by Lesley-Anne Longo
Published at 2023-03-28
When you’ve got a finished manuscript (or a great book idea that’s just itching for a proposal) and you’re looking to find a publisher, it can be a more than a little overwhelming. There are so many publishing houses, smaller imprints, indie houses…
If you’re in the market for a publisher, look no further! Here are 5 handy tips to help you find the best fit.
Working with a team that will be the right fit for your book is very important, so start with what you already know. Maybe you think your book is sort of like (or in a similar style of) another author. If that’s the case, look up who publishes that author. Or maybe you have a favourite author and think your book would go well with that sort of writing style or genre. Once again, find out who publishes that particular author.
Chances are, you’re writing a book that is in the same genre as books you like to read, so right off the bat, you’re already off to a great start. Look at your bookcase and see what publishing houses pop up. Those might be a great place to start looking deeper!
If you’re feeling like you’re still a little stuck, some good old googling can help out. Start by searching broadly (“romance publishers” or “[Your city] nonfiction publishers”). The more you learn, the more specific you can make your searches. Try searching publishers by genre, by location, and by size (large, midsize, independent/small). You’ll undoubtedly come across websites (and there are many) that will list publishers and these can be handy. But remember, you’re trying to find a good fit for your book, so resist the urge to make your publisher list a mile long.
Follow the publishers you’ve identified on social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Every publishing house has an identity, a personality. Getting to know them in terms of what they post can help you identify what that personality is, and whether or not it’s a good fit for your book.
If you can, try to attend publishing events as well. The Word on the Street festival (running May 27–28, 2023, in Toronto!) is a great opportunity to connect face-to-face with publishers, buy some books, and get to know their niche a little better.
Use these tips together and you’ll get a good idea of a publisher’s culture and vibe, their philosophy, and what they’re looking for.
Make sure the publishers on your list are actually accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Second, for everything you need to know about the finer details of submitting, check out our two blog posts on exactly that subject: Submissions Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts When Submitting a Manuscript, and Submissions Etiquette 201: Updated Tips and Tricks to Help Your Manuscript Get Noticed!
Generally, most publishers will want to see at least a query letter and a synopsis. However, some publishers can request much more than that, such as the inclusion of marketing plans, comparable books already published, sample chapters, chapter breakdowns. Make sure that you’re keeping track of which publishers request which documents. As mentioned in the blogs above, using a spreadsheet can make this process much more streamlined, as it’s a great way to contain all the information related to your submissions process in one place: submission requirements, contact details, when you submitted, when you are allowed to follow up, and so on.
Make sure you do your research and understand which houses require which documents. If your submission package is missing the marketing plans the publisher asked you to provide in their guidelines, the editor reading your submission package probably won’t be hunting you down to provide the missing information—they’ll just move on to the next package. Don’t waste their time, or yours! Ensure you get it right the first time.
For tips on query letters, check out our blogs Ask the Editor: How Do I Get an Agent? (for tips on synopsis and query letter writing) and What’s the Hook? It Reels In Your Reader’s Attention (for tips on defining what your book’s “hook” is).
A query letter is really your first chance to get a publisher excited about your work. Your letter should of course describe what your book is about, but it should also—and especially in the case of nonfiction—explain why you specifically are the right person to write on this subject. To sum up your book, try to think about the overarching theme or main event in your book. Don’t be tempted to try to fit all the plot points into your query letter, as that’s what the synopsis is for.
The query letter is not just about your book, it’s also about you, as the author, and what you bring to the table (for example, if you have a large social media following, that would be good to mention). Sell the book, but don’t forget to sell yourself a little too.
Once you have all your materials together, send the packages out!
That’s basically it—just wait. Don’t hound the editor/publisher for updates on whether they’ve read your manuscript yet. Respect the timelines the publisher sets out in the guidelines and wait it out!
Try not to take it personally if a publisher says no. Publishers have a laundry list of things they factor into whether or not they accept a manuscript. For example, what they think might be popular a year or two from now, what kinds of hooks they’re looking for, and genres they are avoiding for the time being. Trust that your manuscript is good, and keep at it.
We will keep our fingers crossed that your book finds a great fit at a great publisher!