Wherefore Art Thou, Guidelines?

Nothing will get your query, partial, or even full manuscript zipping back to you at warp speed faster than if you send it to the wrong publishing house. You sent a short story to Avon? Zzzzzip. A graphic novel to Berkley? Zzzzzzip. That hot, steamy love story to Steeple Hill Love Inspired? Zzzzzip.

But how do you discover where to send the baby you've slaved over writing, polishing, printing and packaging, without the fear of instant rejection?

In today's world of information literally at your fingertips, your first stop is online. Google is your friend. If you're familiar with the names of publishing houses, do a search for the name. If you don't know the name, why don't you? Check out who published the books you read, whether printed or electronic and start hunting.

What will you find?
Some publishers share detailed information about what sub-genres they publish, word count, type of submission they'll accept (query only, query with synopsis, full manuscript), and how they prefer to receive it, whether electronically or printed and sent through the USPS. You may learn the typical response time. Some list the name or names of the editor(s) it should be sent to. You may also learn the publishing house only accepts submissions from agents. If that's the case, you have work to do on learning about acquiring an agent.

But what if the publisher isn't online or doesn't offer guidelines online?
If you can't find the submission guidelines for a specific publishing house online, check with your local library for a copy of The Writers Market from Writers Digest Books. It comes in full version or there's a Novel and Short Story edition. It's published each year, so is relatively up to date. If the information given doesn't give you what you need to know, you can write or call the publishing house to ask for submission guidelines.

What if I still can't find what I need to know?
Ask a writer friend who you know has some experience with submitting. S/he may have more current information on what a specific house is looking for. Also, many authors offer links to publishing houses on their websites to help new writers.

Don't risk an instant rejection. Do your homework. Even better, do your homework BEFORE you write the book! Target your writing to a specific publisher.


Becky A said...

Hello Miss Roxann,
Thanks for the info on guidelines but what if your story doesn't seem to quite fit in anywhere? Should I send it to who and what, seems to fit the closest? I suppose what I'm stuggling with is the sub-genre, actually labeling my book type. It doesn't seem to fit in with the usual "Inspirational Romance" that I've read. Any suggestions?

Thanks, Becky

Roxann Delaney said...

Good morning (barely), Becky!

Pat is much, much better with Inspirational than I am and is better qualified to answer.

I can say one thing, and others may disagree. If you want to publish, target your stories when writing to the publisher(s) you want to write for. Even the best stories never get published because the subject matter doesn't fit what's being published at the time. Maybe down the road it will, maybe not. There are those that stretch the envelope to the max, but they're not the norm.

There are a lot of tricks to learning how to target, but one of the best I've run across is Susan Meier's workshop, "How to Analyze the Books You Read". The complete workshop is at her website and is FREE!

Everyone talks about the "book of your heart", and that book can be the book that sells, if you know how to do it.

Nobody here will ever tell you it's easy. Honestly? The road of learning is half the fun. Rejections? Not so much. Still, rejections help you grow and learn and are only a part of the world of writing.

Roxann Delaney said...

I missed something in the blog post.

Keep an eye on Cynthia Sterlings market reports that Penny shares with us. Cindi does a great job of keeping us all current on who's open and what they're looking for, no matter what the publisher or sub-genre. That's where I find the best clues to publishers.

Reese Mobley said...

Rox, I'm the queen of not fitting in. My manuscripts win contests, get requested and then ultimately rejected because they just don't fit the norm. I have to be honest and say it makes me question what I'm doing and whether or not to keep going. Guess I'm not doing enough research. I need to find out who is publishing sweet romances now. Sigh............

Roxann Delaney said...

Single title is hard to break into, Reese. Especially the way the economy is right now.

For several years, romcom was HOT. It seems lately it's urban fantasy. Vampires are still selling like hotcakes, including funny ones. That makes it tough for anyone not interested in writing blood-sucking novels. ::grin::

The only way I know to find out what's being bought in ST is to talk to those who are currently selling and to keep an eye on what's showing up on the shelves. Of course, that news is a year old, at best. It means reading, reading, reading.

You're not alone out there. I know many who have the same problem. Category isn't easy, but it isn't quite as tight. Market-wise, that is. As far as writing parameters, it's much tighter. Always has been.

Pat Davids said...

Let me first say that inspirational romances don't have to fit so tightly into a catagory.

I've read many of Berverly Lewis's Amish books that are listed as inspirational romances, but the romance element weren't strong. Some were more a story about family struggles or an individuals's struggle.

Steeple Hill, on the other hand wants very strong romantic elements. It has to be the main focus of the story.

You know what kind of story you like to read, so who publishes them? Look those publishers up on line. What word length, if any, do they ask for? How do they accept submission? What editors are aquiring? Do you have to have an agent? That's the information you need to find out before submitting to them.

ACFW has a link for readers called Gene List. Go to http://www.acfw.com/
and see if that helps you pick a label for your book if you need one.


Roxann Delaney said...

Pat, the sweetie, always coming through when you need her!

Joan Vincent said...

Rox, A great job detailing how to find who publishes what. The Internet has made if far easier and faster. You hit all the pertinent data. For any newbies--be aware of what used to be called vanity publishers. Some of the online ones I've stumbled across are not upfront about what they do. If a publisher asks you for money for anything back away fast.

Pat Davids said...

Don't ever give up. I don't care if it takes another twenty years, I'm going to keep pushing you because I believe in your talent.

When your break comes, you're going to be bigger than all of us put together. Your stuff is that good.

Roxann Delaney said...

She'll blow us all out of the water, Pat. Yes, she's that good. She'll blame us when she's buried in deadlines. LOL

Reese Mobley said...

I'm not sure what to say. I guess your check is in the mail. (grin)
Thanks for believing in me! Coming from multi-pubs like you means a lot to me.

Starla Kaye said...

Lots of excellent advice here about how to find markets on the Internet and about being determined enough to keep searching for a publisher that will look at your work. From what I see anymore, there are a lot more "square pegs fitting in round holes" these days. There is a lot less black-and-white as to what a publisher will look at. Sub-genres are crossing all over. But it still is easier on you, the submitter, if you look for markets that publish pretty close to what you wrote.

Becky A said...

Miss Roxann,

Ok, I'll bite. What is the significance of, or meaning of,"single title"?

Thanks, Becky

Roxann Delaney said...


I think we missed defining the sub-genres and went into the sub-sub-genres back in April. :)

Single title is part of the general romance genre. It's what we call the "big books", usually ranging from 80K words to 120K or so, as opposed to series or category romance which is generally from 50K to about 70K these days. There are both contemporary and historical single titles, then we get into those sub-subs we talked about--paranormal, inspiration, romcom (romantic comedy), suspense, etc.)

Off the top of my head, some of the single title publishers I can think of are Avon, Berkley, St. Martin's Press, and a host of others that you see in the stores not shelved with the series/category. At present Harlequin/Silhouette is the only series/category publisher. The others folded about the time I started submitting or before.

We almost need a diagram to show the genre, sub-genre, sub-sub-genres in romance, which is a genre of regular fiction.

Hope that helps. :)

Penny Rader said...

Wow, I don't have anything else to add. You all did a great job!

The Internet has helped with finding guidelines. It's way easier now than when I first started writing. No Internet then. Just writing a letter to publishers requesting their guidelines.

Hang in there, Reese! You're wonderfully talented and I know you'll sell.