I finished my first full book a couple of months ago and am in the stage where I am waiting for publishers to respond to my submissions. Although previously published in a peer-reviewed textbook on resilience, the editors coordinated that acim so I was spared involvement in the publishing aspects. So learning the steps necessary to find a publisher were more work than writing the book was a surprise. I have chosen to go with traditional publishing. The reasons are my own so I will leave it there for this article.
I am the type of person who researches things to understand them. As I researched how to be published, I learned much I wish I had known before I wrote the book. Naively, before writing the book, I thought I could submit the same manuscript to numerous publishers and then just wait to see what happened. I felt thankful that I teach people how to develop and maintain a positive outlook, because the waiting would be far more stressful without those skills.
I imagined finishing the book, emailing or sending copies to several publishers whose books I often read, and then focusing on other things. The process is nothing like my expectations. I hope to make the process easier for other writers by sharing my experiences. The good news is that the high rate of manuscript rejection comes as a result of not being aware of or following the guidelines I describe below.
The first “Aha” moment came when I learned there are a variety of style manuals. I did not even know what a style manual was before I completed my book. A style manual contains the rules for a specific writing style. The first publisher I wanted to submit my manuscript to required compliance with the Chicago Manual of Style, a tome of almost 1,000 pages. Style manuals vary greatly in their requirements. If you have a specific publisher in mind for your book, check their submission requirement for specific style manual specifications. Understanding the requirements while you are writing the book will save time later.
The second insight came when many of the publishers wanted a marketing plan. They wanted detailed plans demonstrating how I would promote my book if they published it. I am lucky in this regard because my book is tied to my full time occupation, so devoting significant time to promotion will be easy for me. This is not the case for many writers. Perusing hundreds of publisher websites made it clear publishers prefer work from writers with an established network. This makes sense. It lowers the risk a publisher will be left with hundreds, or thousands, of unsold copies.
Think about your marketing plan ahead of time. If you do not have a network, build one as you write the book. Use social media and personal networking to create a platform to launch your book. Ideas will come to you if you use an affirmation such as, “I am open to inspired ideas about how to make my book be successful.” I was amazed, inspired, and delighted as I read the submission requirements of various publishers. It made me wish I had read them before I wrote the book. Doing so might have helped me as I wrote the book. It would have been easy to incorporate some of the things I read about to make the book more attractive to both a wider spectrum of publishers and readers.
Some publishers do not want the entire manuscript submitted. They want only the first 50 pages or the first three chapters and an outline of the entire book. I did not write my book from an outline. This book was an inspired outpouring so I had to create an outline after the fact. Create an outline ahead of time or, if your book is just flowing out of you as mine did, create one as you go along when everything is fresh in your mind. It will be easier. It will also help you see if there are gaps in the book.
A UK publisher appealed greatly to me and thinking both countries (I am in the USA) speak English, I did not consider the matter further until it dawned on me, that especially in writing, UK and US English are two separate languages. I wanted the UK publisher enough that I converted the manuscript to UK English-a considerably more time-consuming process than I had imagined. Think long and hard about making the decision to submit to a foreign publisher. If your book is successful in your native country, the publisher will convert it for you.
As I read submission requirements, I found many publishers who wanted to see an outline before the book was written. Some of them have specific topics they want covered and their own ideas about how to approach the topic. In addition to the manuscript that is being reviewed by perspective publishers, I have several non-fiction books in various stages of completion. Tip # 6 is my next step with those books.