Small publishing houses work for me because I can't seem to resist the urge to put my two cents in on how the publishing house works. I'm sure Simon & Schuster or Random House could care less about what I think on the way they run things, but I've had two publishers now who value my opinions. Let me tell you, it's a heady feeling.

 

When my current publisher was backed up by the onslaught of query letters, I volunteered to lend a hand. Not that I know anything about acquisitions (is there a training manual somewhere?) but I know what I like to read. I've also studied the market and have an idea of what sells.

 

I loved all the letters I received. Some were funny, some were written by a quivering hand, all were hopeful. But, here's where I went off the beaten path of query letter/synopsis/outline.

 

When I open e-mails, the first thing I look for is genre and word count. We are a strong genre house, our word count doesn't exceed 85,000. This is the only way to make books cost effective, for both the buyer and the publisher. While main stream publishers push the idea that BIGGER is BETTER is a BLOCKBUSTER is a BESTSELLER, we have more realistic expectations. Sometimes the best novels come in small (55,000 words) packages.

 

I know all the writing books stress that the query letter is “The most important letter you'll ever write.” Really? How about the letter to the IRS explaining that strange tax deduction? To Santa for a new computer? To Match.com to complain about bad hook-ups?

 

I don't even read the query letter. Blasphemy!

 

The first thing I do is Google the writer's name. I'm expecting to see at least a website. I'm hoping for many more hits. How active is the potential author on the Internet? Does this person blog? Have they joined any professional/social sites other than Face Book? What has this person been doing to foster their career goals?

 

Because it's not just about the writing anymore. I lecture on marketing at conferences. My mantra: marketing starts the minute you decide you're a writer. Waiting until the novel is finished puts you behind the pack. Name recognition is key. Why would anyone in the writing field want to withhold words, to refuse the reading public a sample of their “voice?”

 

I doubt if the big houses bother to investigate. I wonder if they even look at their slush pile before sending rejection notices. Although the expectation is that a big house will supply an endless marketing budget for the book of an unknown author, that's not going to happen unless your name is Paris Hilton or Prince Charles. Marketing has become the responsibility of the author.

 

Although my publisher originally believed I wasn't fair to authors, I convinced her that checking the writer's “street creds” goes a long way to selecting authors working hard at their career goals. In my opinion, they are the ones who deserve a shot at publication.

 

But, that's just me. And I'm the acquisitions editor.     

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Comment by Laurie Stevens on September 21, 2011 at 11:24am
Comment by Sunny Frazier on September 21, 2011 at 7:58am
Laurie, send me your email addy and I'll put you on the Posse right now.
Comment by Laurie Stevens on September 19, 2011 at 8:12am
I would never turn down help in any form.  Nor would I turn down some direction. Please let me know what I need to do to get both from the "Posse list" (sounds interesting) and/or the Marketeers.  Thank you for being kind in this competitive field.
Comment by Sunny Frazier on September 18, 2011 at 1:56pm

Laurie, 

If you want help with direction to promotion sites and my friends in the industry, I can put you on either the Posse list or the Marketeers. No charge. Lots of direction.

 

I don't Tweet. Just don't want to get involved.

 

Comment by Laurie Stevens on September 18, 2011 at 10:39am
If you're the acquisitions editor, then you must count. When I entered the world of self-publicity I was (and still am) overwhelmed at what is expected these days.  I don't yet have a Twitter account and I'm biting my nails -- don't worry, it's on my to-do list with about 50 different other things. One of them that I checked off my list was joining CrimeSpace so I can reply to blogs freely.  Now, if you count all the other blogs on the net, you might just blow a synapse. street creds are important these days. Honestly, I don't know how fast its going to move my novel, The Dark Before Dawn, <ahref="http://www.lauriestevensbooks.com">new detective series</a>, but I'm giving it the old college try. Thanks for your advice/input.
Comment by Sunny Frazier on September 17, 2011 at 5:24pm

Ah--but who will buy your books if nobody knows they're out there?

 

I believe marketing starts the minute you decide to publish. But, that's just me. That's what I teach. 

Comment by Mark Young on September 17, 2011 at 8:57am
Thanks for sharing your inside insight, Sunny. It would seem important for a writer to 'get out there' on the social network tour, but sometimes I think they spend too much on that at the cost of getting words down on paper and getting their novel completed. By the way,  I don't think you are the only one who never looks at the query letter. You are one of the few who admit it (LOL).
Comment by Augie on September 17, 2011 at 8:05am

Sunny,

Thank you for being here and sharing your knowledge, you give us all hope. You are not afraid to say what you think and you back up what you say. These are admirable qualities. 

Thank you                 Augie

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