In a previous blog post I wrote about researching possible publishing clients using the library to do your research. I sang the praises of The Literary Marketplace. I also talked about the importance of visiting a local bookstore when compiling a list of potential clients. I still believe both are important. However after receiving an e-mail from a potential client a few weeks ago, I think it’s better to visit the bookstore or publisher’s website before sending any e-mails or cover letters. I now think the Literary Marketplace is just a starting point when researching potential clients.

After compiling a list of potential publishing clients, visit each publisher’s website before you go any further. By visiting the publisher’s website, you’ll know if they publish the type of book you’d like to edit. I didn’t do that before I sent my last batch of query letters; I wish I had. I always took the information I read in The Literary Marketplace as gospel. It didn’t occur to me to check on the amount of books published in a certain genre. I do that now.

The Literary Marketplace has a detailed list of publishers for each genre, but that list doesn’t let you know how many books of a certain type the pub prints. You’ll learn that through more research. When the person I contacted told me that the publisher she works for doesn’t publish many craft books, I would have known that if I had been a little more thorough in my research.

I knew that if the publisher publishes craft books or cookbooks, they’ll be listed in the craft or cookbook section of The Literary Marketplace. I didn’t consider that the publishers would be listed even if they publish one craft book or cookbook a year. Learn from my mistake. Visit the publisher’s website before you send a letter or e-mail. The website will include the publisher’s recent catalog. You’ll be able to tell if they do indeed publish enough craft books to warrant a letter. If you really want the publisher on your client list, you may decide to send a letter anyway.

I thought the LM included only publishers who focus on craft books in their section on crafts. With that in mind I sent an e-mail highlighting my editing experience in craft books to a managing editor for a publisher included in the craft section. I was delighted to receive an immediate response from her. My contact thanked me for my interest but was quick to point out that they don’t publish that many craft books. She said she would keep me in mind for their next craft book but couldn’t tell me when that might be.

Instead of feeling defeated, I was thrilled by the managing editor’s response. Before I sent her another e-mail thanking her for her response, I visited the publisher’s website. I discovered that their catalog included a lot of cookbooks, not craft books. If I had visited the publisher’s website first after researching potential clients in The Literary Marketplace, I would have known that. However, I thought that the information included in the LM was foolproof. I thought if the publisher was included in the craft section, they published mainly craft books. I see the folly in that thinking now.

I took the managing editor’s e-mail as an opportunity for me send another e-mail detailing my editing experience with cookbooks and biographies; books that are included in this publisher’s catalog. I considered this a warm call, not a cold one. This may have been hindsight and may not get the kind of response I want from this particular managing editor. I accept that. Again, if I had visited the publisher’s website first after finding them listed in the LM, I would have saved myself some grief and some back tracking. At this point it’s best not to dwell on the mistake.

Another thing to keep in mind when using The Literary Marketplace is that the reference material you’re relying on may be out of date by the time it’s published. The LM comes out once a year in the beginning of January, or earlier, and the information publishers want to include needs to be submitted well in advance of publication. It, too, needs to go through an editing process.

People in publishing, like every other job, move around. I’ve had more than a few letters returned simply because the person listed as the managing editor doesn’t work for that publisher anymore. I’ve also had them returned because the publisher said there was no one person in charge of freelancers. I know this is ridiculous. If your cover letter is returned with “No Such Person” stamped on the envelope, find the publisher’s phone number and call them. Talk to someone in the editing department.

If the managing editor is not listed in the publisher’s contact information in The Literary Marketplace, you’ll need to make a call and ask to speak to someone in their editing department anyway. When you get up the nerve to make the call, be courteous. Explain why you’re calling. Sometimes this works and the person you’re talking to will tell you where to send the cover letter. Sometimes it doesn’t. If you don’t get the information you need, go to plan B. Learning where to send your cover letter and resume sometimes becomes a full time job. Be prepared!

If you’re lucky, you might get the chance to share your elevator speech and explain why you want the information. If you’re really lucky, you may get to speak to the person directly and get a project as a result of your conversation. If the call turns out to be a bust, you may need to do more research or send a letter addressed to the person in charge of freelancers. Before you do anything, make sure your information is correct. In doing your research, you can wait for the new copy of the LM or you can visit the publisher’s website again, research them on LinkedIn, or make another call. If you decide to make another call, luck may be on your side and you might speak to someone who will provide the contact information you need. No matter what happens, don’t give up!

The bottom line is The Literary Marketplace is just one tool in your freelancing arsenal when looking for new clients. Do your research! Before contacting the publisher, make sure you know what they publish. There’s nothing worse than looking like a fool because you didn’t do your homework first.

Copyright by Cassie Armstrong and MorningStar Editing November 2013