by Jen Worick & Kerry Colburn
Publishing is a long enough process as it is. Don’t wait until your manuscript is complete to consider who would be best to publish it. Instead, when you are still developing your manuscript and book proposal, start developing your wish list: those dream publishers or agents with whom you’d love to sign. As you peruse the shelves or search competitive titles online, pay particular notice to who’s publishing each title. Notice if certain publishers keep coming up, which likely indicates that they publish regularly into that category or genre. For instance, if you are researching spiritual books, you might find that Hay House or Thomas Nelson crop up again and again. Write them down; they might be the first publishing houses you add to your wish list.
Now, the fun part. Investigate those publishers! Hop online and look at each publisher individually. Note what books they are promoting on their home page, and then search by genre. See if they offer a mission statement or an explanation of their different imprints. Do you like what you see? Will your book feel at home here? This is an easy exercise that you can do in your pajamas or while watching TV. And it’s a great way to be productive on your book project on a day when you have writer’s block.
If you determine the publisher may be a good fit for your book, check out their Submission Guidelines. Virtually all publishers offer them online. Here, you’ll find out if they take unsolicited proposals or if you’ll need to work with an agent. They may also indicate how to send the proposal (e-mail vs. snail mail), how many pages it can be, response time, and other pertinent details.
Some other fun ways to compile your publishing wish list:
Look through your own bookshelf and make a list of the publishers of your favorite books.
Jot down any names that may be on the acknowledgements pages of books in your genre. Steal these names to research directly. Are they still at the same publishing house or agency? Still acquiring books in the same vein as yours? Now you can address your pitch to a particular individual.
Write down the sections of the bookstore where your book idea could possibly live, aside from the obvious. Visit a physical bookstore and note the publishers you see in each section that applies to your book idea.
Make a separate wish list of the qualities you’d like in your publisher (lots of hands-on interaction with editor, big book advance, prestige, etc.). Now rank them in order of importance. When looking over your wish list, take into account these priorities.
Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn are authors and former publishing executives with nearly forty published books and forty years of combined experience in the industry. Their company, The Business of Books, offers workshops, webinars, and private consultations on how to get published. Learn more at www.bizofbooks.com.