If you have decided that you want your book to be published traditionally, approaching a book publisher correctly will be critical to your success. There are a number of steps you will need to take to give yourself the greatest chance for publication.
Finding the Right Book Publisher
1. Research book publishers and find the companies which publish books similar to yours. A publishing house which does inspirational books is not going to be interested in your true crime story.
So often, I have heard authors tell me that I need to publish their books because it will open new markets for the company. Wrong. When a publishing company has opened a certain market and focuses their marketing on that market, they are not going to enter a totally different market easily. Especially not for one book.
2. Study their submission guidelines carefully. A guidelines sheet is gold to an author, for it tells you exactly what they are looking for. Often, it will also tell you if they are accepting submissions.
If you don’t have an agent and are submitting as an individual, this can save you time and money. Believe them—the publishing houses have created a submissions guidelines because it answers the questions they receive.
3. Often, publishing houses will request a query first. This is your chance to shine, so make your query (usually email these days) sparkle with your creativity. Keep it short and succinct, and if they allow, submit a small, interesting portion of your book, your marketing ideas, and anything else that can make a strong case for you, the author.
If you don’t hear from them, don’t get impatient and call them. All editors find this annoying at best.
Book Publisher Review Process
4. IF your book meets their criteria, and IF they are accepting submissions, they will contact you asking see the manuscript or a portion of the manuscript. Submit it to them, following their directions and using the address (email, etc.) they have given you.
Regardless of how you send it, get at least a mailing (or emailing) confirmation that you have sent it.
ALWAYS keep a copy of the manuscript for yourself. I can’t tell you how many times, we received the ONLY copy an author had. This was scary for us, and it should have been heart-stopping for the author. Most of the time, they didn’t even realize what they had done.
Sending the only copy was definitely more common in the days of typed manuscripts, but even today, authors need to keep that master copy on their computer or in their vault.
5. Editors need time to review manuscripts, so don’t be in a hurry to hear from them. Again, don’t get impatient and call them. Start on your next book.
Within a publishing company, a manuscript usually goes through several levels of approval. If it is approved through the editorial levels, it then goes to the marketing department to see if they can promote it. Then costing for production, etc. etc.
Each publishing house handles submissions differently, but be assured, if they have asked to see your manuscript, they are initially interested.
6. Publishers reply in their own good time—at least the good ones do.
There are some publishers who don’t give you the courtesy of a reply, so cross them off your list after a good amount of time—a year? Send them a letter documenting what has happened and that you retain full copyright ownership of that manuscript.
If you are rejected, move on. Don’t take it personally. Authors often don’t realize that sometimes their books are rejected because of what is going on within the publishing house. If the publishing/printing schedules are full, your book is going to be rejected. If the production costs are higher than what they want to spend, you will have a rejected manuscript. And so on.
Never forget, though, that most manuscripts are rejected because of the quality of the work. That is why your manuscript has to be as good as possible on all fronts.
Approaching a Book Publisher
When approaching a book publisher, do your research and find publishers of like books. Submit as they recommend—query, partial manuscript, etc. Wait. If rejected, work on your manuscript some more, and then move on. Always submit your best work.