Writing your book is the easy bit. Getting it published is not nearly as simple. Most people know this dispiriting fact but don’t really have the first idea about how to find a publisher.
Here is a handy checklist of tasks you might find it useful to look through before you embark on finding a publisher.
Do Your Homework
Buy a copy of The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and find out which publishers are likely to be interested in your project. There is no point in sending a novel to a publisher of non-fiction, so make sure the people you send your manuscript to will be interested. Some are genre specific. Research before you post, as it will save you both time and money. When you have narrowed down a list of likely publishers, find out from the website or by phoning, who is responsible for assessing new manuscripts. Address the package to them personally. It just shows you’ve made a bit of an effort.
You can also do this by writing a good query letter, which should be succinct and give the publisher an idea of what the market for your book is likely to be. They are a commercial operation and you need to think of your book as a product rather than a great work of art at this stage. You must sell your idea in terms of how successful it is likely to be. Include some research into the relevant genre and market, some sales figures, details of the nearest competitor and how well their sales have gone. Lastly, make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors in your query letter. Don’t fall at the first hurdle.
Check the Yearbook or the internet to see how a publisher you are approaching wishes to receive your manuscript. Many have preferred typeface and spacing requirements. Some may only want to look at the first few chapters. Make sure you stick to their requests, as they are only there to make life easier. If you start off by making life harder for them, say by sending in the whole manuscript in a tiny font, or on disc instead of paper, or bound instead of loose, it is not a good start. Most require widely spaced text in a readable font size, sent loose rather than bound. Plastic wallets and folders are an irritation as they slide out of the middle of a pile and cause problems. Understanding some of the reasons for publishers’ manuscript requests will help you to resist common errors.
Sending your manuscript is a very expensive business. The expense of photocopying or printer ink, postage, envelopes, return postage and paper all adds up. With this in mind, do keep a clear list of every publisher you have posted your manuscript to. If they have not replied to you within roughly three months, drop them a polite request about progress. Try to forget about the manuscript for a while and start thinking about your next book while you wait to hear. You could also think about ways in which you could self-publish if you don’t get a positive response from publishers, which can be disheartening.
Self-publishing is an interesting area to look into and is rapidly overtaking traditional publishing in some areas. It can make you feel empowered to think of ways you can move forward if nobody is ready to publish your book yet. If you self-published electronically and the book did well, perhaps that sales data would encourage a publisher next time you approach them.
This guest post was contributed by Francesca, who comes from the UK. She recommends books by Susan Greenfield on Notting Hill Editions – visit their website to find out more.