As one of Australia’s leading independent publishers, Ventura Press are constantly receiving manuscripts from a variety of authors. We thought it would be great to share with you the key factors that make a submission stand out.
We've asked our Publishing Manager, Jasmine Standfield, to tell us what she and the rest of our team look for when they're meeting for the first time with an author.
Below is an example of the kind of emails we receive on a day-to-day basis. It shows how crucial clarity, information and tone are to reaching your audience – both publishers and future readers. This is an example of what NOT to do:
I would like to talk to a hire-up in regards to a novel I am completing. My name is XXXX XXXXXX, I am located in XXXXXXX, and I would prefer to get in touch with Jane Curry, a chance to give her a brief synopsis of my fiction novel. I know it is nearly impossible to get in touch with someone that can help you with publishing a novel, however I know I have more to offer than any author, just looking for a chance.
Thank you for your time, please reach by email or phone anytime.
The following tips are some of the things we love to see from authors and should help you write an engaging pitch to a prospective publisher:
Begin with the crucial information…
First of all, it is so important to put your name and the title of your manuscript in the very first line of your email. It’s also very important that the document or file you attach is correctly named so we don’t lose it on our database. Other information that is crucial in your email is your point of difference. Don’t just allude to it, tell us what it is. What makes you stand out from the 5000 other authors writing and submitting content every month? This of course includes your author platform.
Your author platform…
There is a huge difference between a good author who lives in an isolated area with an active blog and presence on Goodreads, and a brilliant author from Sydney who has never heard of Booktopia and doesn’t have time to write a blog or run their social media. Authors, we hope by now, are aware how important their platform is – this is the way that you communicate with your potential buyers. Your main focus is your one book, or your one series of books. A publisher will likely be working on 24 books at once so can’t possibly dedicate the time to, or understand, your audience as well as you can.
Write a Pitch Sentence…
It sounds obvious but please tell us, clearly, what your book is about. Our house has a saying; ‘The pitch starts with you’. If you can’t explain to us what your book is about in a short and clear manner, how will we be able to pitch it to the sales reps, who then pitch it to the book buyers, who then pitch it to their staff, who then pitch it to the potential buyer on the shop floor? A long-winded synopsis gets lost in translation.
Include comparison titles…
Competitor analysis is also crucial. Please try to avoid the words ‘There is no other book like this out there’, because there almost definitely is – and this is a positive. This means that we can link your work to an established genre, tailoring your marketing to the right readers and positioning you in the market correctly. Think ‘The next Arianna Huffington’ or ‘A cross between Hunger Games and Harry Potter’.
Keep a balanced tone…
Be confident, but not arrogant. You are not the only person who has worked with Kerry Packer or met a celebrity.
And above all…
Be specific. Your cover letter is your elevator pitch and your media release. Put your strongest points at the top, best foot forward. Each cover letter or email should also be specifically tailored to the type of book you are pitching. For example, if you are pitching a book about leadership and success or work-life balance, don’t start the letter about where you are located or how many kids you have. Start with ‘As one of the top 100 part-time workers in Australia, I would like to introduce you to my business book about XYZ’.
Below is an example we have created of how to professionally pitch a fiction title:
Dear Ventura Press,
My name is Sarah Morton and I would like to pitch, Strangers Passing By, a contemporary fiction novel set in the beautiful landscape of the iconic Blue Mountains.
The book explores the romance and tragedy of Julie Graham, who works at a Post Office following the death of her father in WWI. It is based on the true story of my great Aunt, whose letters and diary entries were discovered when she passed away five years ago.
Strangers Passing By would suit the Australian Literature or Historical Fiction genre and stands out from other titles as it includes original photographs of handwritten letters within the pages acting as points of departure for each chapter.
The book also explores themes of feminism, marriage, Indigenous culture and religion in ways that could be compared to My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and The Getting of Wisdom by Handle Richardson.
I have been published with literary journals A, B and C as well as online publication D. My author platform includes my blog which has a following of X, and my Facebook and Twitter accounts have Y followers. I have media contacts at Z, who would be happy to help me promote my novel. I also have a friend, X, who is a published author who said he would be happy to write a forward.
Please see attached the Synopsis, a Sample Chapter, Author Platform details and Competitor Analysis.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.