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Sending your book off to publishers and agents

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Now that you have done all the hard work, it’s time to press play. If you want to get a publishing deal, this is where the rubber hits the road. Remember, this is ultimately a sales game. Most writers will unfortunately not send their proposal to one publisher and magically get picked up by the first one. Yes, it can and does happen. If you are crystal clear on your genre, have a knockout proposal, know the current publishing climate, your book is highly contemporary/timeless/a great story or you have a big platform and author brand, then maybe the first publisher you approach will sign you up.

‘I wasn't going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen.’ JK Rowling ‘Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.’ Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close But please don’t set yourself up for failure and lose hope if the first one sends you a rejection letter! The truth is that this is a long game, and along the journey you have to keep the momentum up, process any rejection letters, implement any feedback, get back to it, and keep going. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Step 1: Do your research Take a trip back to the bookshop. Find your genre, look in your own bookshelf browse or to research publishing houses that fall on your dream publishing list. Make sure you also browse the internet to research all the publishing houses that might be a good fit. Note down the relevant publisher’s name. Choose most of your hit list as publishers based in your home country, and select at least four that are international. Step 2: Build your hit list Compile a list of at least 20 publishers and literary agents for your dream list. Do your research about who publishes books in your specific genre. Join online writing groups to network, connect and get ideas. Chat to any authors you know for leads and ideas. Follow relevant publishers on social media to stay up to date with their submission windows and publishing guidelines. Step 3: Send to 20 in your first mail shot Gone are the days of sending a printed and bound manuscript in the postal service. For the most part nowadays, you will either be emailing the relevant commissioning editors, submission departments or submitting directly online through the publishing portal on their websites. Deep breath. And send. A reminder of what you normally include to send off in your PITCH DECK: 1. Your query Letter - usually in the body of your email 2. Your Killer Book Proposal 3. Your first three chapters attached to the email Remember three important things: 1. Make sure they focus on YOUR GENRE. 2. Know their name (if relevant). 3. Mention books similar to yours that they have published. Here are the rest of the steps. ​First, you have to do the HARD WORK The only time to start thinking about revising is only when you have finished your first draft. This may sound obvious, but many writers start while it is still a work in progress (WIP). That means you are halfway through.. but you go back and change what you have already written. Mistake. Your only job in the first step of completing a book is to write the entire first version. Push to 80,000 words. Then stop. Then think about revising. Give yourself some time away from the draft. ​I would recommend at least a month. Just walk away and forget about it. When you are ready to tackle it again you are going to do a few things Print out a hard copy. That means on actual paper. I usually recommend you do this at a print shop and get them to bind it. Print it single-sided so you can make copious notes on the blank left page. Don’t waste money by printing with double spacing until you are on a final draft. (And DO put page numbers on in case you drop the pile…) Sit down and read it quickly in 1-2 sittings. This will take at least a few days. Make quick notes on the pages. Don't get stuck. Notes will be things like..... Boring boring lost the reader Lost the thread here? Eh? Meandering here Red hair? Said black earlier Who is this person Too many people Confusing…. Introduce people more clearly Write any impressions, big mistakes, structural changes and overall mood and pace ideas. Do not touch the actual document on your computer. Read the entire manuscript again, this time in a more detailed way and with an eye to FIX big structural problems. I use a second coloured pen here – like a red one. This way you can see the difference between first sitting comments and second. As you read you may be able to fix a whole load of things. I mark up big sections to rewrite, or move around. But don’t touch it. Don’t be tempted to sit down at the screen until you have done both readings. There is no point in fixing the clear errors you see in Chapter 1 when they will dovetail through the whole story. Rather have an overall plan before you sit down to edit and rewrite sections. Finally... don’t give it to anyone to read yet. It’s just not going to be ready. I would only ever recommend you share it when you are well done with your 3rd draft. Take a note from Iain Rankin and keep working the story until you are proud. ‘The first person to read my novels is usually my wife, the second or third draft. She reads a lot of crime fiction so can usually spot glitches or things I’ve nicked from other writers.’ Ian Rankin BOOK PUBLICIST Q&A Book publicist and publishing expert Helen Holyoake has decades supporting writers to build a publicity campaign. In this chat she will walk you through some steps. Monday Feb 21, 2023 02:00 PM Universal Time UTC / 4pm SAT. Register in advance for this meeting: WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO? * Join the Writing Room Community- we meet once a week and for a monthly 'Writing Binge'. Online * Writing a Novel? Novel in 100 Days online mentorship * Write a Non Fiction? Non Fiction Mentorship * Book a session or mentorship package to chat and go over your work SOME MORE RESOURCES How to write an incredible back cover blurb How to write a sellable non-fiction book proposal How to write a query letter Sending off your book: How many publishers should you approach How to work out your estimated book sales

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