What comes after the writing is done
So you’ve written your manuscript, slaved over every detail and edited it until you feel it’s perfect. Now what? Well, you’ve got a few options at this point. You can bury it in a box and never let the world see it or you can try and get it published. Odds are, if you’ve come this far you’ll want to see your work in print and you’ll want other people to read it, so what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Ok, now your options are to self-publish or to try the traditional route. Keep in mind, neither route is easy, but that’s not why we write, is it?
Self-publishing has its own winding path, but I’m going to talk to you today about the traditional route. A lot of people who have tried to get their works published traditionally through a publishing house will tell you that it’s a process that involves a lot of perseverance, hard work and luck.
There are ways to make the luck part seem a little more manageable, however.
Some people see submitting to publishing houses a little like buying a lottery ticket and hoping for the best. More lottery tickets, (or in this case, submitting to more and more publishing houses) and you’ll increase your chances at winning, right? Well, with publishing that’s not exactly the case.
It’s just as important to locate publishing houses that publish the type of book that you have written. If you write fantasy books, say, and you try to submit to a non-fiction, or biographical publishing house, your chances of that publishing house giving your manuscript the time of day is well… pretty much zero.
Publishers are looking to fill their catalog with certain kinds of books, because they are known in their market for publishing those certain kinds of books and that’s the audience they exist to reach. So they not only don’t want to read your fantasy book if they publish biographies, they can’t afford to publish something they don’t feel is going to sell to the audience they have established.
So, you’ve found a publishing house that fits your book’s genre and general audience (it’s important to know what that is, by the way…) and you’ve read their submission guidelines. It’s best to follow their instructions as best you can in order to be considered, so you’ve made up the synopsis they asked for and prepared the first three chapters for review. Great! Only now you have to write a query letter. You’ve got a stock query letter that you’ve prepared or a template that you’ve found online and filled in, but you really want this publisher to notice you above all the others, right? So, take my advice and personally tailor your query letter to the publishing house you are submitting to. It might just be enough to catch their attention and it will at least show the person receiving your submission that you did your research and have endeavored to send them material that they are looking to receive.
It might not get you published any faster, and you will most likely still have to wade through dozens of rejections to find the publishing house that is precisely what your manuscript needs to make it in the market, but if you follow this advice, at least you will be looking in the right places and you might save yourself and your future publisher a ton of hassle.
(ps. The same tips apply to finding yourself a literary agent if you decide to go that route.)
Justine Alley Dowsett, Author of Crimson Winter and Publisher at Mirror World Publishing