What Does It Take To Get The Attention Of A New York Publisher?

By: Jerry D. Simmons

To garner the attention of the big New York publishers your writing must: inform, entertain, or enlighten. If your writing doesn't cover at least one of those three areas, chances are you will not get their attention and they won't publish your work.

The big guys are constantly on the search for new product, not necessarily different, but new. There is a distinction. Big publishers rarely take chances on manuscripts that venture far from the beaten path. If you wander into a chain bookstore and cannot find a category for your writing, then chances are the big publisher won't either, and as far as they're concerned your writing is un-publishable.

They also avoid manuscripts that aren't editorially sound, meaning that the writing requires a major investment in time from their editors. They will work with you once you are under contract. However the idea that your story or content is so amazing that the publisher will spend countless hours to perfect it, is nonsense, they won't do that.

When an agent introduces a new writer to an editor, it has to pass the sniff test. In other words, the agent has to feel the writing, editorial content, and genre will be something the publisher is looking for. Since book sales are cyclical and if your category doesn't happen to be selling at the moment, it's doubtful an agent would pitch your book to a big house. That is not a reflection of your writing, just the timing of the business.

If an editor is interested, then he or she will take the time to read the manuscript front to back. This is necessary, because anytime an editor makes a pitch for a new manuscript to the editorial committee, their reputation is on the line. If an editor pitches too many dogs, before long that person is working at Starbucks. Bye, bye career. Editors have to be conscious of the fact that if their creative eye for attracting great stories fails them, they need to find a new line of work.

Let's say the editor has read the manuscript, feels it has what it takes in the high pressure world of big corporate publishing, and decides to make the pitch to the committee. Next step is to sit in front of a group of publishing people around a big oval conference room table and sell that manuscript to the company.

At this point the key to whether or not the company offers a contract to the author centers on three things: (1) Can the company distribute this book to a wide enough audience to make money? (2) Can the publisher cover their investment with the wider distribution? and finally (3) Will this manuscript inform, entertain, or enlighten an audience?

Even if everyone agrees the distribution potential is wide enough, and the financials work to make money, if the manuscript doesn't do at least one the three key points: inform, entertain, or enlighten, it dies a slow death right there at the table.

In the publishing business, a good story trumps great writing, and if the story carries on its back at least one of the three key points, you may find yourself a big-time published author.

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