Submissions to Electronic Publishers

- by Judy Griffith Gill

As a general editor, and the acquiring editor for and I have a few things I’d like all authors to be aware of if submitting to either house–for that matter, to any electronic (digital) publishing house.

No matter where you might submit your work, please keep in mind the following:

  • Do not treat an electronic house as if it’s run by amateurs. E-publishers expect to be approached professionally.
  • Do not expect immediate responses. Like any other publishing house, they have slush-piles.
  • Do not take offense if you are asked for revisions before a contract is offered.  (Of course, you can refuse.)
  • Do treat electronic publishing staff with the same courtesy you would treat the staff at a print house
  • Do act professionally in all your approaches, but most important, your initial one.
  • Do read and respect the submission guidelines of the house you choose to approach.

When the website guidelines indicate the house is a publisher of fiction, don’t send memoirs or non-fiction. It’s a waste of your time and theirs. If they say they don’t want erotica, or keep their erotica division separate from their regular fiction, make sure you send it to the right place. Homosexuality, whether M/M or F/F or BDSM or other kink, is normally considered erotica.

When you approach an electronic publisher, please try to remember the key word is “electronic” and that your book, may, as a courtesy to you, eventually be published in print, but do not go in with the expectation it will happen automatically. Hence, there is no point in telling us how many great contacts you have with libraries and bookstores all eager to put your book on their shelves, and that you want, immediately, to have a ten-thousand copy print run for distribution. Kids, it ain’t gonna happen!

Here are a few bad submissions I’ve recently received. (Names have been changed or omitted to protect the ignorant.)

First one: (not too bad, but… unfortunate) “A Querie: My name is June and I’m looking at trying to get my novella published. It’s already written… I’ve been looking at publishers, but not many seem to offer anything in terms of my genre. Here is a very basic synopsis is below. The book I have written centers around a young man in his final year of college. He is explicitly abused by his alcoholic father and finds not love not with a woman, but with hos greatest college rival, who also happens to be a man. The story looks at the heros struggle of keeping the abuse secret, a run in with anti-depressants, and how he is dealing with a secret gay relationship that both characters feel they need to keep secret. It also features explicit sex scenes and language, and I was wondering if you have a market for this kind of story? I would really like to hear from you with any advise that you can offer me…” (The spelling/typographical errors are as submitted.)

Next one: (Let’s call this one “pathetic”) “Thank you for reading my message thus far.  I am a new author, first book.  I would like for you to please review my quick query and book attachment and see if this will be of interest to your company. My book speaks to the unfamiliar audience of people being gay but choose live on the “down low” and the consequences. My promotional plan is speaking to large women audiences (Mega Church), book fairs, and see if I can pitch this to Media outlets to discuss this down low lifestyle. Thanks in advance for any consideration.”

And the capper: (This one did not even merit a response) “I dont have time for all the crap. I have 9 titles published and selling on Amazon, B&N, Sony, Apple, you get the picture.  ONE of them I might be willing to let you have a run with. Its called The ______ and is a YA Sci/Fi thriller.  Here is the Amazon link (omitted) You can read a free sample from there. Of course I will provide you with a PDF copy if you are interested.  I just do not have time to pursue marketing in the YA arena.  My Fantasy novels are all in Amazons top 100 and stay there religiously.  If my crude approach to your attempt to seem like a real publisher seems crude well its because I don’t really need a publisher as small as you. but we can try.  Mr.________.”

Now, a word about synopses

Synopses are always written in the present tense. They introduce the main characters, tell why it is important they be in the story, what they want to achieve, and what/who is trying to prevent their doing so, and how, in the end, they overcome the hurdles set in their way by inner and/or outside forces. Synopses outline key elements of your story, telling facts and events in clear and consecutive order as they occur from the beginning right through to the end. They do not include any dialogue. If the story is more complex, you could tell me what’s happening to characters A & B, then begin another paragraph with: Meanwhile, characters C & D are doing, seeing, learning, hearing… etc.

Secondary characters need not be introduced unless their presence is vital to the plot foundation. They can be glossed over with such phrases as “friends encourage/discourage” one or more of the main characters to/from tak/ing a particular course of action, but…

Holding back surprises of any nature for any reason is not the way to go. As I explain to all authors who want to withhold key elements in an attempt to intrigue me, their acquiring editor, I’m not in the same category as a customer in a bookstore, to  teased and tempted into buying their book. Nor are they reviewers, who need to be careful not to toss out any “spoilers”. I require all the pertinent information, including any shocking, surprising, and unexpected twists  Please be assured, this vital plot information will never be revealed to anyone else if your book is contracted and even more importantly, if it is not, but it is something I need to have in order to make a fully informed decision. A full, complete synopsis allows me to seek out plot holes you might be unaware of in that you’re close to the material and don’t see it at once step removed. I ask a lot of “whys”, and if those questions aren’t answered in the synopsis, I see a plot hole. (As one of my editors at Bantam Books once said to me “ ‘Because I said so’ isn’t a good enough answer. Make me understand why.”

For those of you not submitting to Champagne Books or, simply looking for expert, experienced editing and or guidance at reasonable rates, please contact me at with “private edit request” in the subject line. I’ll read your synopsis and first chapter for free.

Judy Griffith Gill

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One comments

  1. In the above, I left out a word. The line that reads “don’t go in expecting your book to go into print automatically” should read “automatically immediately.” It will go into print, maybe just not as soon as you want, and will likely not be distributed everywhere.