A recent response to my post Submitting Before Completion elicited a terrific question:
I was wondering if you could answer a question for me—It has to do with the query letter to an agent. I realize that my question is not something that boarders on the "necessary" to include in the letter, but I once came across the idea from some other agent and liked it. It is about adding where you think your book is a good fit.
What if you have searched the publishers and feel it could possibly fit with several—do you just mention one or several? And on this same line of thinking—do you think it wise for the writer to submit the book to some of these publishers before or at the same time they are enquiring with an agent they like?
I think it’s always a good idea to help show an agent the marketability of your book. When people ask what I do for a living, one of the things I always say to describe agenting is that my job is essentially sales and marketing. I’m selling books and marketing my clients and their manuscripts to publishers. If you are querying agents you are doing the same. So yes, if you know that a certain publisher publishes the kind of book you have written, you should absolutely mention that in your letter. Not only does it show the agent the marketability of your book, but it shows that you, the author, have a knowledge and understanding of the market.
As to whether or not you should submit directly to the publisher, I always have hesitations about that. The first is because few publishers actually accept unsolicited or unagented material, and by doing so it’s very likely you’ll simply end up in a slush pile read by a freelance reader and not an editor. The other, much larger concern is that getting it to the publisher is one thing, but do you know which editor to send to? It’s often easy to know which publishers publish the kind of material you write, but not always as easy to know which editors are interested in that genre. Just because Berkley is buying paranormal romance doesn’t mean that every romance editor at Berkley is interested in paranormals. It can also make it difficult for an agent to submit to a publisher if you’ve already done so. Of course, if you make a connection with an editor who is interested, you should always send it.