You’ve written a story that you think is really good. You want it published. Here are 5 questions you need to answer.
1. Is your manuscript in publishable shape right now? No spelling errors, typos, or inconsistencies in the story?
Don’t plan on an editor correcting your errors. Yes, the editor will probably suggest changes, may tighten your writing, and might do minor editing, but editors will not do major rewrites. If you have a lot of errors, they’ll probably stop reading before they ever realize how wonderful your story is.
Have your manuscript edited before you submit.
Don’t want an editor—any editor—touching (changing) your prose? Then maybe you’re not ready to be published. All writing can use a second pair of eyes.
2. Is your story different from anything being published today?
That sounds like a positive, but if you’re hoping to be published by one of the big traditional publishing houses, being different may hurt you. The big, traditional publishers exist on selling large numbers of books. They have marketing departments that study (through sales) what readers want. They’re looking for something different, yes, BUT they also want the same type that sold really, really well. (Think of all the Gone Girl and Girl With . . . books that followed the original ones.)
There are always breakthrough books that are different from the norm (shorter, longer, a new topic or an unusual way of presenting an idea), but they are the exception. That doesn’t mean your book shouldn’t be different (original) just be prepared if it is to have a longer journey finding a publisher willing to take a chance on the story . . . that or self-publish.
3. Do you understand the guidelines for each publisher? (Word count, genres, expectations.)
On-line and in print you will find articles and books that give general word counts and expectations for the various genres.
Read books published by the publisher(s) you’re interested in. Would yours fit?
4. Do you know how to submit to agents?
There are on-line articles and books written on what should be in a query, and there are sites that list which agents are taking new writers, what types of books the agents handle, and how to contact.
Go on-line and visit the agents’ websites for their particular guidelines and an idea of what books they represent.
5. Have you looked at the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing?
In my opinion, if you can have your book published by one of the Big Five publishing houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster), you have a better chance of getting reviews, being picked up by book stores, and having your book distributed nationally and possibly internationally. However, there are a lot of wonderful stories and writers who don’t fit the criteria of being published by the Big Five (Book type, topic, or expected sales.), so don’t make this your only option.
If your story isn’t right for a major publisher, perhaps a smaller publishing house would be a better choice. These publishing houses come in various sizes from ones that publish several books a year to ones that publish only three or four books annually. With the smaller publishing houses you often get a more personal touch; however, distribution generally isn’t as good as with a larger house.
If your story doesn’t quite fit traditional publishing (too long, too short, too small an anticipated audience, too controversial, etc.), self-publishing may be your best choice.
If you want your book published.
Be realistic. Be knowledgeable. Be persistent.