I’m going to start with the punchline today, and then backtrack to tell you where the information came from (and why it’s interesting). I’ll even explain why I told the story in reverse order. But first, the info.
Submission Requirements for the Amazon Imprint 47North
If you want to submit a novel for consideration by one of Amazon’s publishing imprints (not self-publishing), here’s what you should include.
Proposals and manuscripts should only be submitted to one imprint or editor at a time. We will communicate internally to make sure your work finds its best home. For a full list of Amazon Publishing imprints, visit: amazon.com/amazonpublishing
If you are represented by an agent, please have your agent submit your proposal.
- Submissions should include the following information:
- Title and author in the subject line
- Short synopsis of the book
- Brief bio and bibliography of author
- Full or partial manuscript (Word file, Times New Roman 12)
- Comparable authors or titles
- Any relevant marketing/PR strengths
Info courtesy Amazon Publishing (received via email)
You can follow that link above to descriptions of Amazon’s various imprints, each of which includes an email address for your submissions. The one for 47North (their science fiction and fantasy imprint) is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had the devil of a time finding that information. Once upon a time, long, long ago, I prepared my share of manuscript submissions. I owned a nearly-current copy of Writer’s Market and maintained a presence on a submissions editor’s website in the hopes of getting noticed.
And as a technical writer, it was easy for me to pick up on the importance of proper manuscript formatting and submission guidelines. It was easy for me to respect the sometimes punitive rules editors and agents laid down when it came to unsolicited manuscripts. Good formatting can convey a whole lot of information before a reader ever starts the first sentence.
So when — for reasons that are a story in their own right — I decided I wanted to submit something for consideration by 47North, the first thing I did was start looking for submission guidelines. Everything kept pointing me back to the Amazon page, which only said:
For proposal submissions or inquiries, please contact email@example.com
Helpful, huh? Anyway, I’ve got a fairly compelling case these days, and some unequivocal success has given me a little bit more courage than I might have had in the past. So I sent an email to that address. I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Hey! I’m famous. If you want to publish one of my books, I’d love to hear your offer.” I put it in more words than that, but not a lot more substance.
I took a deep breath, reminded myself I’d have to wait weeks for a response, and clicked “Send.” I immediately got a reply email from a noreply address saying, “Thanks for your interest in Amazon publishing. Please don’t make multiple submissions. Here are our submission guidelines.” And those are now pasted up above.
Not extremely helpful. It left me wondering if my first email “counted.” I knew it didn’t have the requested information, but if I followed up with the requested information, would that seem like I was badgering? Or was that initial email address really just intended to trigger these responses?
Fear and Trembling
I gave it three days. I heard nothing back, and decided a black mark against me along with a complete submission package would probably score a lot better than a half-hearted submission and polite self-restraint. So I put it on my To Do list: “Send manuscript submission to 47North.”
I should’ve written “Prepare and send.” I should’ve made “prepare” a line of its own. I considered it a trivially simple process, since so many of the items on the list were things I’d already prepared when I uploaded the book to Kindle.
All I had to do was write an intro paragraph for my cover letter, pull a bunch of material together, and then write out my list of comparables. That was the only item on the list I didn’t have ready to hand. It should’ve taken half an hour, right?
It took half a day. And that wasn’t because the comparables were tough. What I hadn’t counted on was the emotion.
As I said, I’ve done this sort of thing before. I used to write unsolicited submissions to some of the biggest publishing houses in the world. And then to some small and pathetic ones. And then to very slick, almost-famous literary agents. And then to shady and pathetic ones.
I didn’t get a ton of rejections. I only got rejections, but I didn’t get nearly as many rejections as I sent submissions. Mostly they didn’t bother to respond. And often I was waiting months on end before giving up on an answer.
It broke me. I stopped writing. And when I came back to it, I came back to it for me, without any real expectation of ever getting published. I had no intention of sending submissions again. I didn’t expect to self-publish, either. I was just writing because I wanted to, and that was fun.
Then the new digital marketplace arrived on the scene, and self-publishing became this wondrous thing. I found the success I’d given up on completely, without having to get approval from anyone.
And half a year later, following the monumentally successful release of my fantasy sequel, I decided purely for strategic/promotional purposes to see if a publisher wanted to team up with me and leverage my digital popularity to sell some paperbacks. If they said no, it cost me nothing. If they sent me a contract I couldn’t agree to, I could easily walk away. I came to this transaction with independence and power….
But even then, I found myself staring at the intro paragraph of my cover letter, trying to figure out how to say, “You don’t know me, but I matter. You’ve heard this from a thousand people who were wrong, but I’m worth your time. Please care about me.”
Even knowing everything I knew, even with hard numbers to back me up, that task left me feeling very small and fragile. It awakened a dark and distant terror that had already mastered me once before. It was miserable. Querying sucks.
I don’t have a better punchline than that. Querying sucks. Thank Heaven for the new self-publishing.