Sunday, August 8, 2010


One evening not too long ago I was home writing while my family was out fishing. A crazy-huge storm burst in. It rained so hard that I was soaked the second I walked outside. I stood in water up to my ankles in the yard. It hailed too. Bolts of lightening cracked through the sky like a giant whip.

Here I was at the top of my mountain worrying about my family, who was at the bottom of the mountain at the river. (Flash flood anyone?) It takes around 45 minutes to drive to the river even though it is only a few miles away as the crow flies. So, I'm trying not to worry. The kids are with their Dad, they're fine, I tell myself over and over. They got out of there when it started to rain.

They didn't, but they're perfectly fine. Why? Because it barely sprinkled--a couple of miles away. Microclimates. Harsh weather right here on top of the mountain. Warm and pleasant at the bottom.

Of course, as pretty much everything in life, it makes me think of publishing. (No, I'm not obsessed or anything.) There are tons of publishing houses. They all publish books. From off in the distance they look a lot alike. Seems the weather should be about the same, they're all close enough. Right? No way!

Even if two publishers publish the same kind of book, say picture books, they may be looking for completely different types of stories. Don't send your edgy story with human characters to a publisher who only does stories about animals. Find a publisher who likes edgy picture books. Don't send your 250 word story to a publisher who wants picture books that come in around 1000 words. (Yes, there are still some of those out there.) No matter what type of book you are writing, you need to do research on who to send your manuscript to. It may be raining literary young adult novels at the top of one mountain while it sprinkles educational non-fiction for grades 4-12 at another.

How do you do this? You're on the internet right now, aren't you? Find the websites of the publishers who interest you. Look at the books on their list. Read about the company. Find their submission guidelines and go over them. Find books similar to yours. Look up those publishers. Research, research, research. Then send out your well-targeted manuscript and hope for that storm of good news to roll in!


  1. So true, research is key. I hope the perfect storm blows one of your manuscripts to the perfect place at the perfect time.

  2. This is excellent advice, Heather. Especially when there's a long wait after submitting a manuscript--sending it to someone who can't possibly publish it just adds to the waiting. And writers do enough of that without bringing it on themselves ...

    And I'm glad your fisherfolk were all OK. :-)

  3. I hope that storm catches your manuscript too, Paul.

    That's so true Rebecca. No use spending our energy waiting on a manuscript submission that wasn't well targeted!
    And thanks.:-)

  4. Very, very sound advice. I was shocked, when I first did a search for a bunch of picture books by the same publisher, at how obvious it was once I got a group together that this particular publisher did only stories about animals, or only worked with author-illustrators, or what-have-you. It is very worth doing this type of research!

  5. It really does help to take a look at a large group of a publisher's books, Ishta. We just got a search by publisher feature on my library's search engine which is really helpful because then I can order in all the books by a specific publisher and really see what they're like. It does take a long time to do this sort of research, but is definitely worth it!