In a perfect world you’d have a signed contract for your work before you started writing. The life of a writer isn’t usually that simple. Novels need to be finished before you approach a publisher. I didn’t know this when I wrote my first published contemporary romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. I sent the publisher my first three chapters and a synopsis as soon as I’d finished writing them. When they replied asking to see the complete manuscript, I still had half a dozen chapters to write!
It’s a bit different if you want to write non-fiction. You can pitch your idea before you’ve finished the book—you can find out more about the process here. It means planning down to the last detail to produce what is in effect a business plan, but there’s nothing like a publisher showing some interest to give a project wings.
Start by studying the type of book you want to write. Read as many as you can to get a feel for the style and content. Make a note of how many words are in each book, and how many chapters. Publishers like submissions that are close in size and style to the work they already publish. They want more of the same…but different. If you ask them what this means, they’ll say, “We know what we want when we see it.” That great catch-all statement allows them to snap up both the obscure and lengthy and the short and snappy, but for a first attempt play it safe. Make sure your manuscript conforms.
For further clues, get hold of a current copy of The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. It’s the writer’s bible, listing the details of literary agents and publishers throughout the UK.
It has helpful articles about the writing business, too. There are pieces in the 2019 edition about crowdfunding your novel, how to become a poet and writing a cook book, so there’s something for everyone.
If you don’t have an agent, make a list of publishers who will accept submissions from unagented authors. Visit their websites, and narrow down your list to include only those who publish books like your prospective project. There’s no point sending your self-help manual to a company that only deals with botanical text books.
Once you’ve produced a shortlist, study their requirements for submission. You can get a good idea of what the individual editors like to see by following their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Give them exactly what they want, and if your idea hits the spot, you’ll be a winner!
Publishers are deluged with manuscripts. After the holiday break I’ll be showing you how to make your manuscript stand out from the crowd. To find out how to automatically give your submission the edge over 90% of other writers, follow this blog!