(image from DonkeyHotey; because obviously this is the image that has to go with a post of this title.)
Our editor and I were talking today about the most important thing for authors to put in their pitch letters.
(This is specifically in the letter that introduces the project — not what to submit for the project itself. A ‘pitch letter’ is the part that goes, ‘dear publisher, you should publish this book I have made for reasons, sincerely awesomest + most publishable dude.’)
So here’s the most important thing: knowing enough about us to tell us effectively that you would like to be published by us.
This can be accomplished very simply: just find some copies of our books and read them. Are there things about them you like that you wish to have similarly in your own book — strong character development, distinctive art style, strong narrative arc, good production values? That is useful to note in your pitch letter.
And: I know that in this day and age, internet stalking is kind of creepy, but it turns out that’s not the case when the entity you’re stalking is a company rather than a person. Publishers — including First Second — have all kids of company presences on the internet, from blogs to Tumblrs to Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Following a publisher you like on Twitter or liking them on Facebook isn’t creepy — it’s professional. Referring to a publisher’s blog or tumblr post that you liked in a submissions letter is just another way of showing you know what you’re getting into.
So in conclusion: tailor your pitch letters for each publisher you send them to. Presumably there’s a reason why you’re submitting to that specific publisher — tell them what it is.
I should also note — knowing enough about a publisher to know how a book will fit into their catalog ends up being helpful for authors, too. How? Take a look at our catalog; with just a glance it should become readily apparent that we are not the best publisher for the memoir Sex + Guns = College. You are hereby saved the cost of postage!