Book Writing Series Part Seven – Contacting Publishers
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Feb 11, 2009
As many of you know, I started a series of articles that I called the book writing series, for which I also have a link at the top. I went through some issues on planning, writing, then publishing. Well, some people still want to try to get a real publisher for their books, which is a laudable goal, but may not have any real idea of how to go about it. That’s what this article is about. Of course, I hope you go through the other issues first before you get to this one if you’re a new visitor, but you don’t have to.
To begin with, if you’re going to try for publisher’s, a must have book is Writer’s Market, because that’s where you’re going to start looking for the names and addresses of publishers you’re hoping will accept your book. However, the book doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, so stay tuned.
To start off with, whether you submit your book by regular mail or email, you’ll need to supply an outline, or synopsis, of the book. My book was non fiction, so I supplied an outline of what each chapter’s topic was, along with its title, and an outline of what was covered in the chapter if I was touching upon more than one theme. Also, every publisher or agent either wants one of two things: a complete copy of the book, which, if you print it out, has to be on individual pages, double spaced (that’s kind of costly and wasteful, but if that’s what they want then you give it to them); most publishers only want a sample, maybe like the first 50 pages or so. If you’re sending something by email, you may need to contact the publisher first before sending an attached file. This is one place where having Writer’s Market helps, because it will tell you how the publisher wants you to contact them.
However, here’s the big part that no one ever tells you. Unless you’re already famous, you have to put in your greeting letter, and you must ALWAYS have a greeting letter, not only what the book is about and the characters and synopsis, but how YOU would sell and market the book if it were totally up to you. You have to tell them who the target audience is, and why that’s the target audience. And it needs to be a big audience, one that has the possibility of selling at least 100,000 books. That was one of my problems; my non fiction book might have had a big market, but books on management and leadership rarely sell that many books unless you’re a big name. The One Minute Millionaire really was a fluke (I met Ken Blanchard, by the way, and he actually read a copy of my book). Anyway, the marketing aspect has to include things like book signings, certain types of radio shows you’d try to get on, television interviews, how much travel you’d be willing to do, etc. The problem with that is that a lot of that stuff would come out of your own pocket; they’ll pay you something up front, but you then have to figure out how to fit everything else into place with that money.
The best thing to do then, obviously, is to try to get an agent, but they’re tough to get through to also. They don’t like signing what they consider as a “one trick pony”; in other words, they usually want to know that you’ve written more than one book, no matter how good they are, because they want to pitch the writer as being somewhat prolific so they can get multi-book deals. So, unless your first missive is just so fantastic that the agent knows you’re the next coming of J.K. Rowlings, it’s a difficult sell. She’s actually someone who’s a great example of how to do it. She got an agent not because of the first book, but because she had a full outline for the entire series of books, and the agent just loved that, even though she’d only written the first book at the time. Even then, he had a tough time getting it to someone initially, but that was then his concern, not hers, since agents still work on commission. I don’t think any of them are unhappy at this juncture.
If you’re looking for an agent, you pretty much have to go through the same process you do for a publisher. There are only so many agents, and because most of them are one person operations, they only have so much time to read only so many books. The reason you might shoot for an agent, though, is because some publishers will only work with agents, not directly with writers, and agents have access to many more publishers than you might on your own.
Now a little bit more on figuring out the categories for your book. Though I love the idea of a book falling into multiple categories, publishers won’t. In the Writer’s Market book, many publishers only market a few types of genres, so they’d need something specific. These days, more publishers are starting to get scared of “true story” books because of the ones that have been outed as fake recently, so if you reference anyone specific in the book they’re going to want to know who those people are, and of course want to obtain releases from those people, or most of those people, and that gets expensive. If it’s me, I’d probably want to market it as fiction based on your own experiences. In any case, deciding upon your genre will help you decide how to help market your book.
It can be a tough environment, but if you’re committed to trying, I hope those steps above help.