Getting Permission

Posted By Timothy Burns on Feb 3, 2012 |

solicited and unsolicited book proposals

Getting permission to send an editor your book proposal is a “chicken and the egg” dilemma.  Most publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or proposals – unsolicited being the key word. Yet publishers print and publish books every year. They have to be talking to someone, right? So as a new author, how do you get your proposal in front of an editor?

Assuming you don’t want to go to jail as a stalker because you follow an editor to his home, church and favorite grocery store, there are a few things you can do to connect with editors, and secure the coveted invitation to submit your proposal.

The most successful way meet an editor and pitch your project at a writers’ conference. Many national publishing houses fill 20 to 30 percent of their annual production calendar by connecting with authors at writer’s conferences. The advantages of attending a writers’ conference are too numerous to list, but here are a few as they relate to editors and book deals:

  • If you set time aside, and paid to attend a writers’ conference, you’re saying to an editor that you are serious about your craft.
  • At a writers’ conference, you meet and talk with editors personally. The publishing business is built on relationships. Face time with an editor allows him or her to meet you, the author behind the words.
  • Many conferences invite editors for the purpose of meeting their conferees. Editors are in acquisition-mode while at a conference. This means you are connecting with them at a favorable time for both of you.

Most conferences provide only limited time and appointments with editors throughout the conference. If your target editor’s dance card fills up before you secure an appointment, here’s another tip. You can often sit with an editor at lunch and dinner, and pitch your elevator speech then. I once pitched a book project while walking across campus between sessions to an editor I couldn’t meet with personally. While he turned me down, he gave me names and emails of two editors at other publishing houses across town, and allowed me to use his name when I contacted them.

Don’t let the “no unsolicited manuscripts” clause be an obstacle to your publishing goals. Invest in yourself, get to a writers conference, and find a way to connect with the editor you believe may be interested in your proposal.


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