When you are searching for a publisher for your book, don’t only target publishers who are interested in your type of book but the editors who handle that subject. The way to do this is by using keywords, such as “historical,” “relationships,” & “self-help”.

Although this is not a perfect science, since these searches will pull up some editors who still don’t handle that particular type of book within the category selected.  But at least, this kind of targeted search will help to narrow the field.

When you do this search, there are a number of sources you can use, such as the Writers Market directories that come out annually, the Literary Marketplace, which  has an online database of publishers, the Publishers Marketplace, or some companies that sell data.  However, using such sources of information can be expensive and time consuming – and some data can be out of date.

For example, the Writers Market directories for publishers, agents, and children’s publishers and agents which come out in September for the following year are about $25 each. But because of the delay in publishing and distribution, some of the contact information may have already changed or some companies may be out of business.  There is an online directory you can access after buying a book, but you have to do individual searches, and some of the information may not have been updated.

In the case of Literary Marketplace, you  need a paid subscription to get more than a physical address, and the cost is $25 for a week, $399 for a year; Publishers Marketplace has a subscription fee of $25 a year.  The other companies that sell data have other fees, and typically they only sell you a portion of their total database or allow you to send queries to a limited number of publishers who you have selected from their database.

But even if you have a direct access to the data, you then have to select the publishers to contact individually and create a mailing list or database from that. Then you have to do individual mailings unless you create your own database for multiple mailings.

By contrast, a company like Publishers Agents and Films has already bought the books and subscriptions has created a database with keyword codes to indicate what a publisher is interested in, do their own test mailings every 4 to 6 weeks to update their databases with the latest information, and can do targeted mailings for you within a day of getting your final letter.  Plus, the company uses special software to personalize an email to the selected contacts and can use anyone’s email for the “send” and “reply” addresses, so interested editors and publishers think you have written personally to them and reply directly to you.

The big advantage is that you don’t have the time and expense of creating the contact list and you can quickly send out your personalized query letter to several hundred editors within minutes – not the usual days it might take you if you send out individual queries.

Also, consider the letter you send out.  It has to be written well and have a compelling and specific subject line to get recipients to open the letter. Often writers who might be great in writing their books don’t know how to write a good query letter.  Some common errors are writing a letter which is too detailed or too vague, uses sales or PR hype so it sounds too promotional, or doesn’t quickly convey what the book is about and offer to send more information (such as a synopsis, proposal with sample chapters, or the complete manuscript).  Then, too, some writers put in information that is a deal breaker, such as describing a self-published book, which most publishers won’t consider, unless it has had strong sales of thousands of books.  So it can sometimes by more effective to work with a company with experienced writers who can review your letter and make any suggestions for rewriting if necessary or can write your letter for you.

Finally, think about the stats for sending out your letters.  How many letters are actually delivered?  How many are opened?  One company that monitors such stats is Publishers Agents and Films which has sent out about 1500 queries for clients.  It has found that about 90-95% of the queries are delivered for book publishers and agents, and they open about 60-75% of these queries, with no unsubscribes or spam reports and a very small .20% bounce rate, because of the regular updates.

For more information on selecting publishers, along with writing an effective query letter, you can contact Publishers Agents and Films at You can email or call (925) 385-0608.

* * * * * * *


Gini Graham Scott, PhD, is the author of over 50 books with major publishers, including two on the film industry: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITING, PRODUCING, AND DIRECTING A LOW-BUDGET SHORT FILM and FINDING FUNDS FOR YOUR FILM OR TV PROJECT, both published by Hal Leonard. 
She has written and produced over 50 short films, has written 15 scripts for features, has three other films in preproduction, and has one feature film she wrote and executive produced in post-production for release in November 2014. 
She also writes scripts for clients, and has several film industry Meetup groups which have meetings to discuss members’ films. She is a writer and consultant for The Publishing Connection.