When I asked Janis Herbert to chat with us at The Writers Bloc, I never could have guessed the wealth of information she'd offer. Enough to fill not just one, but two follow-up blog posts! In the last post, I interviewed Janis about the book biz in general and some of her favorite titles. Today's post is all about how to find the right publisher. Take it away, Janis!
So you've written the book. How do you find a publisher?
(Seven Tips by Janis Herbert)
Tip #1: Do your research
Go to libraries and bookstores, and browse Amazon, to find out which publishers are publishing books in your genre. Look carefully at their books to see if they seem like a good match for you. (You don't want to bother sending your book about fly-fishing to a publisher of cookbooks- why waste your time and theirs?) If you've written a children's picture book, for example, find those that are most appealing to you and note the name of the publisher.
If you've written a book about music, find the publishers that already offer titles about music and
musicians. In your communication with the publisher, you can then show them that you've done your homework and you know what they are all about (''Your inspiring book about X led me to hope that you would consider my book about Y.")
Tip #2: Look at the Competition
Find out if there are already books on the market that are similar to yours. If there aren't, this could be a selling point in your approach to the publisher. ("There are currently no other books that address this vital subject.") If there are, don't despair-it might just mean that the topic is of great interest and there is room for your [superior] book. Either way the information is valuable, and mentioning it will show that you have done your research.
Tip #3: Research Publishers
Check out the publishers' websites for information about them and their books. Look for their submission guidelines or get a current copy of Writer's Market, which lists every publisher and offers descriptions of the types of books they are looking for. This volume gives instructions on how each publisher wants to receive submissions-you'll see that some want query letters only, others will accept an outline, some want a sample chapter, some want a complete manuscript.
Tip #4: Write a query letter
What is a query letter? Most publishers request that you send a short letter asking if you may send them your manuscript. This letter is your big opportunity to capture their attention. Tell them in clear and simple terms about the book you are offering and why you feel it merits their attention. Briefly give your biographical information. Offer to send sample chapters or an outline. Thank them for taking the time to review your query. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for their reply.
Tip #5: Make Yourself Appealing to Publishers
It's very difficult to get published, so do everything you can to make yourself and your book appealing to the publisher. If you can get a short piece published in a magazine or respectable online site, that is a great way to get your foot in the door with book publishers. It looks good in an introductory letter and might gain you a valuable connection. If you have special expertise in the area you are writing about, by all means share your years of experience. You need to give the publisher confidence that it would pay off to take a chance on you. You might consider joining a writers' group for the connections and advice they can give you.
Tip #6: Find an Agent
If you'd like to get an agent to do all this work for you ... that's not so easy either. It can be just as hard to get a good agent as it is to get published. If you are seeking an agent, be sure you do not pay in advance for one. They work "on spec" - meaning, they get paid after you are published and receiving royalties for your books.
Tip #7: Stay Professional
Of course, everything you submit to a publisher should be clean, brief, and entirely professional - and, at the same time, should convey your style. Tell them why your book is important and meaningful. Tell them who will be interested in buying and reading it. Present yourself and your work in a positive and clear fashion. Then keep your fingers crossed!
About Janis Herbert
As the author of six acclaimed children's books, Janis Herbert knows how hard it is to get published. She has worked in bookstores, libraries, offices, restaurants, in grade schools, and on college campuses. When she's not 'playing matchmaker between customers and new books' at Face in a Book, Janis enjoys camping, hiking, birdwatching, attending Civil War reenactments, and, most of all, reading. She grew up on the south side of Chicago and now lives in Northern California with her husband and cat. Learn more about Janis at her website.
I write about, with, for, and around kids all day. (Well, maybe I do the dishes too. Sometimes.)