Let's assume for a moment that a novel thought just struck you (excuse the pun). It's a sure-fire way to get your foot in the door at a major publishing house such as Simon and Schuster or Penguin Putnam and on your way to having your book not only read but also published. And it can't miss.
Sound far-fetched? I don't know. I had that very same thought shortly after I began pitching my books to publishers and getting stock rejection slips in return. The thought occured to me, even as a writer still in his teens, that if I could only meet with an editor face-to-face to tell him how great my book is, I could convince him to take a look at a copy. Once he read it, of course, I'd be on Easy Street.
It all seemed so simple that I wondered why no one had ever thought of it before. The only question I had was how to go about doing it. Whom should I pitch? What should I ask for? A lunch meeting? An office tete-te? An afternoon in the Park?
If that thought ever occured to you, you're probably still asking yourself how to go about doing it. My answer?
Let me repeat. You can't. Here's why.
The moment you write a letter to an editor asking for an interview to discuss the publication of your book, you'll immediately mark yourself as a rank amateur and, most likely, a poor writer. Good writers must study their craft for years or decades and longer before they earn their credits. That writing craft includes learning everything possible about the publishing industry. One of the first things good writers learn is that publishers want submissions in a particular format, length, genre, and in writing. They want them in MS Word or a compatible process. They don't want them in PDF or any other format. And they don't want them over the phone, face-to-face, dropped off at the front doorstep, or in any other way imaginable.
If you do write to request an interview, your request will be placed on file within the nearest wastepaper basket (or junk folder). And, the editor/recipient will make a mental note of your name so as not to fall victim to wasted time again. You will be, in other words, persona non gratis, perhaps for the rest of your short-lived literary career.
So, as alluring as the thought might be in sidestepping the automated part of publishing (submit pitch; wait; receive pre-printed rejection slip), my suggestion, if that's what you're seeking to bypass, is to forget all about writing and publishing entirely. If you've come this far and still don't know the most rudimentary steps to take in submitting a pitch for publication (or the complete manuscript in the case of fiction), that means you haven't spent five minutes doing due diligence. Which means you haven't taken writing very seriously. Which means you're in the wrong business.
In publishing, as nearly any other area of life, it's true: There's nothing new under the sun. At least not when it comes to submitting a query letter for your Great Amerian Novel and hoping for the best. I know that, at times, the entire process seems stacked against you, a mere newcomer to the wide, wonderful, whacked-out world of publishing. But, that's the name of the game.
Can you make it to the top one day if you keep trying hard enough? Yes. I did. Despite tremendous odds, I sold my first book some eight years after I began writing. Now--ninety books later--I haven't slowed down yet.
So, you see, Virginia, there is hope. If you're willing to learn, adapt, study, practice, and learn some more. And, of course, invest the time required.
Until then ...
Smoke if you've got 'em.
* * *
D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at substack.Com.