Timing Your Submission

I love reading your blog, and when a question came up about publishing in the LDS world, I knew you were the first person I had to ask.

I have an LDS romance story that is about 99% completed right now. It’s in the final stages of revisions and I hope to have it done before the summer. My question is this: Is it worth my time to submit this to LDS publishers during the weeks surrounding Storymakers, or should I hold off? I know traditional advice would be to submit whenever I’m ready, but I don’t want to get lost in a blizzard of submissions surrounding the biggest LDS publishing event of the year. Would I have a better chance of being seen if I waited until the storm died down? (Like avoiding the post-NaNoWriMo rush)

Thanks for your time 🙂

Don’t worry about it. It’s not like your submission is going to get lost in the shuffle. Trust me, most legit publishers have a very good way of tracking submissions so they don’t get lost in the pile.

Yes, you may have more submissions in front of yours for awhile and it may take longer for the editor to get to yours, but those submissions are going to be there anyway. If you wait, there will be other submissions that come in while you’re waiting—and yours will then be behind those too.

The only difference I’ve found that a mass of submissions makes is how long it takes me to reply. It doesn’t make me grumpy or rushed. I still give each submission an honest look no matter how many are waiting for me.


No, Thank You. I’m Not An Agent

My name is Wanda Writer [name changed]. I’m [age redacted] and have been writing since I was 8. I am very much interested in getting some of my stories published–especially the ones with LDS characters and content. They are, in the main, romance novels. I have posted all of them on xyz.com [URL changed] under the pen name Wanda Writer and they’re all doing well, especially with teenaged girls and college coeds.

I’m afraid, however, that the guidelines most of the LDS publishers might be too stringent for the material that I write. My stories are clean in both content and language, but they are not idealistic in any way, nor are they for the naive or “clueless.” [Be careful with your wording here. If I publish ‘feel good’ stories, you’ve just insulted me and lessened the chance that I’m willing to work with you.]

It would mean a lot to me if you would be willing to get on xyz.com, look up my profile and choose one of my stories to read. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited the website before, but the author’s profile includes a list of his/her stories that are posted, and each story includes a synopsis or description of the plot or storyline.

I should tell you that each and every one of my stories is different from every other. I don’t have a formula of any kind. I create the characters, give them life, and then they write the story. Some are in first person, some in third person omniscient, depending on the type and feel of the story, as well as its content.

If you would read one–depending on whichever synopsis most appeals to you personally–and then let me know if you think any of the LDS publishers would be willing to take a look and possibly publish it, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you so much,
Wanda Writer

This is a well-written letter (better than many of the queries I get in my day job) and were I the correct audience for it, it would have piqued my interest.

(Okay, it did pique my interest and I did go look briefly at your stories. However, I must decline from doing much more than taking a peek.)

In essence, what you’re asking me to do is to become your agent. An agent’s job is to review your work and match it to a potential publisher, for which they are generally paid 15% of your royalties.

I am not an agent and, as far as I know, there are no LDS agents because 15% of the average LDS book royalty is not enough to live on. Therefore, you’ve got to act as your own agent.

However, in the very quick peek that I took, I found no content that would rule out any of the LDS publishers as a possible place for query and/or submission. While some LDS fiction is still targeted to readers who want clean, simple, happily-ever-after endings, there are some titles that are definitely targeted to those who want a more realistic read.

Do your research and submit something. All they can do is tell you no.

Uhm, What’s Your Name?

I have been reading many articles and blogs referring to cover and query letters. It is strongly suggested to address these to a specific editor or publisher rather than a “Dear Editor”. How do you go about finding the name of a specific editor when you are submitting to a large publishing company?

The short answer is: Most of the time, you can find it on their website. Look for their Submission Guidelines/How to Submit page. Then follow the instructions.

The long answer: Since I get variations of this question all the time, I thought I’d do a very detailed description of what to do and how to do it. First, since I just finished reading a paranormal fantasy, I decided that was the book I’d be shopping.

I googled Harper Collins because that was the publisher of the book I’d just finished.

By googling, I found the Harper Collins main website. I scrolled down to the very bottom of their page and found a link that said “Manuscript Submissions.” Most of the time, the submission info is at the bottom of the main webpage but sometimes you have to dig a little.

Upon clicking that link, I discovered that you have to have an agent to submit to Harper Collins, unless you’re submitting to Avon Romance. They included a link called “Avon Romance Submissions Guidelines.”

Clicking that link took me to the Avon Romance main web page. Again I scrolled down to the very bottom and found a link that said “Submission Guidelines” in a pretty pink color.

Clicking that one took me to a page with lots of great information—which I read very carefully. Yes, they take Paranormal Romance in the 90-100K word count range. Good. Kept reading. Kept reading…

There at the very bottom was this message:

How To Submit A Manuscript

Please note Avon’s submission policy

To submit your romance or women’s fiction (only), please query first. You must query by e-mail. When you do so, please put QUERY in the subject line. Due to the overwhelming amount of Spam email we receive, subject lines that have manuscript titles often do not reach the editors. Your query should be brief, no more than a one-page description of your book. Do not send chapters or a full synopsis at this time. Also, please do not send attachments – THEY WILL NOT BE OPENED. You will receive a response — either a decline or a request for more material — in approximately six to eight weeks.

Please e-mail your query to avonromance@harpercollins.com.

They obviously do not care that you address them personally. Further research to find the name of the actual editor at Avon Romance is moot.

If I were a real author, with a real book to submit, I’d follow the instructions in that paragraph TO. THE. LETTER.

Summary vs Synopsis

Dear LDSPublisher,

For those of us attending Storymakers next week, could you please tell us whether an agent/publisher would rather look at a summary or synopsis, what the difference is, and why there is a difference? Also, how often have you seen someone’s career take off at a writer’s conference?


Some people use these terms interchangeably, but there really is a difference.

A summary is a short description of your book; think if it as a sales pitch or the blurb on the back of the book. It’s 1-2 paragraphs, no longer than half a page. You hit the hook, the teasers, the main conflict. Ideally, it’s what you would put in your query letter.

At a conference a few years ago, I heard an agent describe it as what you would say if you suddenly found yourself on an elevator with an agent or editor, who turns to you and asks, “What’s your current work-in-progress?” You have until the end of the elevator ride to get them hooked.

A synopsis is longer and can be up to 2 pages. It’s more like an abbreviated Cliffs Notes for your book. Write it in third person (even if your book is in first person), present tense, include your main characters, their motivations, conflict, major plot events, setting, themes, AND the resolution. (That means, if it’s a murder mystery, you tell who dun it.)

The synopsis should be representative of your writing skill, so make it shine. It shouldn’t read like a user manual or a dry encyclopedia entry. Punch it up with the same sensory based imagery, tone, and humor that occurs in your book.

(I tried to find some good examples of a synopsis online. Didn’t have a lot of luck. Here are some but beware, they are racy.)

As to which I would rather see? The answer is BOTH. This is particularly true for a values based publisher, like here in the LDS market. Example: A novel about a teenage coming of age story. From the summary, I might be interested. But a synopsis would tell me that in chapter 17, she discovers she’s pregnant and decides to have an abortion. That just wouldn’t fly in my market and I’d like to know that before I’m 150 pages into the manuscript.

Careers taking off at a writer’s conference? It could happen. I know several people who’ve gotten that toe in the door from a conference—submitting to an agent that spoke at the conference, winning an award at the conference which got them a “bypass the slush pile free” card, and signing up for an actual pitch sessions. Readers—do you have any success stories you want to share?

Can I Make Changes Between Partials and Fulls?


Let me preface my question by letting you know that I did all the things I was supposed to. I wrote a book. I proofread many times and edited it. I walked away for a year and came back to it. I let about fifteen other people proof and edit it. I walked away for another month and then came back. I tweaked and tinkered. I made the story tight. It was perfect. (Or so I thought.) I sent three chapters off to an LDS publisher.

To my utter horror, I realized later that the whole first chapter is unnecessary and distracting. I should just delete it. But, it is one of the three chapters I sent. I tried so hard to keep that chapter in, but I now know that it would be a much better book if chapter two were really chapter one.

Here’s the question,

How unprofessional is it if a publisher requests your full manuscript and when it arrives, one of the original chapters you submitted is different or deleted from your full manuscript? Did I make that clear? What would happen if I sent in a chapter that is different than the one they read? I think I already know the answer to this, but thought I would ask because I’m sure I’m not the first person to contemplate this and I won’t be the last.


First, wait and see if you get a request for a full. If you don’t, then simply send the revised version to other publishers. If your first version was close but not quite on the mark, you may get a response asking for you to rewrite and submit again. If that happens, send the new version, no explanations needed.

If you do get a request for a full then you have to make a decision.

There is a type of writer that is very difficult to work with. They are constantly doing major rewrites to their manuscript, even after acceptance. They’ll often make changes that I haven’t asked for and sometimes I don’t notice until it’s almost too late—throwing the schedule way off. If these changes made the book better, that’s one thing. But more often than not, their rewrites are not better, just different. Sometimes worse.

When I have a writer like that, or think a new author is going to be a writer like that, it makes me hesitate. Sometimes their book is worth the pain in the neck. Sometimes it’s not. You do not want me to think you’re that type of writer.

If they ask for a full based on the original version, it means the old beginning wasn’t as bad as you think (nothing to be utterly horrified about). If you really feel the new beginning is significantly better, include a cover letter with your full that briefly explains (in 1 short paragraph or less) how the beginning different and why it’s stronger/better.

Waiting on a Contract

Dear All Knowing One,

I am unsure of what to do here. Last August I was contacted by a publisher that I had submitted a manuscript to and they wanted to know if it was still available and told me that they want to print it and would be sending a contract. After a few weeks of not hearing from them, I checked and was told that they still wanted to publish me, but were just busy. Long story short, I’m still getting the same story, but have yet to see a contract. How long is a reasonable time between a verbal offer and actually having a contract in hand? Is this normal, or are they giving me the run around?

Thank you for your help and expertise.

Five months, huh? That’s a long time.

Usually the long wait is between submission and acceptance. Most of the time, the contract follows within a few weeks—unless you’re working through an agent. Then there can be some back and forth between agent and publisher to work out the details of the contract.

But for an unagented offer. . .that sounds long to me. I don’t think they’d be giving you the run around so much as they’re understaffed? Or disorganized? Or low on resources?

If they’re a big company, it might just be a fluke. If they’re a smaller company, I’d be worrying that they don’t have the resources.

My advice: Contact them again and ask when you might expect the contract. Ask if this much time between acceptance and contract is normal for them. Then go with your gut feeling and either wait or give them a deadline before you start submitting it elsewhere.

No Reply on Submission

I submitted a book to Deseret Book 8+ weeks ago. I have been waiting as patiently as possible and have not heard back. (They say to expect from 6-8 weeks) Now I am trying to get a hold of them to see if there is a possibility it got lost in the mail etc. I submitted the book about a year and a half ago and during that process (about 4 weeks in) i received a confirmation postcard that they received my manuscript. i have since improved and edited the book and resubmitted it. but this time around i have not received a postcard and the time for consideration has passed and still nothing!

I will probably try sending it in again next week if I haven’t heard back, but i am getting a little bit frustrated that they don’t have any phone numbers available for me to call to inquire about it. I have sent an email to the contact they have listed from the publishing department, but i have not received a response. I have called the one phone number they have for corporate, but i always get a voicemail. Do you have ANY contact phone numbers for the publishing department? Thanks! 🙂

No, I don’t have any contact numbers for Deseret Book, other than what they post on their website.

Let me make sure I understand. You submitted 1 1/2 years ago and they rejected you. Then you made changes and resubmitted.

Did they ask you to make changes and resubmit? If they did, then be patient. Their website actually says, “Allow at least eight weeks (and occasionally longer) for response on your manuscript.” At the 12 week mark, send a short and polite email asking for confirmation of receipt of your book and where it is in the review process.

They’ve also changed contact names and email addresses since the last time I checked their site. You want to GO HERE and contact the person listed for Publishing.

Make sure you put that email address in your “safe list” so that a reply doesn’t end up in your Spam/Trash folder. (That happened to me a lot with authors. If they sent you a reply and it bounced back to them, chances are they don’t have time to track you down and figure out why it bounced.)

Also, put all your contact info at the bottom of your email, including mailing address and phone number, so that they have multiple ways to reach you.

If they didn’t ask you to resubmit, they may think your second mss is a duplicate submission (which they tell you not to do) unless you were very clear in your query/cover letter that you had re-written the book. However, most of the time, if they weren’t interested the first time around, they probably won’t be interested in a rewrite unless the changes are substantial.

My recommendation is to send the email again but do not resubmit the same manuscript until you receive a reply.

In the meantime, you are working on another book, aren’t you?

(BTW, a friend of mine has her first book coming out next spring. She submitted to a national publisher and didn’t hear back for nearly two years before she got an email saying they were interested. So 8 weeks is nothing.)

Writing the Synopsis

How do I format the chapter by chapter synopsis? Is it single or double spaced? Is the chapter title centered or aligned left? If I have a chapter number and title are the number and title separated by a comma? Are the two or three descriptive sentences on the next line? Do I put the same header on it as on my manuscript pages. Do I title it with the name of my book and the word synopsis? And finally, how do I make it not sound so boring? It sounds so contrived to list off the plot developments. I’ve tried to include the MC arc, but the emotion can’t come through in a couple of lines. What is the most important part to convey in the chapter synopsis? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

The reason for a chapter synopsis (or outline, they’re similar) is to let the publisher know what happens in the book so that they don’t have to read the whole thing to determine if it fits their criteria.

As an LDS publisher, I asked for a synopsis to be included with fiction submissions. It saved me a lot of time in cases when the writing was good but the message didn’t fit my target readership.

For example, a YA coming of age novel. I need to know that it ends in a way that supports LDS doctrine and principles. I don’t want to read 350 pages of a good book only to find that the heroine decides to shack up with her boyfriend in the last chapter. No matter how good the writing is, that wouldn’t be a book that I’d accept for publication. It doesn’t match my criteria.

Your synopsis doesn’t have to be hugely entertaining and filled with emotion. Yes, you want it to be interesting. You don’t want to put the publisher to sleep. But it won’t have the same intensity of description and place and characterization as your query or manuscript. A good synopsis is short and concise, but contains the nuts and bolts of your story. I want to know the major plot points, the twists and turns, who does what, and how the story ends.

Write your synopsis in third person and present tense. You don’t need a final summary or to explain what I’m supposed to “learn” from the chapter. Don’t insert dialog.

If the publisher hasn’t posted guidelines on how to format the synopsis, go for readability. Make it as easy to read as possible. Use the same fonts and margins as with the manuscript. Single-spaced is fine, since it’s concise (1 to 3 pages).

Yes, put your info header on it like you do with the manuscript—your full name and contact info on the top left of the first page; then your last name, and title on the other pages.

You can either break it up by identifying the chapters (see below) or you can write it in simple narrative style. As long as it’s written well, polished, and succinct, it will be fine.

You can read a very good article about creating your synopsis HERE.

You can read some sample narrative style synopses HERE.

I couldn’t find a sample of the chapter by chapter style synopsis, so here’s one I just made up. Your’s will be a little more clever and catchy, but you get the idea.

Pawns Synopsis by LDS Publisher

1. The Crash
It’s Halloween night and Nancy, Tami, and Karen (college roommates) are planning to attend a party with their boyfriends, Marc, David and Jonathan—all dressed as pieces on a chess board. David is late. They receive the shocking news that David has been killed in a car accident.

2. Reunion
Ten years later, Karen is working as a research assistant for O.A. Williams, famed philanthropist. Olaf is setting up a new business for his wife, who designs specialty candies. In researching trade shows, Karen discovers that Jonathan, whom she hasn’t seen in ten years because they broke up the day after David’s car accident, will be introducing his “chocolate books” at the Denver trade show. Curious about Jonathan, Karen rents a booth for Olaf’s wife, Anna, at the show.

3. Whatever
Yada, yada, yada.

[Nobody steal this idea. I’ve actually got this book partially written. When it’s published, you’ll all know my true identity. Hah!]

Just Breathe

Covenant likes my novel and asked for specific revisions. I worked out the revisions and was very pleased with the result, then sent the mss back to them. They were excited to receive it, especially when I let them know it was part of a trilogy.

Then, two days later, I went back and re-read, finding errors, words left out (from the cutting and editing), I was horrified. I kept reading, and it cleaned up after the first few chapters. I think in my excitement I was more careful with the main body and end of the work, where most of the major cuts had been made, and hastily scanned over the beginning, which didn’t need so much revision.

Here is my concern: It has been six weeks and I haven’t heard from them. Since the first time around took nine months, I really don’t have a time-table of expectation, but with the errors, I am anxious. I have already gone through and edited again, double checking, and have a much cleaner mss now, but do I tell them that? Do I just wait it out? Is it professional to contact them?

I have learned a valuable lesson. But I am still learning. And I can’t seem to focus on anything, worrying about this… and I am usually pretty level-headed and patient. I would appreciate any advice.

While it is very important to make sure you send a clean, typo-proofed manuscript, it’s not the end of the world if a few mistakes slip through.

First, take a deep breath. They know this is your first novel. They know you’re going to make mistakes.

Second, e-mail your contact and request a status report. You could mention that after you sent the revisions, you found some cut and paste errors, and would they like you to send them a cleaner copy.

Last, relax already. If they like the story, they’ll say, “We like the story. Fix all those typos.”

Electronic Submissions: The Wave of the Future

I’m curious… Do you think LDS publishers will eventually convert to electronic submissions / equeries? In order to save trees and all of that jazz? It’s becoming increasingly common in the non-LDS publishing world, but it sounds like LDS publishers are resisting.

Here’s the thing with electronic submissions:

1. Viruses. I’ve had my computer go totally brain dead because someone sent a submission via email and it had a virus in it. It costs me time and money to fix that. Yes, I have virus detectors, multiple ones, in fact. But there’s always the chance that something will get through.

2. Eye strain. It is harder to read on computer. I can’t tell you how often I end my day with a killer headache caused by reading on the computer. This is less of an issue if you have a Kindle (and I do; and all editors and publishers should get one). I can convert Word files to Kindle files, which are much, much easier on the eyes. But it is still easiest of all to read black type on white paper.

That said, e-files are more portable, won’t break your desk no matter how many you stack on there, and if you happen to be reading outside, the wind can’t blow them away.

Personally, I think electronic queries and submissions are the way to go. As older editors retire and are replaced by younger, computer savvy editors, you’ll see more and more houses accepting e-files.

Standard Manuscript Formatting

I wrote this post late last night. When I checked it this morning, I found a few things I’d left out. They are in red.

Hi LDSP. I’m new to all of this. I was looking at some publishers’ websites to find their submission guidelines because you always say how important it is to follow them. It seems that all of them are just a teeny bit different in what they ask for in formatting a manuscript. Do I need to reformat for every publisher? Also, one publisher said to submit my novel using “standard formatting.” What does that mean?

Most publishers put formatting guidelines on their websites to prevent someone from sending in a 500 page manuscript, 9 pt type, single spaced, with 1/4″ margins all around. Ugh! (Yes, I’ve gotten more than one like that.)

No, you don’t have to reformat for each publisher, if you use standard formatting (unless they’re just obnoxiously picky). If you use the following formatting, you should be safe with 99.9% of agents, editors and publishers.

Basic Page

  • Margin—1 to 1.5″ all the way around. (I prefer 1.5″—more space if I need to write notes.)
  • Font—Courier or Times; 10 or 12 pt type. I prefer Courier, or another serifed, monospace, easy to read type because it’s easier for me to read (although I have peers who prefer Times). I also prefer a 12 pt type for the same reason.
  • Line Spacing—Double-space. Absolutely necessary so the reader doesn’t go blind.
  • Left justify the text.
  • Paragraph Indent—First line, 5 pt or 1/4″. I prefer set tabs, not auto-indent. My typesetters always cuss me when I send them an auto-indent mss because when they convert it to their typesetting software, it deletes the indents and sometimes it’s hard to tell where new paragraphs begin.
  • Header—In the top right hand corner, on one line of text, put your last name followed by first initial/TITLE (all caps)/Page #; right justified. For example:
    Publisher, L./MY BEST SELLER/1

    This information on every mss page is very important because we often get pages out of order, and sometimes mixed with other mss.

  • Do not print on the backs of the pages, one-sided only.

Cover Page

  • Use same margins and font as other pages. No header on cover page.
  • Contact Information—Your name (your real legal name, not a pen name), full mailing address, phone number (with area code) and e-mail address in the top left corner. Single-spaced; left-justified. For example:

    LDS Publisher
    123 My Street
    My Town, ST 00000


  • Title—Centered, about the middle of the page, or just above. One double-spaced line beneath.
  • by—Centered below title; one double-spaced line beneath.
  • Name—(or pen name) centered below “by”; one double-spaced line beneath.
  • Word Count—centered below your name; one double-spaced line beneath.

First Page

  • Header—in top right hand corner. Start on page 1. (Do not count the cover page.)
  • Chapter Title—Hit return/enter two times (no more than six times), using double-spaced lines. Center title on page. Do not use all caps, or bold, or bigger font sizes. If your chapters don’t have titles, type: Chapter 1 or Chapter One.
  • Mss Text—hit return/enter two times using double-spaced lines. Start your story.
  • Scene Breaks—If you feel you need to insert an indication of a scene break, hit return/enter two times, type ###, center it, hit return/enter two more times, go on with your story.
  • New Chapters—Start each new chapter on a fresh page, using the same Chapter Title formatting as above.

Picture books and screenplays have their own special formatting.

Do I Find a Publisher First? Or an Agent?

I’ve finished my first novel, run it through a critique group, polished it up—done all the things you suggest we do before we submit. I think it’s ready to go.

I want to try the national market. Where do I start submitting? Do I submit to publishers or to agents? If I go through an agent, what is the standard cut I should expect to pay them and will I have to cough up any money before the book sells?

Whether to submit to an agent or to a publisher depends upon your book (ie: which publishing companies are a good fit for you) and the publisher. Some publishers take unagented submissions. Others do not.

Lots of writers successfully sell their first book without an agent to represent them. They research publishers, find those that take unagented submissions, and go for it. Some of them get great contracts and healthy advances. Once they’ve sold that first book, it’s a lot easier to get an agent to represent future books.

If you start with an agent, rather than a publisher, the process is basically the same. Research agents, find those that are accepting new clients, and go for it. The advantages of having an agent is that a good one will help you polish up your story to make it more sellable. They also have connections to publishers—they know who is looking for what type of book, who is good to work with, and agents can usually get better contracts and healthier advances because they (hopefully) know a few more things about the business end of selling books that newbie authors don’t.

Most agents charge 15% commission on U.S. sales. Some of them require you to pay office expenses (copying, postage, etc.) before the sale, others deduct them from royalties (on top of the 15%). If they charge reading fees or an hourly rate, look somewhere else.

Two Easy Tricks to Get You Published

Are there any simple tricks that I can do with my finished manuscript that will help a publisher be a little more impressed with my work?

Yes, there is are two very easy tricks that you can do that will impress the heck out of a publisher:

  • Follow their submission guidelines.
  • Run your spell check and grammar check and correct everything.

Those two tricks alone will get you far. You have no idea how many of the manuscripts I received didn’t do these two very simple and very easy things.

Submitting to Deseret Book

I was reading your blog regarding publishing, very insightful. [I love it when people think I’m insightful.]

I have a short children’s story that I would like to send in for consideration.

My question is to whom do I address my query? I found the address for Deseret Book, as well as the author guidelines. I am just unclear who to address in my query.

To Whom It May Concern? Ms. Sheri Dew? Or is there another name that I should know?

Please forgive my ignorance, but I have Googled several times and have not been able to find the answer, so I turn to you with the hopes that you do know!

I would appreciate any information you could pass along to me.

When you go to their Guidelines for Authors webpage, it says:

“Submit your manuscript or query to Publishing Department, Deseret Book Company, P. O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130.”

So that is exactly what I would do. They have a very detailed description of how to submit, including how to submit a children’s story.

Then, if you click on the Contact Us link, you will find Lisa Mangum listed as the contact person for Publishing, so address your query to her. (Sheri Dew runs the company but she is not the Submissions Editor.)

The Practical Side of Submitting

I have several books sketched out in my little thought notebook, but I also have one that is 90% completed. This book is written with the chapters based around a gospel topic. I use my life’s experiences in [a specific activity] with doctrine to help teach about the principle. I have had a few friends who are editors look through it, but would love to have some other people read it who are not friends or family. Do you have any suggestions? Everyone who has read through it has loved it and been touched by it, but I’d like to look at the practical side of things before submitting it for publication.

Again, writers groups are a place to start with readers.

As for the practical side of submitting and publishing, go to your library. You’ll find a whole shelf of books that talk about the ins and outs of submission. I recommend starting with the current Writers Market. It will give you some basic how-tos.

After that, there are 3,452 books and counting on the practical side of getting published.

And also these posts.

Yearly Submissions Tally

How many fiction submissions do you receive each month/year at your company?

How many non-fiction submissions do you receive each month/year at your company?

I don’t really want to say how many my company gets because that could out my secret identity. But I can give you a range—a very small LDS Publisher might get anywhere from 10 to 100 queries/submissions a year. A medium-sized LDS Publisher gets 200 to 500 a year. In our company we get slightly more non-fiction submissions than fiction, probably 60/40—but the fiction submissions are increasing every year.

Lisa Mangum said DB receives 1500 manuscripts in a year, but I don’t know the breakdown for fiction/nonfiction.

If any other publishers would like to chime in with their specifics, go ahead. You can do so anonymously if you like.

Storymakers: Two Panels

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Publishers Panel
Presenter: Chris Bigelow, Zarahemla; Lisa Mangum, Deseret Book; Kammi Rencher, Cedar Fort; Kirk Shaw, Covenant
Submitted by: Shy Submitter

The panel began with each publisher telling us what they were looking for.
Chris/Zarahemla: provocative, unconventional stories that are ultimately faith confirming.
Lisa/Deseret Book: YA, historical with or without romance, beginner chapter books.
Kammi/CFI: stories with potential to crossover to national, with LDS values and themes.
Kirk/Covenant: suspense, romance, historical, historical epic series, good non-fiction (self-help), gift books

Q: There are no LDS agents because they would not make any money. But assuming someone was willing to work for very little, would LDS publishers be willing to work with agents?
A: They all said yes.

Q: What type of content is not allowed?
A: No swearing, graphic violence and sex, no false doctrine, careful with polygamy; PG rating. (All agreed, but Zarahemla was a little more lenient on these.)

Q: What are the differences between the LDS and national markets?
A: A best seller for an LDS book is 20,000 copies sold; national is 100,000. National publishers can potentially sell to the whole world; LDS publishers are limited to the number of members of the Church, 13 million (much less, if you limit it to English speaking). There is less direct competition in the LDS market. National market needs more lead time from acceptance to publication.

Q: What is expected from the author in terms of marketing their book?
A: Chris/Zarahemla: networking, website, readings, bookstore events, especially in home town.
Lisa/Deseret Book: as much as you can do; blog, website, networking skills, available for interviews.
Kammi/CFI: active, working connections and resources, blog, website, radio or TV connections (if you have them), book signings.
Kirk/Covenant: book signings are not a big seller for them; brainstorm with marketing department, articles for magazines, be proactive.

Workshop: Authors Panel on Agents
Presenter: JANETTE RALLISON, 700,000 books sold; agent: Erin Murphy; JEFF SAVAGE, 4 books, 2 Covenant titles released this year, national YA fantasy with Shadow Mountain this year; agent: Jackie Sack @ Bookends, Inc.; BRANDON SANDERSON, national epic fantasy, children’s books with Scholastic, published in 15 languages, 2 movie deals, agent: Joshua Bilmes @ Jabberwocky; JAMES DASHNER, 4 Jimmy Fincher books, 13th Reality with Shadow Mountain, currently looking for a new agent.

[Shy Submitter apologizes for not noting who said what; this is the collective wisdom of the panel.]

Agent fees are generally 15% for US rights, foreign rights are 10% to the US agent and 10% to the foreign agent.

Royalties are sent to the agent who takes their fees and sends the rest to you. They also send you a 1099 at the end of the year.

Agents need to have a good relationship with editors and publishers.

Before signing with an agent, check them out. Who are their other clients? Contact them and see if they are happy. How many books do they place each year? Which books have they placed in the past year? What is the average advance they are able to get for their authors?

Check them out: Writers Beware, Predators and Editors have lists of good and bad agents, also some sample contracts. Other helpful sites are Show Me the Money (Brenda Hiatt/Romance) and Locus (sci-fi/fantasy), AgentQuery.com.

Agents contracts can be as short as one page and should cover: how long they will represent the work, how much they will be paid, how to end the contract.

Marketing: Publishers send out ARCs (Advance Reading Copies). Some send 100, some send 1,000s. They may do conventions. Author is expected to do a website, bookmarks, book signings, school visits (children & YA), word of mouth. Join genre groups for support and ideas.

1% of the population are readers; the rest read an average of 1 book per year.

Storymakers: Lisa Mangum, Deseret Book Editor

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Making the Leap
Presenter: Lisa Mangum, Workshop on Friday
Submitted by: Shy Submitter

Five things you can’t control:
1. It’s a business. We look for what’s going to make money. Buying a book in the store is an emotional decision. Buying a manuscript to publish is a business decision.

2. Number of manuscripts submitted in a given year. Deseret Book receives 1500 manuscripts in one year. Of those, 30 are published. [I think this was fiction books?] DB produces 150 products a year, which includes all books, audio, music and paperback reprints.

3. Number of available slots for new authors. DB always has some slots reserved for new authors, but the number varies. In 2006, they published 60 books; 11 were from first time authors.

4. Other manuscripts submitted that are similar to yours. They don’t want to publish two books in the same year that will compete with each other. Don’t write to a trend. They accept 1 to 2 years out, so by the time a trend is identified, it’s over. Be the first of what’s coming next.

5. Her mood. It’s easier to reject a book when the editor is having a bad day. Sending chocolate won’t help. She’ll eat the chocolate, but it doesn’t change her decision.

Five things you can control:
1. Do your homework. Answer these six questions before submitting: a) Am I in the right slush pile? b) Who is going to buy this? Young girls, women, children? c) How is your book different? Know what’s on the market and how your book is different/better. d) What are people buying? Talk to librarians, check best seller lists, etc. e) What is your marketing plan? What special outlets do you have? f) Have I let five honest people give me feedback? People who love you don’t count.

2. Follow posted submission guidelines. Please! Make the envelope easy to open. If you want your manuscript returned, send a big enough envelope.

3. Write a killer cover letter. This is your most important page. This is a business letter. Difference between query and cover letter—query is “I’m writing XYZ. Are you interested?”; cover is longer with more detail, informative. Including some proposed back cover copy is fine. 80 to 85% of the titles are changed, but DO put a title on it.

4. Showcase your talent. Include your writing credentials, writing organizations you belong to (like SCBWI), what you’ve written even if it’s not published, show us you have more than one book in you, that we can get a book a year out of you.

5. Deal with your rejection letters. Any type of personalized comment on a rejection letter is good. They only detail what’s wrong if it was a close call. Keep writing, keep working because you can’t imagine not doing it. “Don’t worry. Don’t hurry. Don’t stop.”

Other miscellaneous things:
It takes about two years from acceptance to published book.
They respond in 10 to 12 weeks; you may call or e-mail after 12 weeks.
If you’ve done significant rewrites, you may resubmit.

Storymakers: Kirk Shaw, Covenant Editor

Notes from the 2008 LDStorymakers Conference

Workshop: Ten Ways to Get Your Story Noticed
Presenter: Kirk Shaw, Workshop on Friday
Submitted by: Karlene Browning

(I have 10 things on my list but they don’t match up well with the 10 things in the syllabus, so if someone else wants to add to this list, please feel free to go right ahead and do it.)

First, he said that if we attended the conference, we could use his name and submit directly to him, skipping the slush pile entirely. He said he’s looking for: gift books, 32 page children’s picture books, suspense, action, romance, historical epics, YA and childrens (chapter books). He stressed that they needed to be a good read and DYNAMIC.

1. Cover letter—Do research to make sure they publish your type of book. First paragraph should include word count, genre and subgenre (ex: not just “mystery” but “who-done-it cop story”). You can also say it’s similar to a particular author. Don’t use modifiers. Be objective: “this is what my book is.” List credentials if you’ve been published before. (Credentials = it’s printed; you’ve been paid for it.)

2. Openers for your book—Do NOT start with eating, sleeping, dreaming, flashbacks, anything sedentary or far away from your story. DO start with interest and action.

3. Formatting your manuscript—Follow publishers guidelines. Use MS Word; do not use WordPerfect.

4. Proofread—Make sure your manuscript is your best work. Have it proofed.

5. Dialogue—Don’t use heavy tags (ex: “Don’t go into the woods,” she whispered breathlessly.) Avoid dialogue tags when you can. Give each character their own voice, so they could be recognized without the dialog tag.

6. Be fresh—Give us a twist on the setting, plot, etc.

7. Characters—Avoid polar characters who are all good or all bad. Give them unique voices. Give them unique names; don’t have them all start with the same letter.

8. Conflict—You need meaningful conflict that moves you toward your end goal.

9. Writing Style—Watch for your pet words and phrases. (Ex: actually, suddenly, however.) Use sensory experiences. Show, don’t tell. Be consistent in your narrative style.

10. Climax—Your entire story should aim toward the climax and move you that direction in some way.

How Long is Too Long?

This question was taken from a recent comment on a post from last year. (Thanks for reading through the archives.)

I’ve been working on a book for 2 years now, and am thinking I’m getting close to submitting a first draft to a publisher. After reading this, and all the comments, I’m now thinking I need another four years before I’ll be to that point…

What can I do to keep my motivation?

Part 1—How long do you need to work on your novel before submitting? The answer, of course, is: as long as it takes to get the story right.

Having said that, however, I have a few more comments. First, if it takes you six years to write a novel, and you’ve only been working on the one story during that time, as a publisher, I’m going to think twice about accepting your book. Reason being, if I publish your book and readers like you, they’re going to want more ASAP. If it takes another six years to get book two out, readers will forget about you and we’ll have to start all over again to establish a fan base. If you want a career as a novelist, you should plan to produce a book every year or two.

Now, first books usually take longer to write because you’re learning your craft. We understand that. And if you’re going to be a “one hit wonder,” you may still be published if that one hit is good enough. Just keep in mind that part of my decision making process in accepting a book is if I think I’m going to be able to create a “reproducible commodity” of sorts. (Okay, I know that phrase is going to get me lots of hateful comments. Fine. Go ahead. Give me your best shot.)

If you’ve been working on a book for two years, get yourself into a good critique group right away and get that thing polished up and submitted this year!

Part 2—What can I do to keep my motivation?

Readers—jump in and help our new author out. What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you’re either dragging in your work-in-progress or you’re waiting to hear back on submissions?

Font Choice

I’ve been looking at publishers’ websites and noticed that some publishers like their submissions in Times New Roman and some of them like Courier. Is there a reason why they prefer these different fonts, or is it just a personal thing from publisher to publisher?

One reason is that all computers (PC and Mac) have these two fonts, making it easy to convert files. Sometimes when a document is opened on a computer that doesn’t have the font it was written in, it can go all skeewampus.

The other reason has to do with estimating final page count.

Courier is a fixed-width font, meaning all letters take the same amount of space. It gives you a uniform number of spaces per page making it easier (according to some) to estimate a final page count.

I prefer Times, however, because it is easier to read. I haven’t found that it’s any more difficult to estimate page count from Times.

Branded for Life?

So if you take notes on submissions received and say I sent something to you when I first started writing and you put in your notes, “Writing needs work (or it sucks) or whatever” Does that mean I’m branded for life with that publisher? I think they would still look at the work but would a first negative impression make it harder later on?

No. We realize that writers change and (hopefully) improve over time. Those notes only effect where in the reading pile your manuscript lands. Let’s say I get 5 mss one day—two are in my log, one with a “good” note and one with a “needs work” note; the other three are new authors. My assistant reads the queries and weeds out topics we’re not interested in or those with so many grammar/technical errors that we know we’ll reject. The rest go in the pile with the “good” note on top. The “needs work” note and the new authors get sorted by our topic interest level.

The only time a bad note brands you for life is if you were extremely rude and obnoxious* about a previous submission and my note says, “I don’t care if it’s the next Harry Potter, I will not work with this person!” (Out of the hundreds in my log, there are only two with this note.)

*Extremely rude and obnoxious means the author blasted me with e-mails/letters/phone calls after rejection, calling me names and telling me I’m the spawn of Satan for rejecting their book.

Rejection Etiquette

I have a burning question that I would be most grateful if you would help me with. I recently received a polite rejection letter, in which I was told in sum: “We are very selective, your submission came close but not close enough, feel free to keep us in mind with future projects.” I originally filed it away with a sigh, thinking it was a typical form letter. But then I started thinking (or over analyzing) that maybe his mention of future projects is at least the start of a bridge.

I am now chewing on the possibility of sending a reply thanking him for reviewing the manuscript, and briefly describing my next project. I’m thinking it would be better now, while he remembers who I am, then when the new manuscript is done and I’m back in the slush pile. But is that too presumptuous? If not, would it be appropriate to send it via email, if the rejection came via snail mail? (And no, he didn’t include his email address in the letter, but it is on the website.)

Thanks so much for the service you provide! It is a confusing world out there.

The mention of future projects might be part of their standard rejection letter, or it might actually be a positive indicator. In our company, we don’t open that door unless we mean it.

If you like this publisher, then yes, send them your next project—when it’s done. Sending an e-mail now for a project that isn’t ready to submit won’t do you much good because they’ll forget anyway. (We don’t log our thank you e-mails, only our submissions.)

If this publisher is like us, when a new mss comes in the first thing we do is check our log to see if you’ve submitted to us before and read our notes. If the notes say, “liked her writing but project wasn’t what we were looking for” then you’ll move up to the top of the slush.

As to whether to communicate via e-mail or snail mail, if they indicate a preference, respect that. If they don’t, then it probably doesn’t matter. If their e-mail is listed on their website, then they’re open to receiving communications that way.

Electronic Submissions

I notice that more and more publishers are starting to accept electronic submissions from new authors. Do you think the days of paper and postage will soon be a thing of the past?

Maybe. I personally think all queries should be done electronically. Saves time, money and desk space. Full manuscripts are a different story. They are hard to read on a computer screen, causes headache and eyestrain. There’s also the issue of computer viruses. It seems that no matter how good my virus protector is, I still get those nasty things—and sometimes I get them from author submissions. For those reasons, I think some publishers will continue to ask for paper submissions.

I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard that the Kindle is easy on the eyes and that you can easily convert documents to read on that. That could be a solution for the eyestrain. Anyone tried it?