25 Tips on How to Impress a Book Publisher by Cheryl Tardif

1. Understand that publishers are very busy people. We are juggling multiple authors and manuscripts, as well as promotions, events, and marketing. We have little time to spare, especially when swamped with hundreds of manuscripts, many of them sent when a publisher is closed for submissions. Showing a publisher that you understand they are busy and submitting during their open submissions time shows you respect their time.

2.Learn everything you can about the publishing company. Learn about the publisher, their authors, and the works they’ve published to ensure that you’d be a good fit. Connect with them on social networks. Share their posts and tweets. Buy some of their titles, especially in the genre in which you write.

3.Read and follow their submission guidelines. Most publishers post their guidelines on their websites. Read them carefully, and pay special attention to whether or not they have a specific time frame for submissions. Follow their guidelines! Give them exactly what they want. Be prepared to answer questions, especially regarding past sales.

4.Hook the publisher in the first sentence of your query. Just like a well-written book, your query should hook them in the first sentence. Read your first sentence, and ask yourself: “Would this make me want to know more if I were a publisher?” Ensure that you follow the Four Firsts for your manuscript.Don’t know what I’m talking about? Learn about the Four Firsts here.

5.Let your personality shine as a positive person. Don’t be afraid to show publishers who you are. Just be sure it’s someone publishers will like. Be humble, appreciative, and a team player. Don’t act like you know it all. You don’t.

6.Be open to learning. With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, successful authors must always be open to change—and to experimenting when new things come along. Show a willingness to learn and to evolve with the industry.

7.Be everywhere online! Recognize the importance of a website, blog, and social networks, and use them frequently. Even if you’re not yet published, you should have a website, a blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to your writing. Publishers will look for these.

8.Have an impressive platform in the SAME genre as the one you’re pitching. If you’ve been writing nonfiction and have a huge following there but are pitching a work of fiction, understand that the audience isn’t the same—unless there is a common theme. Example: Nonfiction books on dealing with autistic children have a specific audience of people looking for help with dealing with autistic children. A novel featuring an autistic child as the main character would then appeal to this audience.

9.Don’t rave about how awesome your book is and how it’s going to sell thousands of copies in the first week. Be humble and stick to the facts.

10.Show you understand your audience and that you know who your target audience is. Don’t pitch a book with a ten-year-old main character as a novel for adults. And don’t pitch an unpublished book as “for anyone, any age.” There are few titles that fit that description, but this is established by sales and time.

11.Don’t send the book until the publisher asks for it. Unless the publisher’s guidelines tell you to send it with the query, wait for them to ask for it.

12.Ensure your book is as error free as possible. Run a spell-check and grammar-check before sending it. And have at least one other person edit the entire work, preferably someone with actual editing skills who understands CMOS rules.

13.Know what CMOS is and understand the rules. Have a hard-cover edition on hand or sign up for the online edition. Show your knowledge of CMOS style rules in your manuscript. CMOS is the writer’s Bible.

14.Do not e-mail the publisher to ask if he/she has read your book yet. If the guidelines do not stress a time limit, ask for one when the publisher requests your manuscript.

15.Impress them with your publishing credits. If you have published other works in the same genre or type (fiction or nonfiction) as the book you want to submit, let the publisher know, and point them to your Amazon profile page.

16.Make sure you have an Amazon profile page if you have published works available on Amazon. If you have no profile page, you’ll look like someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

17.If you have won a prestigious award, mention it briefly. Ensure you know the difference between a “prestigious” award and one that means very little.

18.If you have published other works in the same genre, briefly summarize what you have done to promote them. Impress publishers with your marketing abilities and creativity.

19.Reviews are vital! Make sure you have a substantial amount of reviews on your published works, especially those in the same genre as the book your are hoping to submit. Don’t query a publisher or agent until you have 10+ reviews on the majority of your works, and an average rating of 3.5 or above stars.

20.Don’t pitch a publisher your manuscript while also pitching your services as a book cover designer, editor, marketing coach, formatter, etc. Query separately. Be professional.

21.Be editable. Your book isn’t perfect. Even if you’ve had it edited by someone else, the publisher will need to know that you’re open to being edited.

22.Don’t ask if you can supply the cover, cover description, or images for the cover. Publishers have their own creative designers.

23.Understand you have competition. Know who your competitors are and who has written works comparable to yours. Watch how they promote their works on social networks. Learn from those who are selling.

24.Make the publisher curious enough to want to ask you questions. Don’t tell them everything in your first e-mail.What you want is for the publisher to engage in conversation with you. You want to give them everything they ask for and hint at anything outside of that. For example, if a publisher doesn’t ask for sales data in their guidelines, you could mention you made a best-sellers list for two weeks in a row. Let them ask for more information. When they do, give them everything you can, including where the best-sellers list was published, what ranking you got, and total sales to date for that title.

25.Express gratitude. Be thankful for the publisher’s time and for any feedback or advice they give you. They don’t have to give you any feedback­—or their time.

Cheryl Tardif is the publisher at Imajin Books, a hybrid publishing company based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is also known as Cheryl Kaye Tardif, an award-winning, international bestselling author represented by Trident Media Group in New York. She is best known for Children of the Fog, Submerged, and Whale Song. Booklist raves: “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada . . . a name to reckon with south of the border.” Check out Cheryl’s website and Imajin Books website, and connect with her on Twitter (Cheryl and Imajin Books) and Facebook (Cheryl and Imajin Books).


Blog: http://www.livewritethrive.com/2014/09/29/25-tips-on-how-to-impress-a-book-publisher

9 thoughts on “25 Tips on How to Impress a Book Publisher by Cheryl Tardif

  1. This article is a joke? Is it?

    I can’t believe that someone intelligent would write such a BS.

    How much have you been paid by trade publishers to write this?

    We live in the 21st century!!!

    Publishers make money out of authors, THEY should be thankful to their manuscript suppliers, and not vice versa.

    Authors can easily live without publishers, but publishers cannot live without authors. A hundred years ago nearly every book was self-published.

    The trade publishing business is totally screwed, and if an author learns everything about publishing and has a great platform they absolutely DO NOT NEED A TRADE PUBLISHER.

    Your article is a real turn-off for every author who has a bit of self-confidence and the willingness to learn and be their own boss and not a slave of trade publishers. “People who have no goals work for people who have goals”.

    I am wondering if you publish my comment….

    Best regards,
    Doris-Maria Heilmann

    • Doris, why do you think I would not post your message?

      I’ve been a trade-published author since 1987. Since then I have also SP two books and I’ve been trade-published twice. So you see, I’ve experienced both sides of being published. Later this year, a major American university will be publishing one of my novels. I developed a decent platform, but it took years of SP and TP success. You cannot SP your way to a good author platform unless your SP book is a best-seller. The odds on that happening might be similar to being hit by lightening.

      There are some valid reasons to use a trade-publisher. If you want a review that makes a difference, you’ll almost never get it from a SP book. Please don’t quote Kirkus. Take my word for it because I’m a long time reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.

      As a SP author, how do you plan to maximize global sales? My most significant sales by far came from books that were trade-published and marketed effectively globally. Although e-book sales have been good, that’s not part of our discussion because both SP and TP books are sold as e-books.

      My publishers market my books at most, if not all, of the biggest and best conventions, book fairs and conferences around the world. How much would it cost you, the SP author, to visit all of those key international book fairs to promote your book? Even then, you would not receive the same attention as Random House, etc. You would likely not recover the cost of travel expenses. But trade publishers do this for a living and it costs the TP author nothing. That a lot to give up.

      Speaking of giving up book sales, SP books are almost never sold in bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold globally. In addition to lost major reviews, that’s a huge sales potential that an author gives up when deciding to SP.

      Do you know how to sell your SP books to the biggest and best screenplay, theater or documentary organizations? Have you maximized international sales, audio book sales, translation rights or other international sales opportunities? Publishers know how to do that.

      Just days after I signed a publishing contract for my debut novel, it was being sold in bookstores in Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, Japan and Europe. Are most SP books sold there? If so, how long did it take? Who handled distribution rights?

      For a novice or unknown author, platform is critical to success. You can count on your digits the number of SP best-selling authors. And many of those were famous authors who decided to try SP.

      I love writing; but I hate marketing and promotion. I admit that all authors must market, even with a trade-publisher. But with my TP books, I was able to focus on writing my next books, while my publishers were spending their time on promotion and marketing.

      Some unknown authors who have failed at being trade-published trash the entire market, rather than try to comprehend why they failed. That’s a shame. We all need to improve. When we are rejected by a trade-publisher, we have an opportunity to learn how to improve. And let’s face it… most of us will be rejected many times before a major publisher agrees to take us on. Each time, we can be angry, resentful and disparage all TP, or we can learn how to improve our skill with feedback. Some people become angry with rejection and blame the publishers for their own writing inadequacies. I accept it with grace and ask what they don’t like.

      This is not a black & white issue. Although I’ve been more than satisfied with my literary agent and my trade-publishers, I also decided to SP two books. When you can sell almost as many copies as you like, as I was with my first (non-fiction) book, an author would be crazy not to SP. Why not sell them yourself and keep the net profit? There is a time and a reason for everything.

      To discount one option under all circumstances (your disparaging of being TP) makes no empirical sense. Even though I prefer to use my agent and use major publishers much of the time, I will also likely SP again when it makes sense. That option will always be open, but only because I have already TP with success and created a decent author platform. If you only SP, you’ll probably never have a chance to TP.

      Sadly, as long as your dog can become a SP author tomorrow – no questions asked – all SP authors are devalued. There is simply no viable organization to vet the quality of a SP book, as agents and publishers do for TP books. I hope that one day we’ll have some sort of consortium of writing gurus to separate the SP gems from the SP dreck. After all, some SP books are truly wonderful. But for the time being, you won’t find them in a bookstore and they won’t garner the kind of meaningful reviews that we all desire.

      Thanks for your comments, Doris. I would never think of deleting them.

      Chuck Weinblatt

    • ” A hundred years ago nearly every book was self-published.”

      Not really. A hundred years ago (1915) publishers cornered the market in every way. The only exception would be books that are sexual, violent or hateful in topic.

      Granted today we have readers with more discernable tastes. But publishers are still the mainstream of vetted, popular books in all genres. Almost no bookstores will sell SP books. And almost no major review organization reviews a SP book. As a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, I can vouch for that fact. And as a SP author myself (in addition to my trade-published books), I understand and accept why SP books are not reviewed by the best sources or sold on a store shelf. They don’t deserve it, in general.

      The average SP book is by an unknown person, who has never before been trade-published, has no academic or career publishing credentials and whose book has never been reviewed by any decent review organization (sorry, but paid/Kirkus reviews don’t count here).

      The reason why so many people today believe that publishers have become irrelevant is because tens of millions of individuals with limited or lack of talent as writers cannot persuade a publisher to pay to have their drivel published. That is because the vast, vast majority of those millions of new would-be authors produce books that are bereft of talent and devoid of value. These nascent authors vent anger because they do not fully comprehend what it takes to be worthy of being published and because their ego stands in the way of such comprehension.

      As long as your cat can become a published author tomorrow – no questions asked – then all such self-published authors and their manuscripts will be devalued. I am one of those SP authors. In addition to my trade-published books, I have also SP two books.

      As a reviewer for a major review organization, I understand that when no one exists to vet your work, all of your work is worthless (except to you and your immediate family & friends). That can change over time. But to attract a real publisher (not a vanity or subsidy publisher), you’ll need to establish tremendous sales volume on your own, which almost never occurs. I won’t suggest it’s impossible, especially for non-fiction. But the odds are vastly against you.

      You can count on your digits the number of best-selling SP fiction authors, most of whom were already famous authors who decided to try to keep most of the net profit, rather than share it with a publisher.

  2. Hi Michael, thank you for your comments here. I can answer your question. Not everyone WANTS to self-publish. And that is why many writers today still look for a publisher. It’s really that simple. Sure, you can self-publish. I’ve been very successful at self-publishing. I’ve also been successful at being published by a traditional publisher.

    My article above was specific to giving writers tips on impressing a traditional book publisher, for those who want to pursue that route. If that’s not your thing, no problem.

    By the way, Chuck, my links are missing from the above article and should be included in any reprinting of my article. In fact, it should be reprinted exactly as it appeared on the site I gave permission to–which includes a few more links, but please add the 2 live links below. Thank you.



  3. Thanks for writing, Michael. I appreciate your remarks. Can you clarify something for me? This article has nothing to do with using any particular publisher. You are completely correct that for e-books, you can just post it to Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Sony, Scrollmotion, etc. You really don’t need a publisher. And if you write non-fiction as a subject matter expert, you’re probably only looking for profit. So, again, no publisher is necessary. So, the point was not that you “need” a publisher. But, Michael, there are some very significant advantages to having one.

    SP books are almost never reviewed by the biggest and best review organizations in every genre. As I am a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, so please take my word for this. And SP books almost never appear on the shelf of a bookstore, where at least half of all books are still sold. That’s a huge portion of the market to give up, just to be able to SP. This is why serious authors publish in print and electronically.

    I’ve been trade-published three times and I have SP three times. I have a literary agent today and, through my agent, I am being published by a major American university this fall for fiction. I have experience in each method.

    If you write fiction and you are not yet a household name as an author, SP will likely not help. And if you want to sell only as an e-book, you’ll have abandoned more than half the market for book sales. Fiction authors should be less interested in making a buck and more interested in platform (gaining a solid reputation as a talented author.) Most fiction authors will therefore benefit from being published in print as an e-book by Random House or HarperCollins than by posting only an e-book. The more times we are published by major publishers, the easier it will be to do the same in the future, especially with print sales. It is arguably the only way to be a truly successful novice fiction author. This is called “platform.” It is your industry reputation.

    Consider for a moment that virtually every best-selling SP fiction author today was already famous before they became SP. They simply decided to carry their fans along from traditional publishers to SP. That works for the famous. But it does not for us. We’re not celebrities or well-known authors (yet). For fiction, we need to hit home runs more than singles. That is accomplished by having a talented and well-connected literary agent and through that agent – a major publisher. You get the agent after you develop a winning platform. You develop a winning author platform by using small independent trade publishers for your first few books.

    So, Michael… you ask, “Why do we need a publisher?” If we write fiction and we are not yet well-known, then our ticket to success is through literary agent representation and through them, major publishing house contracts, both print and e-book.

    This amounts to what is called “platform” today. Novice fiction authors with a significant platform can attract major publishers who will represent your book at key international book fairs, conferences and conventions. They will use a talented team of editors, graphic designers, printers, distributors, publicists and marketers to make your new fiction book an international success. And while the average SP author must pay about $3,000 for editing, printing, graphic design, etc., (while selling at most a few dozen copies), the TP author pays nothing, receives an advance and can access a talented professional team, while having the book sold globally.

  4. There is so much about this post that annoys me, I don’t know where to start.

    If I write a book, have it edited, and have a platform, why do I need an ebook publisher? Why wouldn’t I just self-publish? What does a company like this do to market the book? Is being published by this publisher a credential? Why should I submit to this publisher? These are the questions you should be answering.

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