In my last two posts—here and here—I looked at ways that writers could make sure their stories were ready to catch the attention of a busy editor. I’ve covered some general tips and tricks that writers can use to craft a story that will hook a reader, and I argued that editors—like any readers—are also generally looking for stories that will hook them.
But editors also have particular tastes and interests, and every editor is looking for specific projects to fit the needs of their publishing house. So how do you find the right editor (or agent) for your story? Here are a few tips:
1. Take some time to assess your story
Once you’re done reworking, tweaking, and polishing your story, and you’re convinced that it’s as strong as it can possibly be, then it’s time to take a hard objective look at your project. What genre is it? What other books is it similar to? Who is the potential audience? Is it a funny, lighthearted story, a work of nonfiction, a paranormal thriller? Is it a book with a lot of commercial potential that might be more suited to a big publishing house? Or is it a quieter, more literary story that might find a better home with a smaller publisher? Answering these sorts of questions will help you figure out which editors might truly be the best fit for your work.
2. Decide if you want an agent
Agents can do a great deal for you. Most larger publishing houses do not accept unagented submissions, so if you’re interested in publishing with one of those, an agent may be necessary. Agents know the industry and are familiar with a range of publishers where your book might fit. They can also work with writers to hone their stories and their platform, and they can be fantastic advocates for both the books and authors that they represent.
3. Research potential agents, editors, and publishing houses
This is your main work, of course. Once you’ve narrowed down what sort of book you have, then it’s time to find exactly the sort of publisher or agent who deals with exactly that sort of book. Spend time in your local bookstore finding out which publishers put out books that are similar to yours, both in terms of genre as well as tone and style. Try to track down the name of the editor or agent for similar books that you particularly love. The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is a great resource for finding the names of editors and agents, and so is publishersmarketplace.com.
4. Attend writing conferences
Not only are conferences a great way to hone your work and learn more about the craft of writing, they’re also a great way to meet editors and agents in person. This gives you a chance to gauge their personality and interests better, and it also gives you the chance to get honest feedback on your work from people working in the industry. Conferences are also a great way to meet fellow writers, who might be able to offer additional insight into potential editors and agents.
5. Be patient
Remember, you don’t just want to find an editor or a publisher who will agree to take on your work; you want to find one who will be as passionate about it as you are, who will invest time and resources into getting it right. Spend the time to find four to six potential agents or editors who feel like a great fit, rather than submitting your work to as many publishers as you can find.
Hopefully these ideas will be helpful to you as you think about finding the right home for your writing. Stay tuned for a look next month at what might make your story a perfect fit for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers!
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Kathleen Merz is managing editor for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Read her From the Editor’s Desk column—packed with editorial insight and behind-the-scenes info on Eerdmans books—one Thursday a month here on Eerdlings.