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Rejecting Manuscripts the Helpful Way

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An estimated 85-90% of the publishers in the United States do not have commercial telephone listings. They don’t want to be listed in the Yellow Pages. Of course, a residential listing is cheaper, but most are avoiding telemarketers and unsolicited manuscripts from hopeful writers. Some publishers even try to protect themselves with unlisted numbers and P.O. Box addresses.

But we still get unsolicited manuscripts, query letters, and proposals. Usable material from writers would be welcome, of course, but most often the writer has not taken the trouble to learn what kind of books we publish.

We try to help new writers by explaining that the secret to finding a publisher is simple–Match your manuscript to the publisher. Do your homework.


What We Tell Writers

Better publishers specialize in one or two niche markets. They know their subjects, want to know about all the books in their subject area, and don’t have to send your manuscript out to a reader for evaluation. They also know how to reach the potential buyer and can jump-start your sales by plugging your book into their existing distribution system to specialty shops, associations, and events.

To find these specialized publishers, visit a couple of larger bookstores. Check the shelf where your book will be and look for books as close to yours as possible. Match your manuscript with potential buyers: Would the publishers of books on this shelf probably be interested in your book?

Then go to your public library and consult the relevant sections of The Subject Guide to Books In Print, a multi-volume reference listing all the books currently available for sale in the U.S. Look up the appropriate publishers’ telephone numbers and addresses in the last volume.

Call the editor (or the publisher in a smaller house), refer to the similar title the house published, and ask if they would like to see your proposal or manuscript. They will be able to tell you instantly whether your book will fit into their line. Do not just take “no” for an answer. If you are turned down, ask for a referral. These editors know the editors at other houses who specialize in their field. Then call the second editor using the first as a reference.


Why It Pays

All publishers are faced with rejecting unsolicited manuscripts. By explaining the system, we can educate the writers and help ourselves and our industry.

Dan Poynter is the author of “The Self-Publishing Manual” and a past Vice-President of PMA. His company, Para Publishing, provides valuable guides on book publishing; see the info athttp://ParaPublishing.com.


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