There are three ways to get a book published on paper. I say paper because there is also an electric option—an e-book, but more on that later.
- Through a publishing house. This is where you submit a manuscript for the publisher to decide if they want to sell it as a book.
- Through an agent. This is where you send a manuscript to an agent and ask them to sell it for you.
- Self-publishing. This is where you do all the work, send it to a printing house and pay for the books that are delivered directly to you.
Each of these options has its pros and cons.
Because they wish to sell books and make a profit, the publishing houses are very choosy about who they sell. They will always choose proven, house authors over aspiring writers but if you have something that really strikes them as sellable they will bite. HOWEVER—and this is a big however, there is this thing called the slush pile, which is literally a big pile of manuscripts sent to them by hopeful authors. Your job as someone who wants to be published and see your book make money is to somehow, someway get that book out of the slush pile and into the hands of an editor.
So the most important tool you will need is a big thick book called The Writer’s Market. You can get this at the library or buy it at any bookstore (or Amazon.com, much cheaper.) It is a worthwhile investment that you will need to purchase once a year to keep current. All of the publishers are listed in this book and more importantly, all the instructions for submitting a book for publication. There are soooo many options for an author, not just regular publishing houses, there are smaller houses, magazines and contests. More about these later. Each publisher has specific instructions about submitting a manuscript and YOU MUST FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER. If not your manuscript will be simply tossed out, they don’t bother with unprofessional looking ms’s or those that have not bothered to read or follow directions. They don’t want to work with authors who don’t listen at the start!
There are two things you must note also—if your book is fiction, it stands a MUCH lower chance of publication with a standard publisher, especially without an agent’s intervention. Even if you have the story of the century, the publishers are skittish about investing in an unproved author. It’s all about profit and book sales. That’s why we see so many sub-standard fiction on the shelves—these are authors who have already made money for the publisher and are riding on past successes. Names sell, that’s the hard truth. And very frustrating for those of us who have bled, sweated and cried over our perfect books. If your book is non-fiction there is a slightly better chance of publication. Publishers LOVE new and inspiring how to’s, coffee table books, something different. They are looking for authors who can go on television, speak and present their books and advice. This brings in a lot of revenue for them. So for non-fiction an agent is okay and good, but you can submit a well-printed, well-queried book and cut out the middle man. There is again a very specific way to present this to a publisher and you MUST follow directions of the editors.
In order to get the book to the right publisher you must also check with the publisher to make sure the editor listed in the Writer’s Market is still working with the publishing house. Check the website for the publisher for more in-depth instructions, usually by clicking on “Submissions”. Always, always rely on the website over the Writer’s Market. You can find the publishers in the Writer’s Market but you must visit their website to follow up.
Do NOT call them about your book! Don’t bug them to print! There is protocol about this and you can read about that in Writer’s Market or on the websites. You can sink your book by being a pain.
For the children’s market, some publishers will allow you to send pictures to go along with it, some not. You must check with them. Also there is a formula for sending your manuscript, more about this later but you will most likely send your story and artwork separate—they want to see the manuscript, not how it’s laid out on the page.