Practice Makes Perfect

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of targeting a publisher? How about this–grab your kitchen timer and set aside just one hour today for target practice!

First set your timer for 15 minutes. Use this time to practice choosing a publisher to target. Look in your market’s guide…pick up a favorite current book or magazine and locate the publisher’s name…go to amazon.com and check out various publishers of your favorite topic…skim publisher interviews in a current writer’s mag…Don’t stress out about it or take a long time doing it. Just find the name of one publisher that sort of interests you.

Now set the timer for 15 more minutes. Use this time to practice finding out more about the publisher you chose. Google their name or go directly to their website. Look for their “submissions guidelines.” Sometimes it’s hidden under “About us” or “Contact us.” Try to find out if they take unsolicited queries and if they welcome e-mail queries or if you have to send it via postal mail. Print out any pertinent info you find.

Ready to move on? Now set the timer for 15 more minutes. Use this time to practice thinking of a way to break into their market. Browse through the publisher’s product list until you find a book or article that you think, “Hey, I could try to write that!” Don’t dilly dally or reflect deeply into your inner soul right now–just skim through their product list and note something that catches your interest. Make a quick list of topics they already cover along that line and then jot down 3-5 topics that relate to it but they haven’t yet published. For instance, if you’re looking at a line of nonfiction books about wild animals, list the animals they’ve covered: elephants, lions, cheetahs, etc. Then list 3-5 topics you don’t see such as tigers, hyenas, and boa constrictors.

And now to reach the finish line–set your timer for a final 15 minutes. Use this time to practice writing a query letter. Here’s a sample one you can use–just fill in the blanks and you’re ready to go:

Dear ______ (first name of editor),
I read in _________ (name of magazine or website etc.) that you are interested in ______________ (type of articles or books they’re looking for). I studied your website and see that you publish _____________ (topics or series they publish). Would you be interested in receiving a proposal about ________________ (topic they haven’t yet published).
Sincerely,
_______ (your name)
_______ (your contact info)

Here’s how that looks in final form:
Dear Haley,
I read in the Children’s Book Insider that you are interested in nonfiction picture books to use in the classroom. I studied your website and see that you publish a series about wild animals in Africa. Would you be interested in receiving a proposal about tigers, hyenas, or boa constrictors?
Sincerely,
Annie Author
123 Diction Street
Writewood, PA 12345
123-456-7890
http://www.annieauthor.com

Whew! You did it! All in just one hour. And if your target publisher accepts e-mail queries, it only takes one second to click the “send” button–and your query is on its way.

-Contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

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6 responses to “Practice Makes Perfect

  1. Gloria McQueen Stockstill

    Nancy, great! It doesn’t seem as overwhelming chopping it down into smaller “bites.”

    Thanks!

    Gloria

  2. Yes, it can seem overwhelming. But hopefully this one-hour exercise can help!
    -Nancy

  3. Great advice! I’m sure the 15-minute timer could be applied to other areas as well.

  4. Thanks, Susan! And I like your idea of using a timer for other writing exercises, too.
    -Nancy

  5. Shirley Shibley

    Very timely, Nancy!

    Shirley

  6. Thank you Nancy! This is helpful advice. It’s like the Tortoise and the Hare; small steady steps will get you there, too.
    -Veronica

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