Approaches to Finding a Publisher

Finding a publisher to publish your book requires one of two approaches. You can either write the book first and send query letters offering the book to publishers, or you can create a book proposal and seek a publisher before you write the book.

For most new authors who do not have a large following or a track record in book sales, writing the book first and then offering it to agents and publishers is the most effective method for finding a traditional publisher.

It should be noted that many publishers only accept agent-submitted  proposals and query letters. The problem with this situation is that agents will rarely represent an author who does not have a track record or a large existing following. Is it possible to find an agent willing to represent an unknown author? Yes. But it will take a great deal of work sending queries, building relationships, and reaching out to many agents. If an agent agrees to take on a project, then the selling of the book to a publisher is the next hurdle.

Unless your story is of national interest, the definition of "selling your idea" is simply getting a publishing company to publish it, not getting paid. Most authors are not paid any advance on royalties unless they are established in the business. By going the traditional route, your pay will come after books are sold and both the publisher and agent take their cut.

As you write your book query or proposal, it is important to know how the publishing industry works. Keep in mind that publishers are businesses just like any other business. Because of this, they have their own way of doing things which may not make sense to you as an author or publisher, but it is how they operate. Many new authors believe that because their book is good or interesting or well-written or unique that publishers will jump at the chance to publish it. While publishers do want books that fit these characteristics, what they really want is a book that sells. Many great books have never been traditionally published, and many lousy books have gone on to sell millions because the marketing apparatus behind the book was on target.

Publishers traditionally pay authors a percentage of the list price on books for each copy sold. The percentage varies according to how much money the publisher thinks they can make by selling copies of the book. This amount is passed on from customers who buy books from online retailers such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Some publishers do offer an advance against future royalties paid out before sales begin to trickle in if necessary.  Although an advance is not common, it does take place. This means that a certain amount of money will be paid to the author as an advance against royalties for writing and publishing the book.

The main reason authors become so excited about this possibility and think they will get rich quick by doing it once, then never need to do anything else ever again is because there are examples of books that once were relatively unknown that later went on to sell millions of copies each. Those books may have started out with very small advances or no advances at all. This does not mean you will enjoy such success; it simply means if your book sells enough copies, you could make quite a good income from book sales over time.

You probably know how to identify good work when you see it, but how can you tell if what you have written is any good? The first thing to do is forget that readers will judge your words by the cover and write for yourself. You are your own best critic. Make sure everything makes sense before submitting your material for publication because this cannot be fixed later except reediting at a great expense of time and money.

It's important to keep in mind that there isn't just one way to sell a book so people would want to read it. However, if you'd like the easiest path possible with a traditional publisher—follow these steps:

1. Write an outline of what you plan to include in your book.

2. Create a table of contents with chapter headings for each section of your outline.

3. Write some sample material for the chapters you plan to include. How much you include is up to how confident you are that people will want to read them.

4. Create an author bio, so your publisher and readers know you beyond your book. Write a short paragraph about who you are and why people would care about reading what you have written. Also, mention how long it took you to write the book so far, the number of pages it is currently, how many words there are per page on average (or how many words per chapter), how many chapters are planned, and how long it takes to read one chapter usually—people buy books based on how long they'll spend reading them so a publisher will want to know how long you expect the book to be all together.

5. Finish writing and editing your material and create a table of contents with chapter headings for each section of your outline.

6. Write a query letter that explains how your book will benefit readers and how it will save them time or money. Explain why they shouldn't trust anyone else to give them the correct information (how you're such an expert in this subject either from personal experience, your job, or research), how it can help people, what's inside the chapters—enough so people would want to know how interesting or helpful your book is. Make sure not to tell people how much research you put into your writing because they won't believe it anyway; rather, let them be aware of any relevant training or achievements and how many hours of hard work you've put into writing the book.

7. Make a list of possible publishers, find their submission guidelines online or in print, and follow them closely. You can find the publisher's submission guidelines on their website. A great resource for finding the right publishers (and agents) for your genre is the annual (100th Edition) Writer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published book at this link:

8. Submit your query letter, including chapter headings for each section of your outline, samples of some chapters that show how interesting they are, and your author bio to publishers who have indicated they're open to submissions from new authors.

9. Wait. And don't get discouraged if it takes a while—it is always worth the wait when someone responds.

There are many other things you can do to market your book but getting published is the most important thing because once it's published—whether traditional or self-publishing—it gives your book credibility.