Over the next two weeks, I’ll be highlighting what I think are the three keys to getting a book published. The first key to publishing is research. I’d like to tell you that there’s a book or website with directions or blueprints on how your book can become traditionally published. But no such resource exists. Understanding publishing comes down to research. But how?
Publishers Weekly and other Book Review Journals
Publishers Weekly is the bible for the publishing industry. It has articles about what’s going on in the industry as well as book reviews. Reading book reviews for the genre you write is critical to learning how your manuscript fits into today’s market. After you’ve read them for awhile, you’ll know who are the bestsellers in your genre and be able to spot trends. I always pick up Book Page, a free book review magazine with author interviews, at my library, and I read book reviews in my local paper. I’m also a member of Goodreads, and when they send out their monthly email, listing new books, I look at mysteries and YA books.
Once you begin reading review journals, you start to see what genres different publishing houses specialize in. You can visit their sites to learn what their rules are for submitting manuscripts. All big houses require you to have an agent, who will submit the manuscript for you. Smaller houses may not have that requirement. That’s when you dig in and research.
Books Published in the Last 5 Years
Check out the acknowledgment section in books published within the last five years that are similar to your manuscript. Often in the acknowledgements, the author will thank his or her agent and editor and mention their agency and publishing house. Go to the sites for those businesses and see what the submission rules are. More well-established agents may not be taking on new clients. But younger agents in a respected agency are eager for new authors, and you may be able to approach them.
Writing conferences are a wonderful way to meet other writers and provide access to agents and editors that you might not otherwise have. But not all conferences are created equal. You should ask yourself these questions as you research a writing conference:
- How long has it been around?
- Is it national or local?
- Who are the faculty? Are they well-known writers, respected editors, and seasoned agents?
- Who sponsors the conference? A national organization? A publishing house? A couple of friends?
Writing groups are another great way to meet writers in a mutually beneficial exchange of support, expertise, and advice. But again, not all writing groups are created equal. When I first started writing, I joined several groups in which the members each read a portion of their work in progress at each meeting. Some people would comment, but really, the groups existed just to let the members show off.
When I joined the Ohio chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers, a national organization that had 15 years of history, I met writers of various skill levels and publishing success. They took writing seriously and offered serious advice on how I could advance in my writing and marketing.
Why All the Research?
First, you only have so much time. It’s better to spend it in research than going to worthless conferences and writing groups until you happen to hit on a good one.
Second, there are way, way, WAY too many people just waiting to take your money and give you little or nothing in return. If a publishing house requires any money from an author to publish her book, that publishing house is not a traditional publisher. It’s either a vanity press, which will publish anything as long as you pay them, or a hybrid publisher, which charge authors for certain services. But some hybrid publishers are vanity publishers with a new name. Again, research is key.
I don’t mind repeating the most important point: If you want to be traditionally published, then you don’t pay any publishing house a dime. They don’t get paid until you sell books.
Authors, what do you think are a key to publishing?