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I am often asked "Do you know of a publisher who would be interested in my book?" There's no easy way to answer this question. You see, according to the PMA Newsletter, there are over 86,000 publishers in existence (http://parapub.com/statistics). It would be impossible to know what each one is looking for at any given time. However you do know that you're not going to submit your manuscript or book proposal to 86,000 publishers. It would be a waste of your time and money. To improve your chances in the submission process, you have to do your homework. Here are a few tips so your research will be most effective:
Publishing Houses: Get the Facts
Can you submit your manuscript to more than one place at a time? Depends on where you're sending it. Unfortunately, each publishing house has its own set of rules for reviewing a manuscript that will have multiple submissions. You have to find out what those rules are. You can check out the 2006 Writer's Market, published by Writer's Digest. It's an excellent source for publisher's guidelines. So is the website, Literary Marketplace.
While reviewing these resources you should also note what kind of material the company publishes and what kinds of manuscripts and proposals they would like to see. Another way to get more specific information on this topic is to go to your local bookstore and look at books similar to yours. Note the publisher as well as the agent and editor who handled the book (they're usually mentioned in the acknowledgments). Granted, a publisher might turn your manuscript down if they feel they've "been there, done that", but on the other hand if the company has had success with the subject matter they may be scouring the landscape to find more of the same!
Looking for an Agent
Your research may tell you that the publishers who seem right for you don't accept unsolicited manuscripts. That means you'll need an agent so you'll have to start your submission process with literary agencies. If that's the case, the 2006 Guide to Literary Agents is a great place to begin your search. Writer's Digest publishes this hefty tome listing more than 600 non-fee charging agents.
All of the agents listed in the guide adhere to the ethical guides established by the Association of Author's Representatives (AAR). Members of AAR are forbidden from charging fees. So in one book you get the security of knowing the agent you're dealing with is on the level, plus you get a full understanding of what material the agent represents. That means you won't be sending your manuscript out on a fruitless--and costly mission.
Don't get too caught up in the specifics of what your manuscript should look like. Your research will tell you if the agent or publisher wants your manuscript a certain way, but for the most part as long as it's double-spaced and printed with a clear, easy-to-read 12-point font such as Courier or Arial you should be fine. Put your name, book title and page numbers on each page and--this is key--don't staple anything. Leaving the pages loose make it easy for the recipient to make copies. This is necessary because usually more than one person will be reading your work.
One note: These days more and more agencies and publishing houses are accepting electronic submissions. Find out if this is the case for your targets. You can save yourself some money and a trip to the post office!
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
Banish all fear. I know that's easier said than done, but look at it this way. If writing is something you really want to do, then manuscript submissions will become a regular part of your life. You don't want to go through your days and nights in a constant state of submission angst! It makes me feel tired just to think of what that would be like!
Instead put yourself in the mindset of being a writer and a businessperson. Your writing is your product. You will put out the best product possible. Know that the bulk of your rejections will have nothing to do with the quality of your product so don't take it personally. You move on to the next prospect with the same positive attitude that the next one may be the right one. Know that writing is part of your work. Being afraid isn't.
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