When I was getting ready to attend my first writer’s conference, I had a difficult time trying to figure out which publisher to pick for my editor appointment. I was absolutely overwhelmed. I didn’t know who would be the best match for my book, much less who would provide the type of professional working relationship that I needed.
I’ve learned a lot since then about what goes into finding the perfect publisher. In fact, the first thing I’ve come to understand is that there is no perfect publisher. Publishing houses are staffed with regular people like you and me. They’re not perfect. And as we all know, traditional publication is in flux. Changes are never easy on writers or publishing house staff.
All that to say, we have to go into the publishing experience with realistic expectations. We won’t find one perfect publisher. But we can work at finding the best match possible. And here are three ways we can do that:
1. Get an agent’s help.
Yes, you might be thinking. This is a no-brainer. Many writers want to hook up with an agent because an agent is usually the expert on the various publishing houses and what types of books they’re looking for.
However, there are times when an unagented writer catches the attention of a publisher or editor. In such cases, if a writer seeks out an agent before making any decisions with the publisher, the agent can offer advice, send the manuscript to other houses, and work at getting the best deal.
Agents are often more willing to consider writers who are garnering publisher interest. Let the agent know and follow up with them if they already have your manuscript. If you’re not getting through to the agent, enlist the help of a current client.
2. Research, research, research.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of learning about various publishers you’re planning to target. And if you’re planning to publish without the help of an agent, then the research is even more crucial. I’ve talked with too many writers who’ve gone with small or subsidy presses and have had disappointing experiences.
There’s no shortcut to immersing yourself in the industry and learning all you can about publishers. Here are several ways to research:
- Read books by the publisher(s) you hope to target.
- Study different publishers and look at what most of their books have in common.
- Check with authors who work with that publisher. Save this step until you’ve garnered interest from a specific publisher. Then you can email the author(s) to ask a few questions like: Were you satisfied with the editing? How much marketing do they offer? How well do they communicate?
- Investigate the Preditors & Editors list. Google the publisher. Ask other writers on twitter or facebook their opinions.
3. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Some publishers are coveted more than others.Without naming names, we all know which publishers are bigger, more prestigious, and can do more for their authors in terms of advances, editing, marketing, and sales.
However, we can’t automatically assume that we should target the biggest houses. And we shouldn’t resort to smaller house only if the big deals don’t pan out. Our books are individuals and need personalized plans of action. There is no one-size-fits-all for publishing. We need to find the “hole” that matches our book.
What do you think? What are some other ways writers can find the best possible publisher for them? If you’re a published author, is your publisher a good fit? And if so, what did you do make sure you were a good match?
Post Author: Jody Hedlund
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher’s Bride, a Carol Award finalist. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her latest book, The Doctor’s Lady, released in September 2011.