How to Get a Book Published
      In 10 not-so-easy steps

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8. Query

A good query letter is a short one. Your goal is to find out whether the publisher is looking for books like the one you've written and whether they will give it an honest read. Why send your ms. out to languish for months at the wrong place?

Do you need an agent? A good agent will certainly help, mainly because the agent knows the market better than you do. Major publishers may not read unagented mss. Still, there remain smaller independent publishers who will consider, and publish, unagented manuscripts. Below I talk about submitting the book to a publisher, but the same principles apply to submitting to an agent.

By the way, when it comes to negotiating contracts, agents are usually better than lawyers. That's because lawyers know the formal aspects of agreements, but agents know the book business. Later on I'll suggest some guidelines for finding a good agent. Recommendations from authors are one good way. Be careful, because this field is mostly unregulated. I would stay away from agents who charge a reading fee, for example.

Even if a publisher has published books in your area before, they might have shifted their focus, the editor might have moved on, they might already have more books signed up than they can handle, they might see your book as potentially cutting into the sales of one of their existing titles ... there are hundreds of reasons why you might unwittingly be knocking on the wrong door. So call or send a letter before submitting.

Keep your letter to one page. Explain who you are, what the book is in general terms, what its potential market might be (this can be difficult with fiction; if you can't do this in a natural way just leave it out).

If you want to get an idea how publishers think about books, get a few publishers' catalogues. Books are sold in the book industry on the basis of a few sentences. Why should you require more?

continue to step 9







Navigation — the 10-step plan:

1. Read
2. Examine your values
3. Learn about publishing
4. Research
5. Write
6. Rewrite
7. More research
8. Query
9. Submit
10. Persevere

back to the beginning


glossary of book publishing terms

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