Ten Steps Toward Finding a Book Publisher
Have you always dreamed of seeing your name in print? Do you have visions of booksignings, devoted fans, or a guest spot on Oprah? It can happen, if you take the right steps!
6) Submit your package. Always send the editor exactly what is requested. If you are mailing a large manuscript, use a manuscript box (available at stationery or office supply stores). Address it to the correct person (not just "editor"). Seal your package securely, but don't go overboard; no editor wants to spend 20 minutes cutting through endless layers of tape.
7) Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE). Some writers include only a standard #10 envelope, preferring to save postage by allowing the editor to discard an unwanted manuscript rather than returning it. If you prefer that your material be returned, be sure to include an envelope with sufficient postage, or a return label and postage for your manuscript box. Never use metered postage strips; because they are predated, they are not valid for return postage. [NOTE: Now that the Post Office requires stamped packages weighing over 13 ounces or more to be processed through a Post Office, a publisher is less likely to have any desire to return a heavy manuscript even if you do include sufficient postage!]
8) Prepare to wait. It may take two to six months or longer to hear the fate of your query or proposal; it may take six months to a year or more to get a response on an entire manuscript. Because of such delays, it is sometimes acceptable to submit your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time. Make sure, however, that each is open to "simultaneous submissions."
9) Keep working. While waiting for a response to your first manuscript, get started on your next. Or, build your portfolio with articles, short stories, or other material that will hone your skills and bolster your reputation.
10) Don't give up. If your manuscript doesn't find a home right away, keep trying. Don't take rejection personally; just move on to the next publisher on your list. Often it takes time, effort, and many submissions to get published. Successful writers are those who don't quit!
Some Common Questions:
How do I copyright my work?
The very act of putting your book, article, story or poem on paper (in a "tangible" form) places it under your copyright. You can formally declare copyright ownership by typing the words "Copyright (year) by (your name)" on the first or title page of your manuscript (e.g., "Copyright 2001 by Moira Allen"). You can also substitute the copyright symbol for the word "copyright." It is not necessary to register your work with the Copyright Office to protect it. (For more information on rights and copyrights, see Understanding Rights and Copyrights.)
Should I get an agent?
This depends to a great degree on what type of book you are submitting. Often, you do not need an agent to submit a nonfiction book to a publisher. More and more fiction publishers, however, do require submissions to be agented, so check the publisher's requirements first. If you find that a large percentage of the publishers in your chosen genre or subject area require agents, then you should look for an agent first. For more information on finding an agent, see the "agents" section in our Publishing section.
Should I publish my book myself? With today's desktop publishing (and electronic publishing) technology, it has become easy and relatively inexpensive to produce your own book. Well-targeted nonfiction books often do well; self-published fiction, however, is very difficult to market. Unless you're experienced in graphic design, it's wise to hire a professional to produce a quality product.
Be aware that self-publishing means more than getting your book printed. It also involves marketing, advertising, distribution, and sales -- which means setting yourself up as a small business, with all the tax and accounting responsibilities that entails.
See Writing-World.com's Publishing section for more information on self-publishing, subsidy publishing, electronic publishing and POD publishing.
Is self-publishing the same as subsidy publishing? No! Vanity presses take your money and various rights, and give you little in return. If you're willing to pay money to have your book published, do it yourself so that you can retain full control over the process, the rights, and the proceeds. For more information on vanity publishing, see The Price of Vanity.
Once you know the basics, you're halfway there. The rest is up to you. The package may attract an editor's attention, but it's what you put inside the package -- a well-written, interesting, original manuscript -- that makes the sale!
About the Author:
Moira Allen, editor of Writing-World.com, has published more than 350 articles and columns and eight books, including How to Write for Magazines, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. Allen has served as columnist and contributing editor for The Writer and has written for Writer's Digest, Byline, and various other writing publications. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts TimeTravel-Britain.com (a site dedicated to historic travel destinations in Britain); Mostly-Victorian.com (a growing archive of articles and excerpts from Victorian books and magazines); The Pet Loss Support Page; and AllenImages.net (showcasing her photography). She can be contacted at editors "at" writing-world.com. Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen