I've written my book, now how on earth do I get it published?
Do I submit my manuscript directly to a publisher or try to find an agent?
Is it acceptable to submit my manuscript to multiple agents or publishers simultaneously?
How many agents or publishers should I pitch at one time?
These are all questions we commonly hear from aspiring authors. While the questions remain more or less the same, the answers are ever evolving. These days the world of publishing is changing so rapidly, we find it's often difficult to respond to such queries. The one thing you can be assured of is that there are few constants where publishing is concerned. So if you're ready to tackle the task of seeking out an agent or publisher, hold onto your hat and get ready for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It's going to be a real adventure, guaranteed.
Publishing is not for the faint of heart or thin skinned. Chances are very slim that you'll land a publisher or agent on your first attempt. There is a long list of now famous and highly successful authors who were repeatedly rejected prior to procuring their first publishing contract. Countless rejections are akin to a badge of honor for authors, so plan for them. Mentally prepare yourself, and remember, rejections are a right of passage and a means to an end.
First and foremost, you should realize that what works for one published author may not work for you, and vice versa. You and your manuscript are unique. So don't ever let anyone tell you you can't go about getting published a certain way. If you've written a book worthy of being published you will eventually find someone willing to take on your manuscript. It's really just a matter of finding the one agent or publisher who recognizes the value in your work. Often, making that happen simply boils down to the old tried-and-true numbers game. Submit, submit, submit . . . rejection and more rejection. But if you tell yourself every rejection is just a means of getting you one step closer to the final yes, it may be easier to get up, brush yourself off and move on to your next query.
How to shop your manuscript
The genre of your work can often dictate whether you may forego working with an agent and submit your query directly to a publisher. To follow are a list of genres in which you may be able to bypass securing an agent: Children's Books, Poetry Books, Nonfiction Books, Science Fiction Books, etc. Eventually you may exhaust your list of potential publishers to which you may submit directly before hitting a dead end. At that point, if you intend to publish traditionally, you may have no other choice than to find an agent. But, remember, any agent you may sign with later will not pitch your book to any publishing houses you've already pitched.
If you wish to bypass working with an agent, you'll need to do a little homework to learn if a particular publishing house will accept direct submissions. Once you've determined where you'll be sending your query, be it agent or publisher, you'll want to make sure you know their guidelines. Often these can be found on the publisher's or agent's website. Sometimes your top pick publisher may willingly accept your submission as long as they know you aren't submitting simultaneously to any other agent or publisher. If that's that case, then honor that request. If they don't clearly define their expectations where that's concerned then you can go with the standard rule of three. - Never submit to more than three publishers or agents at any given time. Make sure you take the time to get names and titles of the person to whom you'll be submitting your query; don't cut corners here. You took the time to write your book, now take the time to properly pitch it.
When you start submitting queries or manuscripts you'll want to start a log or journal. Jot down all the details including the publishing company or agency, contact person, address, and date of your submission. If an agent's or publisher's website states it will take up to three months before you may hear back from them, then that is how long you will wait before you submit your next round of query letters to the next best choice on your list of places to pitch. Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to learn exactly how each prospective agent or publisher expects to receive your submission. Don't jump the gun by sending a manuscript if it is expected that you will submit a query letter first. Don't mail hard copy if they expect an email. Don't attach your manuscript if they ask you to include the first chapter within the body of your email.
If you're not finding representation there are really only a handful of reasons that may be happening:
1) You may need to work on your writing
2) Your work may not be marketable (could be poor timing for your book)
3) You simply haven't found the right agent/publisher yet
If you truly believe your manuscript has been polished to perfection then don't lose hope. Keep at it. With time and perseverance you will find representation for your work.
Finally, don't be so eager to get published that you jump head first into a shallow pool. Take the time to make sure you're comfortable with the team you'll be working with. Ask yourself these questions: Are they reputable? Are they experienced? Do they have a track record for success? And before you sign on the dotted line make sure you hire a national publishing attorney (one who is well versed in the ways of the publishing world). This is really your only way of ensuring you won't get locked into a contract which limits your opportunities. It may sound costly now, but you'll be thankful later that you bothered to take that extra step.
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