Exploring Your Publishing Options Part One: Traditional Publishing

Once you've finished your manuscript, you will find many publishing options available to you. You should first decide if you want to self-publish, pursue traditional publishing, or select an independent publisher. All three offer their own pros and cons and you have some homework to do to decide which option is best for your book. Tip: Become active with Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Digest University. They offer many great online workshops, webinars and books with information on honing your craft and getting ready for publication.

Traditional publishing can be tough to break into, but for some being picked up by a top publishing house is the most desirable option. If that is your goal, you might want to consider pursuing a literary agent. Many of the top publishing companies will not take unsolicited manuscripts unless they come from a literary agent. Again, you can learn the art of querying from Writer’s Digest and pick up a recent copy of the Writer’s Market for a list of literary agents and publishers.

Here are a few tips for getting picked up by a traditional publisher:

1. Consider whether you will need a literary agent. Some traditional publishing houses will not accept unsolicited queries. If you have a publisher in mind and through your research you’ve found they do not accept unsolicited queries, you should find it helpful to find a literary agent to represent you. This has both its pros and cons. Yes, they can help you get your foot in the door with top publishing houses, but you are going to pay them a percentage to represent you. If you decide to seek out the help of a literary agent, find an agent that prefers to represent your genre. For example, you would not want to query a literary agent who has a strong interest in sci-fi for your personal memoir. Most agents will list their preferences on their website, and you can find a list of agents along with their contact information in the latest copy of the Writers’ Market. Be sure to study your preferred agent’s query requirements and follow them. You might consider reading some related-subject books or taking a workshop on the art of querying before continuing.

2. Develop a strong book proposal. You can find many books and websites out there that will walk you through the layout of a book proposal. Be sure the information you are reading is up to date. You also want to make sure your proposal is free of grammatical errors, has proper punctuation, and is in the correct format. Keep in mind that each publisher may require different criteria. If you are not going to use an agent, it is best to seek out your desired publishers by thoroughly researching their specifications.

3. Be Professional. Once you start sending out queries and proposals, make sure each communication with the contact person is conducted in a professional manner. Don’t get too comfortable with your point of contact. Watch for punctuation, grammar and always start and end each email with the proper greeting and closure. If you make an appointment to speak on the phone, make sure you are available at that time and prepared to answer questions about your project. It is important to stay in contact, follow up and meet deadlines.

4. Be persistent. If you are going to work at getting published by a traditional publisher, you are again going to have to develop a thick skin. If you receive a rejection, don’t let it get you down or cause you to lose faith in your gift or lose sight of your goal. It could just mean you weren’t the right fit for that particular publisher and a better opportunity awaits you just around the corner. Be prepared to hear several NOs before you hear one YES. Set realistic expectations and recognize that it is tough to break into the publishing world. Above all, be persistent.

The above is an excerpt from my book: Write from the Heart: A Step-by-Step Writing Guide to Get Your Message from Idea to Publication

Watch for Exploring Your Publishing Options Part Two: Self-publishing.