If you have done all the long and hard work writing and polishing your book, it’s time to press play. If you want to get a publishing deal, this is where the rubber hits the road. You are going to be sending your book out to at least 20 traditional publishers or literary agents. The process is the same for both.
Remember, this is ultimately a sales game. Few writers send their proposal to one publisher and magically get picked up by the first one. Yes, it can and does occasionally happen. If you are crystal clear on your genre, have a knockout proposal, know the current publishing climate, your book is highly contemporary/timeless/a great story or you have a big platform and author brand, then maybe the first publisher you approach will sign you up. But in my experience that is HIGHLY unlikely.
As an agent it can take me up to a year to get a book publishing deal for an author. It is a combination of so many elements that come together to make a publisher say YES. To be honest, most of it is luck, contacts, good timing and simply having a good book to show them. That's why I always push you all so hard to do the work of writing and re-writing your back cover blurb, your log lines and your pitch. Those document are what truly get the initial attention of a publisher. These hard working documents are the key to selling a book.
The truth is that this 'being an author' is a long game, and along the journey you have to keep the momentum up, process any rejection letters, implement any feedback, get back to it, and keep going. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
Step 1: Do your research
Take a trip back to the bookshop. Find your genre, look in your own bookshelf browse Amazon.com to research publishing houses that fall on your dream publishing list. Make sure you also browse the internet to research all the publishing houses that might be a good fit. Note down the relevant publisher’s name. Choose most of your hit list as publishers based in your home country, and select at least four that are international.
Step 2: Build your hit list
Compile a list of at least 20 publishers and literary agents for your dream list. Do your research about who publishes books in your specific genre. Join online writing groups to network, connect and get ideas.Check Twitter for some hot new agents looking for new authors. Chat to any authors you know for leads and ideas. Follow relevant publishers on social media to stay up to date with their submission windows and publishing guidelines.
Step 3: Send to 20 in your first mail shot
Gone are the days of sending a printed and bound manuscript in the postal service. For the most part nowadays, you will either be emailing the relevant commissioning editors, submission departments or submitting directly online through the publishing portal on their websites. Deep breath. And send.
Step 4: Track and send more
Check back every three months and send out again to new publishers. Keep records of their replies.
A reminder of what you normally include to send off in your PITCH DECK:
3. Your first three chapters attached to the email
Remember three important things when submitting:
1. Make sure they focus on YOUR GENRE.
2. Know their name (if relevant).
3. Mention books similar to yours that they have published.
4. Have your loglines and make sure you reference well-known books that yours is similar to.
SOME SUBMISSION TIPS
Be flexible. Some publishers will ask you to submit online and will allow only specific word counts for each section. Take your best versions and fit it into their formats.
Check their requirements first. Some don’t want your first three chapters. Some want 10,000 words. Check if they want Word documents or PDFs.
Check if they have a naming protocol and follow it. Name your documents in a logical and consistent way. Usually, this is BOOK TITLE_synopsis and BOOK TITLE_Chapters
Have all your documents properly formatted (read their requirements on font size and spacing) and add a footer on all documents that has this information: BOOK TITLE + AUTHOR NAME + DATE + PAGE NUMBER
No matter how many books you have written, this is always the moment you have your heart in your throat. JK Rowling must have felt this again when she submitted her crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Jo also sent her novel out to an estimated dozen publishers. Kate Mills, publishing director of Orion was one of the publishers.
"When the book came in, I thought it was perfectly good," she was quoted widely as saying. "It was certainly well written – but it didn’t stand out." Ouch.
Of course that series is now a bestselling one, and a tv series. Good writing can't hide.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
An author with commitment, and a good idea.
A polished, professional and completed book
A well-crafted book proposal
A manuscript as close to perfect as you can make it.
A great cover and title
A publisher and a publishing deal
The best possible editor
Being published at the right time