How to Make a Publisher Sit Up and Take Notice
Small, independent publishing companies have been increasing in popularity and visibility over the past few years. It’s an exciting time for new authors, who previously had not been able to find a publisher for their work. Indie publishers tend to offer more control to the author, and the royalties are typically larger. It’s a great time to tell your story, and make it available to the whole world.
That’s why I love being a publisher. My goal is to help mothers make their stories available for millions of people to read.
“Mothers?” you may be wondering. “Why just mothers? Shouldn’t you be helping everyone publish their books?”
Not necessarily. As a publisher, it’s important that I have a focus and not spread myself, or my company, too thin. I know what’s important to me, and who I want to help the most. Having spent quite a few years as a single mother, I particularly enjoy working with other single moms. We have some incredible stories, and invaluable advice.
However, I don’t agree to publish every book by every author that comes across my desk. Even if it was written by a lovely single mom whom I’ve known for a long time, there are still certain criteria I look for that will make a book more publishable.
A book that I agree to publish needs to have a good story, flow well, and be well written. The following advice will help you achieve those goals.
Complete Manuscript vs. Idea
Some authors have been working on their book for years. So, by the time they approach a prospective publisher they have the complete work ready to go. This is great, but it’s also fine if an author simply approaches a publisher with an idea.
You may have the entire idea for your book in your head, complete from start to finish. Even though you know exactly what will happen to each character, you need to be able to convey this to a publisher.
You’ll need to provide them with one or two complete chapters, so the publisher can have an idea of your writing style. Make sure these chapters are detailed, the characters are well developed, and the scenes are set properly. You don’t want anyone wondering how old the main character is, or what she looks like.
Make sure these sample chapters are very well-edited. You don’t want to use a period where a question mark should be. God forbid you write the word “too” when you meant to write “to.” Sure, spell-check will catch many misspellings, but it won’t catch the correct spelling of the wrong word.
A publisher will also want to see a chapter-by-chapter outline of your proposed work. Again, this is all about getting your amazing book from inside your head to a publisher’s desk. I’ve spoken with many authors who state that they prefer to write freely, without creating an outline first. But a publisher needs to have a solid understanding of your book before they decide to work with you.
Like 99% of writers, you’re most likely writing your novel using a laptop. You probably believe that reading your work directly on the screen is just fine. I’m sorry to say that it’s not.
If you plan to submit an entire manuscript to a publisher it is vital that before you do, you print the entire thing and read it cover to cover. Many authors I’ve spoken to think this step is unnecessary. Take my word – it is vital.
When you’re reading your work on a screen it’s very easy to miss errors, or even phrases that just sound awkward. You are much more likely to notice these inconsistencies in a hard copy of your book. Then, you can make notes or highlight passages that you can improve.
You might also that you already know your book inside and out. After all, you’re the one who wrote it! Again, when you pick up that print-out and read it from the first word all the way through to the last, you will notice things that you never noticed previously.
So before you send your manuscript to the publisher, make sure you complete this important step.
You might think that since you want to work with a publisher, you don’t need to market your book. They will take care of all the sales and marketing. I’m afraid to say, that isn’t true! No matter who you work with to bring your book to life, you, the author, will be expected to do a lot of work to get the word out about your book.
A good publisher should certainly help you, so keep that in mind when you’re talking to different publishers.
But even before your book is complete and you start searching for the perfect fit with a publisher, you should be working on your author platform. Build a website. Learn how to best use all forms of social media. Build your e-mail list.
Follow these guidelines, and then find the publisher that is the perfect fit for you.
Diane Windsor is the owner of Motina Books, an independent publisher in the Dallas area. She’s always loved books, and spent many late nights in high school scaring herself to death reading Stephen King novels. Diane founded Motina Books to help moms tell their stories, both fiction and non-fiction. There’s a special place in her heart for single moms. Diane lives in Allen, Texas with her husband and two Boxers. When she’s not writing, editing, or formatting, she’s probably baking sourdough bread – her latest addiction!
Be sure to catch Diane on the Publisher’s Panel on Day 3 of the 2020 Women in Publishing Summit.
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