I regularly get emails from new authors asking for advice about getting published. I’m not an expert on the subject but am happy to share my thoughts and experience, so here are a few (I hope helpful) suggestions to assist you.
When I first started out, it was much more difficult to find a publisher. The optimistic wannabe author had to purchase a copy of the latest edition of The Writers Handbook, track down agents or publishers willing to accept unsolicited scripts, then print off hundreds and hundreds of pages, charge down to the local post office, weighed down by the precious manuscripts, and then part with life savings to send them on their way.
Fortunately today it doesn’t cost you a small fortune in printer ink and postage.
So, your script is ready and you don’t want to go the route of self-publishing. You want to find a publisher. Where do you start? This is going to sound odd, but begin by raising your author profile. You can be checking out publishers while you do this. Follow the advice I laid down in my last post and ensure you are actively building an author platform. The connections you make online will prove invaluable and if you join writing groups on Facebook, you will get a great deal of advice.
It’s also a good time to put together your biography. Chances are a publisher will want know something about you, so write down salient points and if you have not yet had anything published, send articles, stories, poems to magazines or websites who might publish them. You might also want to enter a couple of writing competitions. Publishers like to know you are in for the duration and intend making a career out of writing. If you are working on a second script, make sure you have a synopsis for it too and you mention it.
Okay, now you can get your teeth into it and seek out a publisher.
Sign up to and go to author events and get known, not just by potential readers, but other authors in your genre. There are huge crime and romance writing events all over the country. I met my first publisher at the Festival of Romance in Bedford, which I attended with a group of romance writers. My books didn’t technically fit into the romance category and the event was stuffed with Mills & Boon fans, but I made contacts and friends, and as luck would have it, was on a table next to a small publisher called Safkhet. During the long gaps when no visitors came to buy our books, I got chatting to the publisher herself, who at the time published the fabulous Sheryl Browne (who now writes for Bookouture too). As we were about to pack up for the day, the publisher said, ‘You’re the only person who hasn’t tried to pitch a book to me. Do you have anything else you’re working on?’ As it happened, I had a non-fiction I was considering self-pubbing. She asked me to send it to her which I did on my return home. The same afternoon she offered me a book deal. It was the start of my journey.
Author events are great places to pitch your ideas as well as making new contacts. I know of several successful authors who have secured deals thanks to pitching events.
There are also online pitching events such as the one Canleo Publishing (my other publisher) offered on Twitter recently. In this age of digital publishing it is wise to consider these opportunities and keep an eye out for them. Again, if you are building a brand, you ought to follow some publishers, agents and other authors in your genre. Tweets and retweets can be the source of valuable information.
If you would prefer to approach a publisher directly, you MUST (yes, I’ve used the shouty capital letters) read their guidelines before submitting. Be sure they are a) accepting unsolicited scripts (that is from authors not agents) and b) they are looking for books in your genre.
Search engines will provide all the information you need to find a publisher. Be sure you choose a publishing house you feel comfortable with. Don’t be tempted to go to a small publishing house because you think you’ll stand more chance with them. They are often the ones who close their doors. Check out the authors they already represent and maybe even contact one or two of them on Twitter or FB to ask what their experience has been like.
Once you’ve chosen a publisher, go to the submissions page on their website. Some sites ask for a synopsis and three chapters, others for a five word summary and 10,000 words, or even the full manuscript. Whatever they request, send it in. You might find yourself having to submit the information onto an online form on their website, in which case, plan your words carefully beforehand on a Word document or equivalent, so you don’t send in something full of errors.
As soon as you’ve submitted to a publisher you should get an automated email from them, letting you know how long you can expect to wait for a response. It can take months! It is a frustrating and angst-ridden time but please wait it out and once again, work on social media, your website or your blog, or write something else. In fact, it’s a very good time to submit short stories to competitions in magazines so you can get some writing kudos.
Some may disagree, but I don’t hold with applying to a whole bunch of publishing houses at the same time. Try one or two at most. Editors in one company do actually talk to other editors in another, so they will probably soon find out you’ve submitted to every publishing house possible and that won’t work in your favour.
If you are sending a covering letter or email, you must give a publisher clear reason to consider your work. Tell them why you would like them to publish it? Have you heard about them from a fellow author? (Good – recommendations help.) Are they the best digital publishing house for your genre? Don’t go overboard though.
If you haven’t heard back within the period of time they stated on the website or email, then don’t be afraid to ask if they’ve got to your submission yet. However, don’t leap in a couple of weeks after you sent it. You will have to exercise patience.
- Make sure you have a brief but interesting letter about yourself and your publications so far. If you haven’t yet got any works published, write articles for blogs/magazine/papers – anything to show you can write and be able to mention them in your covering letter. Also send work off to one or two writing competitions such as those in the Writing Magazine.
- Choose one or two publishers you feel would be willing to publish your work.
- Apply and adhere to their guidelines. Ensure your forms are correctly filled in and your covering letter (if they request one) is not too long.
- Be patient. I don’t know how many times I say this to writers but it really is a game of patience. The most successful writers are those who have a long game plan and keep building up their portfolio of work.
- Put together a biography, a photo of you, a list of works you’ve written, awards you’ve received, anything else relevant that a publisher might require.
I’ll expand on all of this at a later date but for now – good luck.