September 24, 2011

Publishing Terms

As an aspiring author I don't claim to know everything but I do know that there's so much more to being a writer then just writing a book. Like many new authors, I started out sending a manuscript after a few drafts to every publisher I could find listed in the yellow pages and on the Internet. Little did I know what I was up against with my competitors (other aspiring authors) and their weapons of mass destruction (aka-knowledge).

I've constructed this list of publishing/writing terms (weapons) that will hopefully help you put your best foot (or book) forward, sorry I couldn't help myself. All the best with your writing goals and never ever give up! 

Query Letter: Is a one page email or letter to an editor/publisher asking if you may send your book proposal. The query letter has to showcase your writing skills so keep it professional. You don't need a query letter if the publishers website states that they are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

PitchA successful pitch sets up your book and the need for it in the marketplace. Try the elevator test and see if you can sum up your book in the time it takes for an elevator to go from your floor to the lobby. You could also set up a timer and give yourself 5 minutes to explain your book.

Cover Letter: Your cover letter is also one page and is structured like a standard business letter. It includes what your book is about, word count, target audience, and your expertise, etc. You need to be careful to sell yourself as a writer but don't beg, bribe with coffee and cake, or be pushy-I'll ring you next week to find out my manuscripts progress. Addressing the letter to the correct person is extremely important. To play it safe you could check on LinkedIn, The Literary Market Place, or ring to find out who to address your submission to.

Author Bio: Your Bio states who you are and why you are the person to write this book. It includes your qualifications, expertise, awards, work history relevant to writing, and is usually written in third person, for example: Rachel is a children's author. 

Book Proposal: A book proposal isn't just a longer query letter. It must contain your books content,  relevancy, concept, audience, competition, your author platform and marketing strategies.

Target Audience: Who have you written your book for? Who will read and buy your book?  
It's essential to have a clear idea of your target audience when approaching publishers. Publishers don't  want to hear 'everyone' they want to be sure you have a grasp on your target audience and you know how to reach them.

Multiple Submissions: This is a tricky one and worth looking up the publishers submission guidelines. It is considered acceptable to send your manuscript to a few publishers at the same time as long as you state this in your cover letter. Some publishers do not like the multiple submission approach so make sure to check.

Manuscript: Is your unpublished book. A work in progress.

Solicited Manuscript: Is a manuscript sent through a literary agent or that has been specifically requested by a publisher.

Literary Agent: A literary agent represents your book just like a real estate agent represents your property. The agent presents proposals to publishers, negotiates contracts, and acts as the liaison between the author and publishing company.

Unsolicited Manuscript: Is a manuscript sent to the publisher by you, representing yourself.

The Slush Pile: This is considered the home for all unsolicited manuscripts once they've arrived. It's called the slush pile because it doesn't exactly move very quickly. Don't let me scare you, many authors have been plucked from the slush pile and have gone on to do very well. You can see why you need to stand out and only submit your manuscript at its best.

Not Accepting:  No matter how brilliant you think your manuscript is, if it states 'Not Accepting'. It pretty much means that they're not accepting.

Submission Guidelines: The submission guidelines can be found on the publishers websites and will state how they want manuscripts to be presented. It's usually 12 font, Arial or Times New Roman font, double spaced, with a synopsis, etc but it pays to check. 

Rejection: It happens to every author and you should wear it as a badge of honour. Welcome to the club! The rejection letter can take on many forms. It can be just a generic send out, it can contain a few encouraging lines, or act as the phantom-and never show up. If you are lucky enough to receive any feed back then that's gold. Editors and publishers are incredibly busy people so look at it as a positive step and that you're working toward your goal of becoming a published author.

Author Platform: Because book publishing is a business, publishers need to be certain that they can sell your book. If you already have a ready made audience then you have a strong start to promoting your book. Face Book, Twitter, Blogging, Websites, Speaking Engagements, are all tools to building your author platform. 

Title Page: Is a one page letter that sits in front of your manuscript. It includes your name, address contact details, the title, word count, and target audience. 

Contract: Is the legal document between an author and publisher stating the condition of publishing, the authors obligations, promos, and the time frame for completion.

Good luck and keep on writing.


Hazel Edwards said...

This is a very practical list of publishing terms which I'll recommend to my writing students.
Many 'shy' people find the 'pitch' the most difficult.

Karen Tyrell said...

Hi Renee,
fabulous list of what's what in the publishing game.

Unknown said...

Thanks Hazel and Karen for your comments. I'll keep adding to this list as I'm sure there's many more.