How to Send a Book to a Publisher
Sending your book to a publisher requires more effort than just writing it. You also have to know how to submit your manuscript to a publisher. The path to sending out your book is actually quite long. You will have to work on a book proposal, which you will send to agents or publishing houses. Once someone has shown interest in your book, you can send in the full manuscript. Make sure to follow submission guidelines carefully. Along the way to publication, prepare for rejection. Your manuscript will get a lot of rejections until a publisher finally accepts it.
Writing a Book Proposal
Do some research.You want to know how to sell your book going into a proposal. Before you sit down to write your proposal, you will need to figure out some basic information about the current market for books in your genre.
- Figure out your genre. Are you writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry? From there, what is your sub genre? Is your nonfiction book a book of essays or a memoir? What could you call your fiction work? Is it literary fiction, or a more specific genre like historical fiction, science fiction, or fantasy. It's important to know the genre, as it will help you more easily format your book and know what to focus on.
- You want to know what commercial value your book has. Publishers and agents will not waste time on books that will not sell. Research the bigger books currently on the market in your genre. Ask yourself, "What is my book doing that these books are not? What makes these books successful? Where does my book fit in?" If you can find a missing niche in the market that your book fills, this is important information to provide in your book proposal.
Ask the right questions about your book.When you're writing your proposal, you want to be highly self critical. You will have to ask yourself certain questions to help ascertain how to best sell your book to an agent or publisher.
- The first question you should ask is, "So what?" Why is your book important to the current literary world? What makes it important? Is your topic important? Do you offer a unique perspective? Does your book identify, examine, or solve a problem? This is where you must explain why your story needs to be told.
- The second question is, "Who cares?" Identify a specific audience you believe will buy the book. For example, maybe your market is middle aged working women, or college-aged art majors. You might research books that are similar to yours to find out their target audience. Check social media and advertising for these books to see what audience the book is marketed to. Find as specific a market as possible.
- The last question is, "Who are you?" This is where you have to sell yourself. Explain why you're the best person to tell this story, and any qualifications you have that prove you're a decent writer. For example, you're writing a memoir about mental illness in America. Maybe you worked as a psychiatrist in New York City for 5 years before obtaining an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. All this could qualify you to tell this specific story.
Begin your proposal with a title page and a single sentence summary.Most proposals should contain a title page. Check the formatting requirements for your genre to see what's required. In most cases, your title page will include basic information, like your name, address, and email. From here, you will need to write your first sentence. This should be a single sentence summary of your work.
- Boiling your book down to one sentence can be tricky, and it may take a few days to get that sentence right. Feel free to ask friends for help. You can give someone a variety of sentences and ask something like, "Which of these sentences makes you most want to read this book?"
- This is essentially a tagline, like you would see in a movie poster. Try to hook your reader in by making your book sound exciting. For example, "In an era where psychiatric drug use is at an all time high, a renown child psychiatrist from Atlanta wonders if an experimental program for childhood ADHD might benefit her clients more."
Give a brief overview of your book.Have you ever read the back of a book at a bookstore? This is the kind of language you're going for with your proposal. Read a variety of book covers to get inspiration, and try to use the same kind of language in your overview.
- Your overview should likely be brief, but check the requirements for the type of book you're writing. Strive to keep it at a paragraph's length, unless instructed to write more. Use your words wisely. Cut out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs whenever possible.
- Remember, you want to keep a publisher or agent interested. Publishing houses and agents receive hundreds of proposals a day, so you will have to work hard to make yourself sound interesting.
Provide a short biography.Here is where you work on selling yourself. Give a brief biography that overviews why you are the best person to tell this story. Include any credentials you have that speak to your ability as a writer. This should be about half a page to one page long.
- Stick to relevant details. An agent does not need to know you grew up in the Midwest and live with your spouse and two dogs. Talk about your qualifications as a writer. If you have any previous publications or books, list them here. If your work has earned any kind of special awards or recognition, this should also be mentioned.
- Do you have any degrees in creative writing, or in a field related to your book's topic? For example, returning to the memoir about mental health in America, you could say something like, "I have a PhD in psychiatry from University of Michigan, and counseled children in upstate New York with ADHD for 10 years. After this, I obtained an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa."
Convince the reader your book will sell.This is one of the most vital parts of your proposal. You want a publisher or an agent to feel like this book could potentially make a profit. Mention every reason you can think of that people would buy your book.
- Talk about what you've already done and not what you plan on doing. Agents and publishers are likely to help an already established author. Have you identified and reached out to a target audience? Have you participated in literary readings? Do you have an online presence, like a blog or even an active Twitter page?
- Be as specific as possible when you're explaining why your work is marketable. For example, do not say, "I know a lot of people in the world of psychiatry and also literature." Instead, say, "I have attended several AWP panels talking about my science-based nonfiction work, all of which were heavily attended. My blog has roughly 15,000 visitors per month, and blog pieces have been cross published in popular online publications like Salon and the Huffington Post."
Attach a synopsis and sample chapters.Usually, publishers and agents will want a synopsis of your book. They will also want a few sample chapters to assess the quality of your writing.
- For a synopsis, keep it between 2 to 3 pages. It's a good idea to stay on the shorter side, as agents and publishers are often pressed for time.
- Usually, agents and publishers will want the first 40 to 50 pages of your work. However, check specific guidelines. Some agents and publishing houses will want more or less.
Sending Your Proposal
Decide whether you need an agent.Not everyone needs an agent to get a book published. Having an agent can be a tremendous asset, however, if you're aiming to get published in a larger house. It's a bad idea to send in your book cold to a place like Random House, which receives thousands of submissions each day.
- Does your work have significant commercial value and are you looking to publish through a big house? If you're writing a work on a hot button issue, or if you already have a big presence in the literary world, an agent may be necessary to get your book to the right sources.
- However, you may be looking towards an independent publisher or a university press. Such places usually do not require agents, and some have free reading periods where even a book proposal is not required. If you're writing something in hopes of getting published through a regional press, such as a book of essays on Michigan, you probably do not need an agent.
Find the right agent.If you decide to go the agent route, search for a relevant agent for your proposal. You do not want to send your book proposal out to agents randomly. An agent who works with mostly nonfiction authors will likely not read your proposal on a science fiction novel, for example.
- Try subscribing to publications like Writer's Market and Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. These publications usually offer you a list of agents and the genres in which they work. Make sure you purchase the most recent version, as outdated versions may give you the names of agents who are no longer working.
- You can also look online. Websites like AgentQuery, QueryTracker, and Duotrope prove listings of agents by genre.
Look for relevant publishers.You can also use the above resources to seek out publishers. Small presses and university presses usually do not require you have an agent to submit. In fact, some smaller publishers may not even require a book proposal. Coffee House Press, for example, usually has an open reading period for manuscripts each spring.
- As with an agent, make sure you know the publishers well. A publisher that primarily publishers literary fiction and nonfiction may not be interested in genre-based works, like sci-fi and fantasy.
- Examine books that are similar to yours or that were successful to find out who published them. You might send your proposal to that publisher.
Follow all submissions guidelines when sending your proposal.When you've found the right agent or publisher, make sure you read over submissions guidelines carefully when sending in your manuscript. Agents and publishers get many submissions each day, and may simply throw out a proposal that is not formatted properly.
- Follow basic formatting, such as requirements for margin sizes, fonts, title pages, and so on.
- Many presses and agents require you include a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) so they can mail you an acceptance or rejection.
Sending Your Manuscript
Refine your proposal with your agent.If you have gone the agent route, an agent will want to work with you to refine your proposal. Your agent will want to help make sure you write a marketable draft of your book that's likely to sell to potential publishers.
- Try to go into the situation with an open mind. Many people get attached to their original idea, and do not want to listen to criticism. However, it's important you follow your agent's advice. If you're interested in selling your book, your agent can help you figure out a way to make it more likely to get accepted by a publishing house.
- Keep in mind that, sometimes, restrictions force you to be more creative. Your agent may want you to trim certain things down, or to shift focus slightly. While this may be frustrating, you may end up with a final copy you like more than your original idea.
Work on your book until it's finished.Once your proposal is refined, work on your book. If you already have it written, work on refining your drafts with your agent's suggestions in mind. If you're not working with an agent, simply strive to write a high quality draft.
- It takes a long time to write a final draft, so have patience and stay on a schedule. Carve out some time each day in your schedule to sit and write.
- If you have any contacts in the writing world, such as previous professors or colleagues from a creative writing program, talk to them. Ask them to read your draft and provide you with honest feedback.
Follow formatting guidelines when preparing your manuscript.As with your proposal, your manuscript should follow all formatting guidelines a publishing house requires. Each publishing house will have slightly different guidelines, so read guidelines over carefully. Make sure you follow all requirements of margins, font, title pages, and so on. You should also include SASE if the publisher requires this.
Send your book out to a variety of publishers.Remember, rejection is common in the literary world. You should not send your book to only a few publishers. Send your book out to a wide array of publications. This will increase your chance of having a publisher select your book.
- Remember to send your book out to relevant publishers who publish books in your genre.
- If you're working with an agent, your agent can help you find publishers. If you're working on your own, you will need to use online resources to find publishers.
- If you know someone in the literary world, such as someone you met at a conference or attended school with, contact them if they have a recent publication. They may be able to help you get your foot in the door at a publishing house.
Accept your best offer.You may only get a few offers on your book. Offers also have a way of fading. A publishing house may make an offer, but later withdraw it or lose interest. From the offers you receive on your book, select the best one.
- If you have more than one publisher interested in your book, you may get competitive bids. You can select the publisher who is willing to offer you the highest bid.
- You should also negotiate things like advances. An advance is an amount of money your publishers gives you to get a start on your book. A higher advance is generally better, as it will give you more resources to focus on your writing.
Cope with rejection.You may not get any offers on your book the first time around. Most successful authors faced many rejections before experiencing success. As you send your book out to publishers, find ways to cope with rejections along the way.
- Have a lot going on besides your book proposals in terms of your writing. Work on curating a literary series, sending your work out to small journals, and self-publishing on a blog. This way, you'll have a lot more going for you if you receive a rejection. It may sting less.
- Rejection is usually not personal. Your work may simply not have been a good fit, or it may have been too similar to another book coming out soon. It does not mean you're not a good writer, so learn to take rejection with a grain of salt.
QuestionHow old do I have to be in order to publish a book?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAge does not matter, quality does. If you have a great manuscript, then you can get it published regardless.Thanks!
QuestionCan you send the manuscript to more than one publisher at the same time, or should I send to one and, if it gets rejected, then send it to another publisher?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost publishing houses and agents understand writers will submit simultaneously when it comes to things like proposals and manuscripts. However, check guidelines. If a publishing house or agent has a rule against unsolicited submissions, it's best to wait to hear back until you submit to a different place.Thanks!
QuestionMost publishers won't accept mailed manuscripts now. They want it to be emailed. How do I do that?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can attach your manuscript to an email document and send. Most publishers prefer PDFs as they open on all computers and retain the original formatting. However, check with the publishing house's requirements. If they would prefer a Word document, send that instead.Thanks!
QuestionHello this is my first novel. Should I get it professionally edited first before I submit or self edit?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's a good idea to have a second pair of eyes look over a manuscript. Writers tend to get "typo blind" if they've been working on something for a long time. However, you do not need to hire a professional. Ask a friend, family member, or colleague to read over your manuscript.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if you are including art work? I have a children's story which includes photographs.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis all depends on the specific publishing house. Check to see if you can include photography in your manuscript when sending your work out.Thanks!
QuestionIs it safe to send a new book to a publisher before its copyrighted. Can I send it electronically?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's a good idea to get your book copyright protection before sending it out, although it is not required. Read over guidelines provided by a publisher or agent. Some agents and publishing houses take electronic submissions, while others do not.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I have character sketches? Should I save them for after an agent's response or send with manuscript?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWait for the editor's response. You usually only include a synopsis and the first 40 pages of your manuscript.Thanks!
QuestionCan you send a manuscript to a publisher on a CD?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the submission guidelines. Read these over carefully to see how that particular publisher wants works submitted.Thanks!
QuestionThere is so many publishers out there, do you have any references of publishers for very young age groups? This is my first time, so I need guidance.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFind lists of publishers online and through recent books that list agents and publishers. Some work with authors publishing for very young age groups and some do not. You will want to send your book to an agent or publisher that works within your genre.Thanks!
QuestionWhen writing a children book, do I need to have the illustrations done with the manuscript?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRead over submission guidelines. It depends on the requirements of the publisher or agent.Thanks!
Where do I find a list of publishers, contact information, etc.
Everyone can modify so how do I know this is not just invented?
Do you print and send? Or just send the draft?
- If you want to publish through an independent or literary press, an agent is probably not necessary.
- If you're looking to publish with a bigger house, like a New York house, it's a good idea to hold off on writing your book until an agent or publisher has showed interest. Most large houses do not read unsolicited submissions.
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