How to get a book published
3 keys to approaching agents, editors, & publishers
Getting "a foot in the door" and your book manuscript onto the desk of the right literary agent, acquisitions editor, or book publisher is the biggest challenge a new author faces. To increase your odds of success, you must have a quality manuscript, professionalism, and a winning book proposal. These are the keys that will open the doors to getting your book published.
Key #1: A quality manuscript
- Perfect your craft: take a writing course; read books and magazines on writing; and write, write, write . . .
- If you're blocked, bogged down, or can't get started, try following some of the tips in the section on memoir writing.
- Make sure that the form and content of your manuscript meet today's publication standards: read current books in your genre and book reviews in such publications as the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and Quill & Quire.
- Don't be satisfied with your first draft: remember that writing for publication typically means rewriting.
- Edit your final draft to polish its style, structure, and readability. For guidelines, read "Good Manuscript Housekeeping" and other articles on writing and style in my information series, Writing for Publication.
- Proofread your edited draft for "typos" and errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- If self-editing and proofreading are beyond you, hire a professional freelance editor before you submit your manuscript to agents or publishing houses.
Key #2: Professionalism
- Initially contact agents, editors, and publishers by mail or email—according to the stated preference of each—not by telephone.
- Send query letter or full book proposal as required, including SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for reply.
- Submit double-spaced standard print-out, unbound on sheets of 81/2 X 11" white paper; or send as an email attachment; or paste into the email message—always follow the directions and requirements of each agent and publisher that you approach.
- Target appropriate publishers and/or agents. Use the information sources listed under Guides to agents and publishers.
- Build up your publication credentials. Find out where to place your articles and short stories by consulting Writer's Market and other market directories listed under Guides to agents and publishers. The Links page also includes links to market information for writers.
Key #3: A winning book proposal
- When preparing book proposals, follow the requirements of agents and publishing houses as stated in guides and directories
- A full proposal typically includes: a brief covering query letter, synopsis, outline (nonfiction), book market information, author bio, and sample chapter or chapters. Note that proposal requirements change over time, and some agents and publishers no longer require a full-length proposal, instead favoring an abbreviated version or simple query. Before approaching any agent or publisher, always check the website of each to determine the latest requirements for querying and submission.
- For a distinctive, attention-getting book proposal and/or query, contact Patricia Anderson for personalized assistance.
Watch the Helping You Get Published video version of this page:
Three Keys to Getting Published