First and foremost, congrats on completing the very first milestone in your publishing journey! Completing a book is no easy feat, so before we even dive into how to get a book published for the first time, be sure to take a minute to appreciate all the hard work, sweat, and maybe even tears you’ve put into getting your first book completed.
You did that!
Now then, getting publishing can be achieved using a variety of paths, including self-publishing (independently publishing your book), traditional publishing (finding a publisher), or hybrid publishing (a mixture of the other two methods).
Today, we will be focusing on the traditional publishing route, specifically answering the question: ‘how to find a publisher for my first book’.
- So, How Do You Find a Publisher for Your First Book?
- The 4 Steps To Find a Publisher for Your First Book
So, How Do You Find a Publisher for Your First Book?
According to Masterclass, there are 4 main steps to finding a publisher for your first book. These are:
- Ensure your book is the best it can be.
- Understand how to label and pitch your book correctly
- Research compatible agents (if using an agent) & publishing houses
- Craft & submit query letters to agents or publishers
Each of these steps carries its own best practices and procedures, which can be daunting without the right guidance. So, let’s take a deeper dive into each to ensure you can approach your publisher search with confidence.
The 4 Steps To Find a Publisher for Your First Book
Step 1: Ensure Your Book Is The Best It Can Be
The first step in finding a publisher for your first book is to ensure you have done all you can to make your book shine. Your book, as you have it now, is considered your first draft.
It was simply you telling yourself the story you had to tell. At this stage, it’s probably riddled with typos, missing words, and spelling errors that will no doubt leave you looking unprofessional if submitted as is.
As such, you will need to either seek the help of an alpha reader, beta reader, or professional editor to do a simple copyedit or proofread.
Some people may be able to get this done without seeking any assistance. But bear in mind that should you opt to seek out these errors on your own it will be vital to read the manuscript with ‘reader or fresh eyes’.
The main reason for having someone else review your manuscript is that often when we reread our own words we tend to read what we thought we wrote or what should be there instead of what we see on the page.
This is especially true when the manuscript is newly completed. So many authors opt to let their completed manuscript rest for a few weeks or even months before rereading it so that they can see it with fresh eyes.
Important To Note: It is not necessary to hire a developmental editor when opting to get for a traditional publisher. You will be assigned an editor once you land a publishing deal. They will then cover the editing costs of your manuscript under your publishing contract.
You will then work along with your assigned book editor to get your book to the stage both you and your publisher believe it needs to be considered completed for publication.
Step 2: Understand How To Correctly Label And Pitch Your Book
Now that your book has been proofread and polished, your next step is to figure out where in the current market is your book’s home.
To figure this out you will need to determine the genre your book will fall into (its label) and the target reader for your book.
Why is this important?
The way your book is labeled or grouped will determine how it gets marketed. It tells your potential publisher who your potential audience would be if they were to sign you as an author under their umbrella.
Certain genres within the publishing industry are more popular than others. As such a book that falls under children’s fiction, young adult, romance, fantasy, science fiction, or thriller would be picked up for a first-time contract far easier than say, horror or action adventure.
This in no way means that the book you’ve written is good if it doesn’t fall into one of the popular genres. It just means it may be a harder sell, or you may need to look into publishing it independently.
Step 3: Research Compatible Agents & Publishing Houses
The third step is probably one that can make or break the whole process. There are many horror stories online about literary agent/author relationships that went sour at various stages during publishing.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to vet your potential literary agents to ensure that you are both compatible in goals, personality, and the content that you write.
Your agent will your primary representative when it comes to communicating your vision, brand, and story to your publisher. So, you must select someone who respects and understands your brand, enjoys your content, and can properly pitch your book and vision.
They are there to work on your behalf so be sure to vet their backgrounds, past authors, and the relationships they claim to have with publishers.
Can I Publish My First Novel Without A Literary Agent?
In short, yes. Some authors opt to forego getting a literary agent altogether. Though this is indeed a possibility it is highly discouraged for debut (first-time) authors.
Why? Most major traditional publishers will only consider manuscripts submitted through reputable literary agents. There are, however, smaller publishing houses that do periodically accept direct author submissions but these are few and far apart.
Important to Note: Agents don't guarantee that your book will be published, but they can certainly help. It is common for agents and agencies to have websites with information about their preferences, as well as how to contact them.
An agent list is also included in the annual Writer's Market publication.
Step 4: Pitch Your Story with Query Letters To Agents Or Publishers
Your final step will be to pitch your story to your selected agents or publishers (if you opt not to use an agent). This is your time to put all the information you have gathered in steps 2 and 3 to good use.
You want to sell them on both your book and brand. Get them as excited about your story as you are by compiling a killer submission packet.
What Should Be Included In A good Literary Submission Package?
A submission package or book proposal would generally include:
- A Query letter: This is essentially your place to let your book shine. It is typically a one-page pitch of what your book is. You want to include an intriguing logline that will leave the reader excited to read the whole story, as well as state the essence and importance of the story you have to tell.
- Story Synopsis: Typically, a complete breakdown of your novel in 1 - 2 pages.
- Sample Chapters: Most literary agents and publishers won’t invest the time to read your whole manuscript until after they have agreed to take you on as a client. However, they will still want to read a sample of what you have to offer and the book they will be representing.
To do this, the best practice is to include between 1 - 5 chapters. These are typically the opening chapters of the manuscript and should have enough pull to get them interested in and excited to continue to read the rest of your already completed novel.