Your manuscript is finished. You’ve written “The End”. You sit back and have a sip of your coffee…
“Well, now what?”
Well…Now, its decision time. Do you want your beautiful writing published? If your answer is yes, then you have some choices available to you. You can self-publish, try out a Vanity Press, or pursue the traditional route of publishing.
A vanity press is a company that publishes your work for free. They may charge you an entry fee of about $15.00 (that is what I paid), but…here’s the catch…you must buy your own copies upfront and at full price, which you will then have to store on location (aka your home or office). From your storage unit (your home or office), you will be responsible for mailing and distributing. If you want to publish via this route, you must buy all copies yourself and resell them at a mark up to gain profit. I spent $30.00 on my copy.
You can pay to have someone publish your work and make it available from online sellers. I recommend Googling “self-publishing services” and start reading the results. You are officially researching and on your way. The writer is responsible for marketing and selling your book, and for building their platform. This is called self-publishing. There are online tools available to help you learn these steps.
If you desire to publish by traditional means, your goal is to sell your manuscript to a publishing house. To do this, you need to pitch your book to a publisher. A publisher is the company that builds, designs, and distributes the book.
The Big 5 are Penguin Random House (Penguin and Random House merged in 2013), Simon and Schuster, Hachette Book Group (HBG), HarperCollins Publishers, and Macmillan Publishers. There are many other publishing houses, but the Big 5 are the five largest in the States.
So how do you find a publisher?
You must decide if you want a literary agent or not. With or without an agent, you must write a query letter and email or mail it to a publisher or an agent.
That’s it? Then they will buy my book?
No. A lot of people write books. A lot of people query agents. Some agents receive five hundred emails a week. One agent. One person. Five hundred emails in one inbox. That person may (or may not) have an assistant to help.
Your query letter will enter a slush pile that someone has to sort through and read. Most agents only take on two new clients a month if they are accepting new clients at all. A publisher has a similar slush pile in their facility.
To start submitting, you will need to compose your book package. Have this ready before you begin researching and querying agents.
Waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher, or waiting for the right agent or publisher to say yes can take months…sometimes years. At this point, I recommend writing, researching the business, and submitting your works to contests or magazines. There are conferences you can attend that will provide you with opportunity to meet the agents and editors. And if you have not started your platform, now is the time to build it!
One great website I recommend for writers at this stage is Scribophile. It is free and provides a wonderful point system to authors of all skills. You earn points by editing and critiquing others so you can post your own work for editing and critiquing. Being able to mention a writer’s group like this in a writer’s bio looks good.
Some key advice:
Don’t expect anyone to step in and edit your book for you. Yes, some agents and publishers have editors on staff, but if your book is not grammatically pristine, you’ve created more work for them and they will most likely pass you up.
Don’t submit your manuscript to every publisher you can find, then turn around and hunt for an agent. If you’ve already submitted your book to your dream publisher and that publisher said no, an agent can not go in and pitch it for you. The answer, was no.
Mind the format. I will address this in a future article in a lot more detail and link it here. In the meantime, double space, size 12, Times New Roman font. One inch margin on either side. First page should start half way down and make sure you place your name, book title, and chapter number in the header of every top right hand corner. Number the pages.
To locate publishers and agents, Writer’s Digest has countless books on this.
2015 Writer’s Market provides a list of magazines, conferences, agents, and publishers in one massive reference. These books come with a getting started, how to format, composing your book package, advice from professionals, and the financial side. 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market provides a list of publishers and agents only interested in novels and short stories. It also includes getting started, how to format, composing your book package, Advice from professionals, and the financial side.
2015 Guide to Literary Agents provides a list of literary agents, their submission guidelines and contact information. It also includes a getting started, how to format, composing your book package, advice from professionals, and the financial side.
2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market provides a list of agents and publishers interested only in children’s literature and picture books. If you have written a children’s story and don’t know what to do next, buy or borrow this book. Most local libraries have these available. Don’t fret about the illustrations. Publishers have them on staff and will match an artist to your story. It took me a long time to learn this bit of advice and I held off my submission because I couldn’t draw.
You really only need one of these to start. I have 2014 Guide to Literary Agents as I am querying only agents. So don’t think you need to buy each of these right off (like I did).
Good luck and happy writing!