Finding a Publisher – 10 Steps to Success – Part 2

I’m returning to discuss those ever important steps in finding a publisher. You can find Part I that covered steps one through five here.

Step 6 – You may have ten or maybe even twenty publishing companies still on your list. Now take a look at their websites to see for yourself what kind of books they publish. Pick out one or two books similar to your own story and discover where the publisher actually sells them. For instance are they available in book stores or only on internet sites like Amazon. Browsing the books for sale can also tell you if the books are best-sellers. Read the readers’ reviews etc. Spending time in this area can help build up a picture of the publisher, and this kind of research is always fruitful for new writers. Are the publishers small or big, successful or not, new or well established, respected or not? On this last point the internet often has blogs and comments about bad publishers. Read them but be discerning because sometimes the comments may come from an embittered author whose books were repeatedly turned down.

Step 7 – So you have now made a shortlist and want to decide where to send your precious MS. Remember you can send copies of the MS to several publishers at the same time. Better to fire off several barrels rather than just one bullet, scattered guns normally hit something; whereas, the single shot usually misses the target.

Make sure you really read the details of their submission guidelines. Each company will have a different slant as to how you contact them. Some want the whole MS; others don’t. Some want the first three chapters only; whereas, some publishers just want to see a synopsis of the book. Remember to keep strictly to the guidelines, or your MS may end up in the waste paper basket. And always send a stamped addressed envelope so that the copy can be mailed back to you. That way you are more likely to get a reply even if it’s not the one you wanted.

Step 8 – A warning! The ‘sharks’ out there often disguise themselves as bona fide publishers. They might look safe, but all they want is to chew on your money. This is not saying that ‘self-publishing’ companies are predatory. Most often they’re not because in the case of self-publishers you get what you pay for.

I am sorry to say that there are Christian companies out there in the big ocean that act like sharks. One such company contacted me and said they wanted to publish my book, but it wasn’t until the third or fourth email that they told me it would cost $18,000 up front. The contract also tied me into buying a hundred books at $10 a book. If however, you are serious about your writing, find a reputable publisher and use your best judgement to pick the right one. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t!

Step 9 – So you’ve sent your MS off; do not despair if after a short while you don’t hear back. Just be patient, and resist contacting the publisher to find out what’s the score. Most often it takes at least three months to get even an acknowledgement or even longer. I know that you are on tenterhooks, but the best way to stay sane is to ‘forget’ about the submission and get on with the next project. If you get rejections, don’t lose heart. Some of the most famous authors had hundreds of rejections before someone smart bought the book. Remember a lot of publishers make errors in their choices. The Harry Potter series was turned down by loads of agents and publishers. Have faith and keep knocking on doors; you’ll win in the end. The writers who found success are those who never gave up believing.

Step 10 – If you are a Christian writer, here’s a Ready auto transport service you can use. In short, what it does is post three chapters of your book and a brief author bio with your contact details on their website. The website is known to many Christian publishers who take a peek on a regular basis to see if there’s anything worthwhile posted there. It’s inexpensive, and your submission stays on the website for six months. One last piece of invaluable advice for Christian writers is this: remember the Lord is keenly interested in you and your work. Pray every day for success. I found success with an agent and a publisher who were five thousand miles away from where I live.

Care to share some of your publishing experiences?

How to Find the Perfect Publisher

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.