How Do I Submit A Nonfiction Book To A Publisher

How do I submit a nonfiction book to a publisher? Learn how....

There are many factors to consider before you decide to submit a book for publication. The first is the "Who would want to read this?" scenario. A publisher will not publish a book unless they think it will sell (or unless you pay them in advance!). Publishers, like other businesses, want to turn a profit, and they won't spend money publishing and promoting your book if they don't see a market out there. Find out if there is a demand for your topic. See if someone else has already written extensively on it. (This happened in the mid-1990s with Beanie Baby books. The first few books sold well, but by the time Beanie Baby Identification Guide #50 hit the market, no one was buying.)

So you think you have an original idea? Now you can just grab any old publisher, right? Not so fast. It is time for a bit of research. Most publishing companies specialize in different areas. Company A may specialize in Civil War history books only. If you send them your fantastic manuscript for The History of WWII Naval Warfare (interesting though it might be), the secretary will most likely send you a nice, or not so nice, rejection letter stating that the company doesn't publish on the topic which you have submitted. Not only have you wasted your time and money, since sending off completed manuscripts is not cheap, but you have also potentially annoyed a publisher who might have been very interested in your next manuscript on The History of Civil War Battlefields.

The first step in your research can be at a library or (preferably) a bookstore. Browse through the books that are closest to your topic and take note of the publisher of each book. On the inside of the book, usually on the reverse side of the title page or opposite the table of contents, there is a copyright information page. In many cases, this will list the address of the publisher. Bookstores are better sources for obtaining the publisher information since they are more likely to have up-to-date books on their shelves.

If all you are able to find is the name of a publisher, you may have to do a bit of digging to find other information. The internet is a great source for tracking down publishers (most will have their own web pages). Additionally, some libraries contain business indexes which will have mailing addresses for companies, including publishers.

Once you have found the perfect publisher for your book, don't rush to put a completed manuscript in the mail. Each publisher has different requirements for submission of information. Some publishers only ask for a letter describing your idea. You don't even have to have a book written to contact a publisher! Others may want the first chapter of your book or a brief outline and abstract. Some will request proposals submitted via e-mail. If they want a printout, do they need it single or double spaced? Do you have to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)? Does the company even accept unsolicited manuscripts?

The answers to all of these questions, plus many others, can be achieved quite simply. On the company's web site there may be a section entitled "Submission guidelines." If you only have an address or phone number, give them a call or write them a letter (remember to enclose that SASE). Make sure you read these guidelines carefully. I've known receptionists who will immediately dump a manuscript in the garbage simply because it did not conform to the submission guidelines. Although each publisher will respond differently, make sure you enclose a SASE (with the proper amount of postage) if you would like your manuscript returned. Also, enclose a cover letter or query letter explaining a bit about yourself and your project. Do not make this letter longer than the front of one page, though.

In some cases, publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. If they say that they are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts, don't think that they'll break the rule for you because you have a fantastic idea. Companies that don't accept unsolicited manuscripts might accept them from literary agencies. Shop around and check references when selecting an agent, and remember that an agent usually will cost you quite a bit.

Watch out for the statement "No simultaneous submissions" when you are preparing to send off a manuscript. If a publisher is thinking about printing your work and finds out that you have sent it to several other publishers (after being told not to), they will generally refuse your book without a second thought.

Once you have found your ideal publisher and written a stunning cover letter, start gathering your materials. Make sure that you run your documents through spell check. Many manuscripts have been rejected for spelling and punctuation errors alone. The presence of these simple errors will make you look highly unprofessional and hurt your publication chances. Put all the materials requested by the publisher into an envelope or box that won't be damaged in the mail system. Make sure you use the correct amount of postage. No publisher will accept a COD.

Some publishers can turn around an answer within a few weeks, but others can take several months to reply. After your manuscript has been at the publisher for approximately four to six weeks, it isn't out of the question to give the publisher a call. Don't be surprised if your call doesn't go beyond the receptionist, though. Be polite, and tell the receptionist that you are simply inquiring about the status of your submission. No matter what information you receive, follow up with a thank you note the next week. This keeps your name in front of the publisher, and keeps your relationship on a friendly level.

Chances are, you'll receive several rejections before you get a letter of acceptance. The frustration with a rejection letter can be so great that you might just want to throw the letter into the nearest fire. It is to your advantage to hang onto the letter, however. Read through the letter and identify the reason that your book was rejected. Here are some possible reasons for rejection and steps you should take:

Reason: We don't publish this kind of book.

Step: Look around for another publisher, but mark this information in your records.

Reason: We are not currently accepting submissions.

Step: It could be their busy season. Try again in six months. If you repeatedly get this reply, chances are they're not real interested in your project.

Reason: Your writing style is not at the level of our company.

Step: Did you remember to use spell check or have someone else help you proofread? Is your writing style geared for an elementary reader instead of the upper level standards of the publisher (or visa versa)?

Reason: Your materials were submitted incorrect or incomplete.

Step: Reread the publisher's submission guidelines and make sure you have followed them exactly.

Reason: Your materials could not be opened (on disk or e-mail).

Step: Reread the submission guidelines to make sure you have put your files in the proper format. If you are mailing a disk, label the package with "Electronic media enclosed, do not scan."

With these simple steps, you greatly increase the likelihood that your manuscript will make it off the receptionist's desk and move your book closer towards publication.

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