Lately, I’ve been getting a number of emails from people asking how to get their first book published. Enough that I realized there was still a need for some step-by-step guidelines on how to get your book published.
So, you have a book and you want to get it published.
1.) How to get your book published? First make sure the book is ready for editors, agents, and readers at large to see it.
This may sound basic and it is, but it is also the most important step in how to get your book published. Have something worth being Published.
What you need to do to clear this step really depends on your own level of skill. You may need to go through a number of rounds of critiques and revisions to get your book ready, or you may only need a set or two of other eyes to make sure the book is up to “out for the world” standards.
For your first reader, I suggest someone you trust, but who will be honest with you about basic things like sentence structure and grammar.You really need to make sure you have a decent grip on these things before you go any further. This doesn’t mean the book has to pass a grammarians microscope, but you need to be able to write clear sentences that are for the most part free of typos, etc. If you can’t do this yet, stop and review the basics. Maybe take a class on basic writing. Or check out some of the grammar articles at the How to Write Shop.
Once you are past this how to get your book published step, look for a few people to read your book and give you honest feedback. You can ask your mother, but unless she has some professional connection to reading or writing, her opinion doesn’t count. Instead look for other writers who are also looking for critiques or a reading group. When I wrote my first manuscript, I found a book club willing to read it and give me feedback. It was scary, but I knew they read the type of book I had written and respected their opinion. (Note: They were though probably a little too kind. Which is why other writers are a better bet.) Also, the bit about reading the type of book that I had written IS important. Often I see people taking the advice of other writers/readers who never read the type of book they have written. Don’t do that. Look for people who might actually buy your genre in a store. They are your readers and your readers are really what matters for your success.
After you have gotten these first few layers of feedback, find one last person to give your book a (hopefully) final “this is good” look over. Again someone who will be honest with you and who “gets” the type of book you have written.
Repeat any and all of the above steps until you are confident you have a book that people would pay money to read.
(Need help finding critique partners? Look for writing groups locally and online. Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America, if mystery or romance is your genre, are great places to start. There are also people who offer critique services or editing services for a fee. These might work for you, but I would save them for the final step. You don’t want to pay someone for something another writer can point out to you for free.)
2.) How to get your book published? Submit to agents and/or editors.
This is, of course, assuming that you want to go the traditional route of having a publisher publish your book for you rather than publishing it yourself through KDP (Amazon) or B&N Press (Barnes & Noble), etc. The most important part of this step is making sure the agent/editor is legit. Anyone can call themselves an agent. Don’t send to every name you find on the Internet – or meet at a conference. Do your research. Signing with an agent is a BIG LEGALLY BINDING deal. Don’t be stupid.
I like Agent Query for the first step in researching agents. You can search by genre and keywords and it is FREE. Use this to compile a list of agents who say they take the type of book you have written.
Then Google them. Visit their website. How many clients do they seem to have? What publishers have they sold to? If they have only sold to publishers that you could sell to without an agent, mark them off your list. You want someone who can get you something that you can’t get on your own. You don’t want an agent just so you can say you have one – and pay them 15%.
Also, visit other websites that mention them. Check out what has been said about them online. Look for interviews.
These steps not only help you screen agents, they also give you good information to use in your query. “I saw in your interview at very important blog that you are looking for witty dog mysteries.” This will show the agent you are a smart and professional writer who has done his/her homework. That is a good thing.
You can also submit directly to some editors. Visit the publishing house’s website to see if they take non-agented submissions.
Once you get requests from agents, it is time for more research. That’s right MORE research. You have done enough initial research to feel comfortable sending off the requested materials, but before they make an offer, track down a few writers who they represent or who they have represented and ask some questions. If you are a member of any writing groups, this may be as simple as posting on the email loop. “Does anyone know anything about Very Important Agent? If so, email me privately at…” I did this more than once and the information I received was often enlightening. You can also cold email other writers, but be aware that many will not be as forthcoming as they could be if they don’t know you personally. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Just be polite about it and realize they do not have to tell you anything.
Oh and don’t do this until after the agent has requested a full from you. Asking for the first 50 pages or so is a very preliminary step. Too preliminary to waste other authors’ time.
And that is it. That is how you get your book published. There are other ways. I sold my first book without an agent, directly to an editor at a conference. But the agent to editor route is still the norm.
Work through these steps for how to get your book published and then submit!
And good luck.
Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She also writes the Dusty Deals Mystery series under the pen name Rae Davies. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at various conferences, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit her website.