Getting a book published

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Writing and Publishing

My cousin Peggy contacted me recently to ask how a friend of hers would go about getting a book published.  You know, that’s a darned good question, and one I get asked from time to time.  So I thought I’d post a few words.

First, you have to write a really good book.  If you think your book has promise and a professional editor will help you get it in shape, it’s not ready to send to a publisher.  Hire that professional editor if you have the money–there are plenty of them around.  If you don’t, then look for free advice from 1) writers groups–online or in person; 2) friends who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth; 3) avid readers who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth.  Oh, yes, you can ask other writers, but bear in mind that most of us are busy writing and editing our own stuff and we don’t really have time to look at other material, especially from someone we don’t know.  But if you have the good fortune to know another writer, and that writer is willing to look at your material, please–listen to what they tell you.  You may not like it, but it’s probably true.  Don’t get your back up and think the other writer is jealous; I don’t know anyone in this profession who wouldn’t go out of their way to help another writer get started.  It’s like an addiction–you want everyone else to be addicted, too.  And please:  grammar, punctuation, spelling.  Yes, they really are important.  If you want to be taken seriously, take your tools seriously.

Second, do your market research.  Find out who publishes the kind of book you’ve written.  Check the Writer’s Market or Literary Marketplace or any of the dozens of online sources available.  (But be sure you check when the information was written/posted–old information won’t do you any good.)  Many publishers will not take unsolicited manuscripts; and many will not take manuscripts from unagented writers.  (Getting an agent–that’s a topic for another day.) Once you have a publisher in mind, check their submission guidelines and FOLLOW THEM!  Seriously.  If you ignore their guidelines, they will ignore your manuscript.

Third, sell your book.  To the publisher, I mean.  Tell them why they should buy this book:  give them your credentials (are you a subject expert ? have you been published elsewhere, maybe some nonfiction?) and any marketing plans you may have (have you got 10,000 fans who follow your blog, just waiting for your book to come out?).  Then give them an exciting synopsis of your work.  Paint the characters.  Outline the major plot points.  Show how the characters change during the action.  And yes, you must tell them the ending.  Don’t give them a teaser and hope they’ll read the whole book to find out how it ends.  That’s won’t be intrigued, or amused.

If you search the ‘Net, you’ll find lots of information posted about how to write a query letter and synopsis, much of it written by editors and agents.  I can’t overstress doing your research.

But first, remember, you have to write a really good book.

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