Do you know what to do first?
Lets skip the basics – write the book – edit the book – reedit the book and jump right into traditional publishing as a first step.
No matter what – you want to start here. While the rejection letters can be quite defeating, and can pile up quickly. Remember, while thousands of submissions are rejected daily 1% make it and it would definitely be nice to be one of the 1%. While many decide to jump into self-publishing first – I highly suggest attempting the traditional route. Trust me, while I know I’ve got great books, my job marketing would be a thousand times easier if I had Scholastics backing me up. It wouldn’t be nearly as hard getting into the schools with my books. So consider that first.
Find a list of publishers. Go to a library, find books similar to your genre, make a list of the publishers that published them. This would be your key list. You could also go to PublishersGlobal.com for a complete list of publishers, but then you’d still want to cut that down to only those interested in publishing your book topic. You do not want to contact a publisher who primarily works on non-fiction biographies if your book is about cooking. You also wouldn’t want to contact a children’s book publisher if your book is a self-help health book. Be specific about who you contact.
Go to their website – each publishers website. Just because publisher #1 has specific guidelines to follow for submissions does NOT mean publisher #2 has the same guidelines. Each publisher has their own rules and if you don’t follow those rules to a T you WILL be rejected. There will be query letters with SASE envelopes, outlines or chapters or complete manuscripts, the sales pitch, the proving of yourself as a writer and marketer… Read up and know each step each publisher wants you to take and always put your best foot forward. Edit your letter like your life depends on it.
Start with those accepting unsolicited submissions or submissions without a literary agent. If you can get a deal without having to give a percentage of your advance to a literary agent, do it. While publishers shy from this practice, many allow unsolicited manuscripts so contact them first. PS don’t send out 100 queries at once. If you get a couple acceptances and choose publisher #1 and it doesn’t work out then publisher #2 is going to be upset that they were ignored or considered your second choice. Send them out one at a time and allow for the response before moving on to the next publisher. Yes it is time consuming, but if you are to do it right, you must follow the rules.
When that list is tapped out, start searching for a literary agent. Again, find one who specializes in your genre. They need to believe in your product so your book must fall into their accepted categories. Don’t waste their time – a reputable agent does this job free of charge only getting pad when you sign a publishing contract. If they want money up front; run. If and when you find an agent, they will start contacting publishers on your behalf. Again, they only get paid when you do so they won’t take on your project unless they truly believe in it. You may get a ton of rejections from agents but don’t let that deter you. If you started with Step 1-3 you already know how much work this is, how much time is involved. Would you do that for a stranger if you didn’t believe wholeheartedly in the product?
Being accepted by a traditional publisher. Yeah – you’re done – NOT! This is where even more work begins. They may request changes. They will provide a contract that you will want a lawyer to go over. You will want to understand every sentence in that contract and understand everything they are going to do for you and what they expect you to do for them. When you have signed the contract the advance will be paid to your agent who takes their cut and gives you the rest. Then you will want to take that money and hire a publicist. Then you will begin marketing your book, planning interviews, book tours, etc. It is a dream that must be worked towards and worked hard on. It is not easy and there are a lot more details that are required to know but this blog has gotten too long as it is.
In the coming months I am going to be working on adding even more details to this but in the meantime….
Want more information? This breaks down some of the information on choosing traditional vs small press vs self publishing: