“How do you get published?”
I hear this question often. My writer friends (or complete strangers) want the process laid out for them. This is a difficult question to answer because in all honesty, I have no idea. I feel incredibly lucky to have had my manuscripts accepted by Cedar Fort. I could share my personal experience, but there is no saying if that would help anyone.
There isn’t much to be found online or anywhere about how to get published either. Maybe it’s because everyone’s path to publication is a little different. I’m not really sure. But, for everyone that would like a little more guidance on this process, I’ve decided to start posting interviews and tips for aspiring authors, and perhaps some of my own experience. For lack of a better term, I’ll be posting these topics under the tag ‘Getting Published 101’.
To start off, I emailed my friend and former editor Emma Parker and asked if she would be willing to do an interview with me. She was so kind to agree. I think her answers are informative for anyone trying to catch the attention of an acquisitions editor. So, without further ado, meet the amazing Emma Parker 🙂
Emma is a former acquisitions editor at Cedar Fort, Inc. She is now breaking into the technical editing industry at her job in Southern California. She loves her new career but misses going to work everyday to read books and her group of author friends that she worked with everyday. She continues working on her first love, juvenile fiction. Her first book, Papa’s Book of Mormon Christmas, was published in October 2015. You can find her website here.
***I guess I need to start with a disclaimer. I’m sure I did things very different from other acquisitions editors. Cedar Fort is a small publisher with a pretty specific market; however, they accept all submissions (which means LOADS of work for acquisitions), so a lot of our processes were impacted by that. ***
When skimming through the slush pile of submissions, what makes a story stand out?
Good writing is the absolute best way to keep an acquisitions editor reading. For us, we would read a few pages of every single submission and just go in order from when they were received (aside from returning authors who we were contractually obligated to provide answers to faster), so there is not much you can do to make your manuscript pop to the top of the pile. I know “good writing” is a vague answer, but editors will know if your submission is a first draft, and they will stop reading. They are looking for books that are worth a several thousand dollar investment. If it wasn’t worth the author’s time to clean up and tighten their book, it probably wasn’t worth the publisher’s investment.
What are the biggest deterrents that lead to a rejection?
Writing and story aside, experience and willingness will go a long way. After giving the green light on the writing and story, I would then review the author info. If the author provides little information about themselves or appears unwilling to participate in social media, events, or marketing, it could be enough cause for a rejection.
How important is a cover letter?
A cover letter specifically is completely unnecessary. (This is one of those answers that might be specific to Cedar Fort.) Editors do not have time to dissect a cute a quirky letter for the information they need. Everything we need to know is asked in the submission form. In addition, there’s no need for a letter to show your personality and how creative you are because the manuscript should do that.
As an acquisition editor, how much control do you have over the manuscripts that ultimately get published?
Acquisitions editors are the gatekeepers, so if you can impress them, you stand a good chance of making it through. Editors have the power to throw rejections around like free candy, but if they want to get a manuscript published, they need to pitch it to the editorial board. (In our case, this consisted of the CEO, president, sales team, and production manager.) So if the acquisitions editor has a good manuscript and/or is a good sales pitcher, they have a great amount of influence in getting a book published.
How much time do you devote to each submission? How long does it take you decide whether to accept or reject a manuscript?
I would have loved to devote more time to every single manuscript, but since my department alone (fiction) received 100+ submissions each month, I could only read 5-10 pages of submissions that had little or no potential. I would need to read entire manuscripts before deciding to move forward with them. This meant that there were several manuscripts that I would get several hundred pages into before realizing that the story wasn’t moving well enough or it wasn’t portraying themes that our market would appreciate. But if you do receive an offer, this also means that tons of time and research has already been spent of your manuscript.
What submission advice do you have for aspiring authors?
– Get involved in the writing community. This can even be done completely online now. Social media has a lot of communities where you can meet other authors and stay in the industry loop. It is always a good idea to have author connections for beta reading, blurbs, advice, or just to have an understanding support group.
– Don’t bug the publisher about the status of your submission unless they have passed the date by which they said they would get you an answer. Publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts will need a lot more review time. You also don’t want to get a bad rap for being a needy author.
– Provide a list of comp titles to your manuscript (not all of them being best sellers). Editors will want to hug you for doing some of their work for them. It also just shows that you are a credible author. Believe it or not, I read a few submission forms where the author said that he or she didn’t read much. If you aren’t a reader, there is just no way you can be a writer. Also, not being able to think of any comp titles or thinking that there are none is not a good thing. If nothing compares to your manuscript, you either need to read more or there’s a reason why.
– Here’s an important one. Do your research on potential publishers. All publishers do best in a specific market and have to cater to what that market wants. For example, Cedar Fort’s market prefers clean, upbeat, and/or Christian books. There were several times where it pained me to have to reject a fantastically written manuscript because it was too dark for our market. Publishers make it easy to find out what they are looking for because they don’t want you to waste your or their time. It takes a little effort to research but not nearly as much as it would take to submit to every publisher that isn’t looking for what you are writing.
Thank you, Emma! You were so fun to work with, and I am grateful for all you did to help me as a new author. 🙂