“How do I find the right publisher?” We get this a lot. Publishing often can seem like a mystery, and one of the biggest sources of confusion for an aspiring author is figuring out to which publishing house to submit. Here, in our experience, are some tips to determining where your book might find a happy home.
1. Go to the bookstore. Yes, an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore. You could also hit up the library. Describe your book to the staff and ask for books that might be considered similar to yours, in topic, voice, concept, or physical format. Look at the shelves and find the best competing titles. Now, look at the spine, title page or copyright page and note the publisher. If there is more than one book by the same publishing house, asterisk that name.
2. Look at acknowledgments page. While you’re perusing the competition, look at the acknowledgments page (like the one at right, from Deepak Chopra’s The Soul of Leadership). This is our Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys tip. Unless the author had a falling out during the editing process, both the agent and editor will be named. Write those down, as this will further assist you in sending out targeted submissions.
3. Subscribe to industry newsletters. Publishers Lunch is a daily e-newsletter put out by Publisher’s Marketplace. For a small monthly fee, you can subscribe to it and search for recent book deals by key words, publisher, author or agent. We recommend signing up for a month and doing some targeted research to further refine your submission list. Shelf Awareness is a free e-newsletter that offers similar information but doesn’t have a robust search engine.
4. Look at submission guidelines. Now that you have your short list, finish up your research by going to each publisher’s website. Review their submission guidelines and see if they take unsolicited submissions. While you’re there, also look at their recently published books and mission statement. Does it jibe with your book? If a publisher does not take unagented submissions, all is not lost. Reviews agents (gathered during steps 2 & 3) in the same manner. Check out their submission guidelines and consider submitting your proposal to them.
Regardless of where you submit, however, you will need a solid proposal to secure a book deal or representation. For more information on the book proposal process, register for our Feb. 9 workshop in Seattle or purchase our Publishing Toolkit. Write on!