OK, I’ve used a little hyperbole in the title of this blog, I’ll admit.  There is no perfect submission letter because each submission you send is going in front of a different pair of eyes.

But I think there are some very important points to consider and at the end I’ll tell you my own idea of what might help tip the balance when you send your dream off to a publisher.

Firstly, and most importantly, check whether the publisher you are writing to has a preference for what a submission contains.  Many of them do.  Of course, you don’t have to follow it slavishly, but you need to work within their parameters and find a way to stand out without appearing to have ignored their wishes.  When you get published you’ll be working with your publisher and demonstrating you can’t pay attention to their needs isn’t a recipe for success.

Next make sure the working title is clearly stated.  I suggest describing it as a ‘working title’; if someone has a better one you should be open to it even if it does feel like the equivalent of renaming your child.

Then say how long the book will be (A4 double spaced pages and word count) and whether or not it is finished yet.

Your synopsis should be short; think in terms of the back cover of a book.  If you can’t wrap it up succinctly perhaps it isn’t clear enough.  You need to get the idea over in a paragraph or two – no more.

It might also be helpful to say why the world needs your book – what will it do.

Make it clear who the book is targeting and be clear in your own mind how attractive a market this is likely to be to your publisher.  Look at the titles they currently publish and who they are targeted at.  Hopefully the fit is good, otherwise expect a rejection letter: publishers like to play to their strengths (a sensible approach if you think about it).

Don’t be afraid to point out your books competitors.  In the world of publishing competing titles are often a good thing rather than a bad one.  They show that there is a market for the subject matter and publishers, like the rest of us, are fundamentally risk averse.  Of course it will be helpful to point out why your book is adding something new or different.  But be warned, even if your breaking new ground, saying that there are no other books out there isn’t as an appealing proposition for a publisher as you might think.

Outline your credentials for writing the book.  This is no time for false modesty.  If you’ve written the book you will, by definition, know a fair amount more than the average person about your subject.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, explain what you can and will do to market your book.  Imagine you’re a publisher reading a submission.  You want to be interested in it yourself, you want to feel you know the market (it’s an area you have experience of publishing before) and someone says “I will market the heck out of this”.  There is a very good chance they can feel confident about selling most of the first print run. 

That probably doesn’t mean they break even, but it’s a good step in the right direction.

The internet provides countless opportunities for marketing your book:
– through your blog and /or website
– through twitter
– through other peoples ezines
– through article marketing
– by emailing everyone you’ve ever met (who are currently clogging up your Microsoft Office contacts)
– LinkedIn contacts and groups

But what about going a step beyond these?  After all these are mostly time-based rather than cost-based.

My top tip is to put your money where your mouth is.  Decide how much you are prepared to invest in marketing your own book and include some examples:
– placing a full page ad in a relevant trade journal or two
– sending the book to key individuals at your own expense
– even undertaking your own PR work (via a specialist book PR company)

Clearly you need to be careful that you don’t commit to something without having a clear idea of the costs involved: do that research first!

Then get a good quality envelope, print your book’s first 30 pages (or whatever is required) on good quality paper, and put a couple of drops of lemon oil in the envelope just before you close it (heck, you didn’t expect me not to leverage appealing subliminal associations did you?).

I’ll let you know how I get on…

Philip Graves


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