1. Understanding Publishers
You need to catch the right publisher in the right frame of mind. Nobody likes everything equally. What captures the attention of one publisher won’t capture the attention of another; and what captures a publisher’s attention in one mood or moment won’t capture the same publisher’s attention in another. It’s all luck and timing.
Okay, your own research should steer you away from inappropriate publishing houses, and if you can track the tastes of individual publishers, all the better. But moods and moments are in the lap of the gods.
Another factor is the list, that is, the range of titles and authors currently contracted to a publishing house. A publisher may feel that the list is short on, say, female-oriented fantasy, so, whoee! there’s a big opportunity for MSS in that area. On the other hand, the list may be already bulging with, say, YA adventure stories for boys, so a new submission in that area won’t have much of a chance.
Ideally, every publisher is looking for quality, and nothing is ever absolutely ruled out. But when it’s so difficult to capture attention anyway, it makes all the difference if a publisher is in a more rather than less receptive frame of mind.
There’s a boom-and-bust tendency here, since many publishers will be looking to expand their lists in the same areas at the same time. Everyone sees a big upsurge of, say, paranormal romance, so everyone wants to jump on the same bandwaggon. Soon every publisher’s list is chock-full of authors writing that particular kind of fiction. Then the door closes on new entrants—and it’ll be a while before it opens again.
I’ve already said my piece on authors trying chase trends and the fact that no one outside the publishing industry is likely to move fast enough (“Writing to a Recipe” in the Good Writing Habits section). I still think you should write the best novel that’s in you to write. But if what you’ve been writing happens to coincide with opening opportunities, then you’re in luck!