Finding a Publisher: 10 Steps to Success Part One

If you are a first time author and looking for a publisher, you need to know several facts about the book publishing business. It’s a big ocean to dive into, and remember: there are sharks. Like any kind of business, and book publishing is a business, there are people who want to make a quick buck out of naive and vulnerable authors, so avoid them at your peril.

Step 1 – Write the book. Publishers are not really interested in ideas. They want to see proof that a would-be author has the skill, the stamina and the discipline to finish the job. Publishers expect that a novel should be about 80,000 to 100,000 words long and, taking an average, that’s about 300 pages.

Step 2 – Before you send your MS to a publisher, have the courage to show your creation to someone who will give you an honest assessment of your writing. Don’t ask your spouse or best friend because they are not the best people to give you an honest report. Your local librarian might be a good place to start. It’s a harsh truth, but unfortunately the writing world is overcrowded with writers who have great expectations of themselves but have little talent.

Step 3 – Okay, you have written a book, and your honest critics say it is brilliant and should be published, well done! Now is the time to do some hard work trawling through the books, internet sites and writers groups who can aid you in your search and provide professional help and good advice.

In the UK there is a very useful publication called The Writer’s Handbook, and it is up-dated every year. The editor Barry Turner has done much of the leg work for you, and his handbook really is a useful and complete guide to agents, publishers, editors and copywriters.

I am sure there must be a similar publication in the USA, so go out and get your own copy. I know it seems daft, but you need to know your own book, what genre it is and even what sub-genre it falls into. Next get a highlighter pen and work your way through the handbook and mark out those publishers who publish novels similar to your own. Be meticulous in this exercise, for it will save you time in the long run. It’s a total waste of time sending your romance story to a publisher who only publishes science fiction. Read the small print carefully.

Step 4 – Having got your list of prospective publishers then check out the minutiae of the submission guidelines. Many publishers will not accept unsolicited MS. So do not waste your time, money and effort sending your MS along to one of these companies. When they say they don’t accept unsolicited MS, they mean it, and they probably have their own arcane reasons for this rule. 

Step 5 – There are many publishers who do accept ‘unsolicited’ MS especially from new authors, in the hope they are going to sign-up the ace in the pack and that might just be you.

Your publishers list may be getting shorter by now, but this is good because you are refining your search, and with every step you are closer to finding the right publisher for you.

What are some steps that you took to find the best publisher for you (if you have one)? What are steps that you need to take to find a good publisher for you and your book (if you don’t have one)?

9 Replies to “Finding a Publisher: 10 Steps to Success Part One”

  1. The book in the USA is called The Writers’ Market Guide by Sally Stuart and it comes out each year as well.

    This is great advice. I think a lot more authors would be receiving far less rejection slips (or feel the pain of being ignored) if they followed steps #2 and 4 very closely.

  2. Step one sounds obvious, but for those who come from the world of nonfiction books and feature articles where one queries before writing, some new fiction writers might think the same applies in the world of novels. Nice place to start: a book you can say is done rather than underway.


  3. I was blessed to find a Christian publisher (OakTara) that was accepting new authors. I found them through a Christian writers chat room. OakTara believed in my story from the start and will publish the second book in the trilogy soon. I can’t wait!

    Now I am revising a YA Fiction manuscript to resubmit to an agent because I feel I am ready for representation. He said I am on the right track and to keep writing. It’s a great feeling to know that an agent likes my idea and sees potential in my MS! Yay!

    My advice to new writers is to keep going no matter what!

  4. Good advice, Fred! These days, publishers are even asking whether a non-fiction author has finished the manuscript. I just received a contract from a publisher who will publish a debut author’s first non-fiction book…because it was completed.

  5. Thank you for this. I am in the process of editing my MS, a memoir. I still need a few closing chapters, but need to find the right way to express what I want to say – I know the ending, but need the proper tone. This is helpful, and I agree, as an unpublished author, I need to show that I can write quality words, and don’t want to submit until I’ve improved the MS to the best of my ability. Selecting an agent targeted for your work is crucial. When I learn of an agent through a blog that might be a fit for me, I save their name in a file to pull out later when I am ready to submit my MS. This was a great post.

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