The end of your story isn’t really the end. By all means, celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief now that you’ve finished the mighty task of finishing your manuscript. We congratulate you.
But there is still work to be done and the journey to publication is not over. After celebrating, it’s time to get down to business—the business before you begin querying agents!
If the former, then spend some time researching and understanding self-publishing. Check out this guide to self-publishing and what it can do for your book.
If the latter, then you need to decide whether you’d prefer a larger traditional publisher or a smaller, niche publisher. Make sure you consider not just your preference, but also whether your book is better suited to a big publishing house or an independent, more close-knit company.
For big publishers, you need a literary agent because the likes of Penguin Random House and Hachette don’t accept “unsolicited manuscripts”, i.e. directly from the author. Your aim would be to land an agent to guide you. If you manage to hook one, they will pitch it to publishers on your behalf and hopefully help you secure a publishing deal. Research agents relevant to your genre and subject matter and draw up a shortlist.
For small publishers, you can pitch directly via their website. The downside is that you have to negotiate the deal yourself, and these publishers typically expect you to do a lot of the marketing and promoting on your own. Research and list a few potential publishers.
Before you start pitching, have a read here about the dangers of vanity publishers so you don’t end up being exploited for your work.
Whether with an agent or self-pitching, you need either a query letter (fiction) or a book proposal (nonfiction). These will convince the publisher to read your manuscript (fiction) or sample chapters (nonfiction). For more information on writing a compelling proposal, check out this page!
Get your manuscript or sample chapters ready. You can hire an editor to critique the manuscript or offer writing advice. We offer a number of services, including proofreading, editing and critiquing!
You can also submit your work as is, or find a middle ground—you may decide to get feedback from beta-readers or indulge in a little self-editing using trendy software. But beware, this guide explains why you should be mindful of this approach.
Each agent and/or publisher you submit to will have specific guidelines regarding your submission, for example: email vs. website upload, document formatting, order of points in the book proposal, etc.
Make sure you adjust your submission to each of these requirements, and tailor the first paragraph of your query letter to each specific agent/publisher, rather than sending a generic pitch to all of them. You have chosen them to publish your work, so make them feel special.
Rejected? Accepted? Ignored?
If accepted, congratulations! Most agents and publishers will now ask you to send the first few chapters, or sometimes even the full manuscript depending on its length, for a read.
If you didn’t get lucky this time round, don’t despair—rejection is something writers need to handle all the time. You can take a look at our Writing Guides and The Editor’s Blog for helpful tips and tricks when dealing with the publishing industry. If you get rejections with feedback, amend your submission and try again.
A book proposal service may be what you need. Our services have helped hundreds achieve their publishing goals and we can help you too. Check it out here.
Or perhaps it is other aspects of your work which need amending. Seek out writing coaches who will help you with this. We are here to help those with nonfiction writing here.
Rinse, repeat, and good luck!
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