the characters in the TV show based on your book.

A publisher can easily spent $12,000 or more getting your book to print, and that’s with a $2,000 marketing budget. We want to be as close to certain as possible that we will make back that $12,000—and then some—in sales. For a book that retails at $10 or $15, sells at an industry standard 40%-65% discount, less royalties, shipping, and returns, among other things, that means we have to sell thousands of books (not hundreds) to recoup our expenses. While we at Yotzeret consider the merit of the book itself and not just the bottom line, we do still have to pay the bills, so that bottom line has to figure in somewhere. Bear this in mind as you’re writing your query. What can you do to help sell thousands?

Above all, remember: it’s not personal. Really, it isn’t. A rejection (which I hate to write, by the way) isn’t necessarily a judgment on your manuscript, and it certainly isn’t a judgment about you. We know that your manuscripts are your paper children, sent out into the world to make their own way, and that a piece of your heart goes with them. We get that. So please understand that a rejection letter isn’t sent to your child, or to that piece of your heart. It’s simply a pass on the currently-proposed business transaction.

And now, I must move on to the very unpleasant task of likely having to say no to several of the currently-proposed business transactions here in front of me. But I—and you—should be buoyed by the possibility that I’ll get to say yes to one or more, as well.

Image courtesy: khrawlings, on Flickr

5 Comments… add one
Karoline Barrett June 2, 2012, 8:16 am

This was an excellent column. Am preparing to send my query to you on Monday.

yotzeret June 4, 2012, 5:27 pm

Thanks Karoline!

Rex August 28, 2012, 4:36 am

Any publisher would be deiglhted to publish your work *if* they thought they could make a profit by so doing. That means your stories have to stand on their own merits against published stories written by adults. Being merely good for your age isn’t going to cut it.As an aside, most of the major publishers (the ones who can get your book into bookshops) won’t consider your book unless you have an agent. An agent’s job is to sift through the thousands of mostly-unreadable manuscripts that wannabe authors send him every year and forward the ten or twenty that he thinks stand a chance to whichever publisher(s) he thinks will be most interested in them.

Karoline Barrett June 6, 2012, 11:52 am

You’re welcome! I love Jewish fiction, and so glad to have found Yotzeret. My query went out on Monday and just a question then I’ll leave you alone — is your response time still averaging 6 months?

yotzeret June 6, 2012, 5:11 pm

I am trying really hard to streamline responses to queries, in part because I’m getting so many now, and I can only publish 2-3 books a year. My goal is to turn around a query within a few weeks if it’s a “no,” and if I ask for a full manuscript, then it could take a few months.

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