The first things you need to know about getting a book published…
Getting a book published is like any other career. Part of that craft is learning the business of publishing. While certainly, there are many publishing partnerships between author and publisher, however, unless you are a seasoned professional, you should consider first partnering with a literary agent. Given the dramatic changes in the business models of publishers, and the new priorities placed on authors in the development of their own platform and self promotion, authors are well served by literary agents who will manage the business aspects of a publishing project.
Partnering with an agent is like interviewing for a job. You should seek the right match. Presumably, agents have contacts with publishers. However, what are their skill sets? How long have they been in the business? How did they become an agent? Given the challenges of the business, what is their philosophy for managing their client roster? Your goal is to find a agent/partner that will manage your business affairs so that you can write. Learn as much as you can about the agent before you have a conversation. The first place to look is at the agency web site.
Most of the agents I know are always looking to add to their portfolio. However, agents need to have an almost instantaneous connection on one or more aspects of your project. Given the number of queries agents receive, and because agents have a business to run, the business decision agents make to move forward on a project needs to be both powerful and committed. Most agents will base their decision primarily on their level of success with other projects in your genre, what they hear from the editors with whom they have regular conversations, the power of your query letter, and their current workload.
That said, As publisher of The Knox Press, you need to know that I am also a literary agent, Managing Director of the Roger Williams Agency. If you submit your project to me, either via this web site, or through Roger Williams Agency, I will evaluate your project, based on a set of criteria. If I am in interested in pursing the project, we will discuss all of the various options for bringing your work to market. Should we decide that your work would fit as an addition to The Knox Press list, I would still recommend that you hire an independent literary agent to manage your business affairs. This is for your own protection.
PUBLISHING "OPTIONS" What follows is meant to provide you with information on what to consider as you move on. This is an overview of the various strata in publishing today. The more you know, the further you will go.
Understanding Imprints and Distribution Clients – Within publishing houses, there are also two groups that warrant explanation.
REPUTATION – In addition to aforementioned groups, some publishers warrant other merits…
SELF PUBLISHING – The current technologies make it simple for anyone to “publish” their book. However, most self published books sell fewer than 100 copies. Publishing is all about distribution. Contrary to popular belief, traditional bookselling still accounts for a much larger percentage of book sales to consumers. Unless you have a solid distribution partner, you should not just assume that self published books will be sold in traditional bookstores. Regardless, self publishing is an option. There are two basic options.
Reality Check… Publishing a book is about finding readers who are willing to pay to read your work. Each of the options mentioned above have both varying degrees of access to the distribution channels necessary to make your book available to the widest array of potential consumers, and the marketing and publicity expertise to promote your work. Ultimately, finding the right partnership with a publisher is about working with a team of professionals that will invest both financial resources and their marketing prowess to sell as many copies of your work as they can. However, in today’s marketplace, the concept for your work will generally be judged on the same scale as your “platform”.
Unless you already have a solid track record with quantifiable sales, I recommend that you have a completely polished proposal. A proposal is a business plan on your project including a description, market analysis, platform and marketing plan, comparative titles and an annotated table of contents. You should also have a least three sample chapters. For more information on writing a polished proposal, go here.
Should you hire a professional editor? If you have not been published before, one option you have is to invest in a professional independent Developmental Editor (DE). The task of the DE has, over the years, been outsourced by many publishers, Acquisitions Editors (AE) at most publishing houses are expecting agents to deliver manuscripts that are near “production ready” and DE’s have now become freelance editors. DEs can help you polish your manuscript and develop your submissions materials. A very good resource to learn more about DE’s is the Editorial Freelancers Association. Some groups that I would recommend include The Book Editors Alliance, The Editor’s Circle, Philip Turner Book Productions, Words into Print, or Ally Machate.
Now you are ready to search for an agent, or publisher… I recommend that you never wait for one agent, or publisher to respond. Until you find a publishing partner, you should send out queries. You will increase your chances of getting attention if you follow the submission guidelines outlined on the agency/publisher website, but continue to research for an agent that you feel would be a suitable match. An excellent reference in your serch for an agent is the website for the Association of Author’s Representatives. I would also recommend that you subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace (PM). PM is an excellent source for news, and learning the day to day of what is going on. You will also find agent member pages with information of what agents represent and daily deals. There are other good books, and references available where ever books are sold, or at your local library. Here are some choices. One last note: The best resources available to writers that I know of can be found at Writer’s Beware. Writer’s Beware is hosted by the Science Fiction Writers Association, but has information and resources for all writers regardless of genre.
Book publishing is a subjective business. Agents and publishers will make business decisions based on their analysis of a projects merit, and their professional assessment on how to bring that work to the market. If you would like to gain some insight into my selection criteria, you can click here. If you would prefer to just move on to the query stage, click here.
I wish you every success,
Roger S. Williams
Distinctive Works of American Military History
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