Yesterday, I sent a response to the following reader email:
“Hey Eldon, I have a question. Any advice you can give me about going about getting a publisher? I’ve gotten to write more the last couple weeks and I figured it might be a good idea to see about publishers, so any help would be appreciated.”
Since this happens to be one of the most frequent questions an author receives, I thought I’d go ahead and post my response here…
The best advice I can give to writers who feel they are ready for publication is to finish your manuscript first. You’re probably thinking that this goes without saying, but I’m constantly surprised by the number of writers who say they want to publish a book, but who haven’t actually written one yet. Assuming you’re able to pique an agent’s or editor’s interest in your story, they’re going to want to see your manuscript now, not three months from now. By then, they will have forgotten all about you, or the market will have changed, or a meteor may have fallen from the sky and wiped out all life on the planet. First things first. Before you go looking for a buyer, make sure you have something to sell.
Once you have a tidy manuscript, there are sources out there in which to find agents and editors. The Internet is probably #1 these days. I stumbled across my agent while reading an online interview with a first-time fantasy author. After reading the interview (in which the author mentioned his agent’s name), I thought, “If he was willing to represent one first-timer in the genre, why not another?” In addition to Internet searches, I’d still recommend Writer’s Market (it comes in various flavors, depending on your specialty) and Guide to Literary Agents. These books will tell you everything you need to know about who’s looking for what, and what their tastes and requirements are. Oh, and if you can, do yourself a favor and start attending writers conferences. Meeting agents and editors face-to-face can make a big difference in their level of interest. And by attending their lectures and workshops, you might even learn a thing or two along the way. I know I did!
Finally, don’t get discouraged. Rejection and near-misses are a part of the game. And there are a million reasons an agent, editor, or publisher can say no. Don’t let one person’s opinion (or ten or twenty) dissuade you. Consider the feedback you recieve, learn from it and apply it to future efforts if you can, but keep at it, because, as often as you may hear ‘No,’ it really only takes one ‘Yes.’
Anyway, that’s the shorthand version. For more on this and other writing topics, visit my Q&A page. Best of luck!