Sunday, January 20, 2008

"No Unsolicited manuscripts?" Doesn't mean you can't send something!


A recent discussion on the Yahoo CW list reminded me of some advice I posted there once about the meaning of the term "no unsolicited manuscripts." Here's the post:

"No unsolicited manuscripts" does not mean you can't send something to these publishers. (Those who are truly closed will say something like "Not accepting submissions.")

"No unsolicited" just means you must send them a one-page QUERY first. If they like your idea and feel your book is a possible fit for their list, they will reply to your letter inviting you to send your manuscript. Then, WHEE! Suddenly you're sending a solicited manuscript.

I understand your confusion. I used to think that "no unsolicited" meant they actually only approached famous people and solicited manuscripts from them. Sounds incredibly naive of me now, but that's honestly what I thought.

You do not have to be previously published or famous or have any sort of contact in the industry for a publisher to take your query seriously. I got many "yes" responses to my queries early in my career, when I didn't know a SOUL in "the biz."
If they wish to see your manuscript based on your query, they'll write back and tell you their company procedure for you to send the now-solicited manuscript. Usually that means marking your envelope as "requested material," or something along those lines.

(Now I know what some people are thinking: "Why not just mark the envelope "requested material" FIRST and send it off? Answer: Editors have good memories. They will not only know they did not request a falsely marked manuscript, they will also remember the deception if you try to contact them later, even if you do it "by the rules" the 2nd time.)

There is lots of information online and in books on how to write a good query. It's a form of marketing yourself. The query serves as a first glimpse of your writing style, so it needs to have personality and yet be professional. I know it seems hard to convey the quality of a million-times-revised story in a li'l old query, but trust me, editors are well-trained to spot potential in a query. Plus, you can always insert a small excerpt from your manuscript so they can get a sense of your style as well. Do a search online or in an online bookstore on "How to write a good/strong query," and you'll hit a mother lode of helpful information.

You might want to read another blog post where I published the query that sold my CROCODADDY to Sterling editor who had never heard of me until she read the query. Read that HERE. I have since sold other books to Sterling, so my query was the start of a great, long-lasting relationship.

Good luck!

17 comments:

Kerensa said...

Thank you for your advice, I have found that very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. =)

Anonymous said...

This information was a big help while trying to get my book published. Thanks

Anonymous said...

thanks for clearing that up

Anonymous said...

thanks for clearing that up

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I thought it meant that you couldn't send anything unless it had been through an editor. So very helpful :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. I was actually just trying to submit a story idea to a company, and I got the "no unsolicited material" reply.

Rush said...

Thank you for the Uplifting insight. On reading this, my frame of mind turned from dejection to hope instantly!!

Anonymous said...

so unsolicited means solicited?

Kim Bookwriter said...

To a recent visitor who asked, "so unsolicited means solicited?" Sorry, Blogger seems to be having technical problems today and it wouldn't let me approve your comment. So here's your question and my reply:
Q: "So unsolicited means solicited?"
A: No, "unsolicited" refers to a manuscript that a publisher has not asked to see. A manuscript becomes "solicited" once the publisher has requested a look-see at your manuscript, in reply to your query. (Not everyone does. Many still say "no thanks.") But when they say, "Yes, please, I'd like to see your full manuscript," then your manuscript becomes a solicited manuscript.

Fiona said...

Thanks so much for opening back up the door to an opportunuty that I some how thought was a dead end.

FlirtstoneM said...

Wow i was actually confused when they sent me an email telling me they do not accept unsolicited fiction,thank you very much!

Kim Bookwriter said...

Glad you found it helpful!

Kim

Charles said...

This is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

The real reason is Hollywood has their favorites already. The same crew and genres over and over again that writes the same stuff over and over again with the occasional switching of actors for roles. It's the same Spider-man redo's over and over again. It's a White run mafia style dugout full of phonies that see money and don't want to open the door for others. Who makes them geniuses? Because they made some money? Wherever money is in the scope you can bet they are adjusting the lens. They are a bunch of phonies. They cover themselves by "we do not take unsolicited material" because they have been sued many times for actually stealing others works and not giving the credit where it should be given. So now agents and producers and managers do not take material. Not just the actors anymore. It used to be just the actors wont accept the material. Now the agents wont either. lol. So to protect themselves they have their favorite cronies on hand to keep writing crappy movie scripts over and over again. How many times are you going to do Spider-man and Fantastic 4? lol. It's all a joke. This is why i do not pay to see any films in the theater and I do not pay to watch any films anymore. I'm not giving them devils my money. I bet this wont get printed. lol.

Kim Bookwriter said...

There's where you're wrong. Happy to post your comments, which offer an energetic perspective. Of course, my post is related to book publishing, specifically children's books, so there are probably some differences. In some ways equally hard to break in, but tenacity has paid off for every one of the friends I've made in the past 15 years at SCBWI conferences. All of my friends have broken through and become published, as long as they stuck with it. Not necessarily blockbuster books, but happily published, nonetheless. I can imagine there are a lot more roadblocks to having a script turned into a movie. The amount of money that can be made seems to have a directly inverse correlation to the difficulty of making a breakthrough. Children's publishing is NOT known for big bonanza payoffs, so perhaps things are a little bit easier in that realm than in Hollywood. Thanks for your comment!

Kim Bookwriter said...

There's where you're wrong. Happy to post your comments, which offer an energetic perspective. Of course, my post is related to book publishing, specifically children's books, so there are probably some differences. In some ways equally hard to break in, but tenacity has paid off for every one of the friends I've made in the past 15 years at SCBWI conferences. All of my friends have broken through and become published, as long as they stuck with it. Not necessarily blockbuster books, but happily published, nonetheless. I can imagine there are a lot more roadblocks to having a script turned into a movie. The amount of money that can be made seems to have a directly inverse correlation to the difficulty of making a breakthrough. Children's publishing is NOT known for big bonanza payoffs, so perhaps things are a little bit easier in that realm than in Hollywood. Thanks for your comment!