Here's my two-cents worth on the subject, straight from yesterday's discussion (see, you didn't even have to be there to get my opinion):
Do your homework! Do they even publish/represent your genre?
- Check the spines of books in the same genre, especially of authors you like, to see who's publishing them.
- Go to the websites of publishers you are familiar with and see what they publish.
- Google the name of your genre—for example, "medical romance"--you may find small publishers, or even large publisher you just didn't think of, who are interested in what you're writing.
- Don't forget electronic or e-pubs; for certain genres—especially erotica and sci/fi/fantasy—the electronic market is growing rapidly. However, don't look at e-publishers as a shortcut to publication. Yes, the slush pile might be shorter, but e-publishers building their reputations are just as picky!
Agents: Do you need an agent?
- At some point—yes. Agents are trained and practiced in reading contracts, in talking to publishers and editors—that 15% commission pays for a lot of hard work. A good agent can get you in doors you didn't know existed, AND they'll help you make sure there's nothing in your contract you can't live with.
- Sometimes you need one to even talk to the publisher you're interested in.
- Finding an agent can be tricky—they're a lot harder to research than publisher are, mostly because you've probably never heard of any of them. See if there are "thank yous" in the front of the books of your favorite authors. Check their websites for their agent information. Join a professional association and use their databases.
Your next step in either case--once you've found the agents/editors/publishers you feel are a good fit to your writing--is to find their submissions guidelines. Sometimes those are buried—and I do mean buried—on their websites (for publishers, at least). But that's the word/phrase you're looking for: submissions guidelines. Those will tell you length—in commercial fiction, word count is unbelievably important; line specifics like—in romance, for example—heat levels which is romance-writer-speak for sex, or the need for alpha heroes or specific settings. They will also tell you whether the publisher takes unagented submissions, who the editors are for specific lines, and how to submit. Do they want a synopsis? How long? Do they take electronic queries?
Follow them!!! (the rules, that is) Well, you don't have to, but you're really risking ticking someone off if you don't, and it's a small, small world.
Later, (next 'research' Saturday, perhaps) my thoughts on synopses and query letters, as well as a little submission (although not submissive) etiquette. Today, I'm taking a day off....