Finding A Publisher

Writing a book is hard but fun, getting your book into print is harder still and not as much fun. As Tortoise Soup nears publication, I will look at the three main options once your masterpiece has been completed: finding a publisher, using a vanity publisher or self publishing. Over the next few days the Tortoise Soup blog will look at each in turn, starting with mainstream publishing.

Tortoise Soup took me two years to write (admittedly I did have an 18 month ‘writer’s block break’ in the middle so the writing process itself took around six months). Once you have completed the last word, it is tempting to think that you will soon see it in print. Whoah there – the difficult part is just beginning and the path to print can be frustrating and interminable.


Most new writers will want to be published by an experienced publishing house: perhaps Bloomsbury will sign you up to become the new JK Rowling? This is the most difficult, time consuming and frustrating option. Most publishers, especially the large ones, are profit driven. They won’t care what the book means to you, they care about what the book will mean in pounds, shillings and pence.

So how do you find a publisher? The best place to start is with the Artists’ & Writers’ Yearbook. This book is essential for any writer: as well as containing oodles of good advice it lists publishers and agents in the UK and abroad. It is worth taking time looking at their websites and finding a publisher that suits you: if they don’t publish your genre of book then don’t waste your time approaching them.

My golden rule is to approach several publishers at once: most publishers will take between 3 and 6 months to respond so if you approach them one at a time once ten have rejected you (if they do, of course) you could have wasted over five years! I told you it was a long, frustrating process. The websites will list the publisher’s submission process: typically it will involve sending a one page covering letter (a ‘query’) and a one or two page synopsis along with the first one to three chapters of your masterpiece.

Spend a lot of time on the query and the synopsis – they need to be perfect. Any spelling mistakes here and your book is toast before a page has been read. Publishers receive a huge amount of submissions, and it is so difficult to get over this first hurdle so do all that you can to make your ‘sub’ stand out.

Here is another important point: as Baden Powell once said – be prepared for rejection. I know that we all dream of getting snapped up by the first publisher that we contact, but in all likelihood that isn’t going to happen. Don’t take rejection personally, you could have written an absolutely fantastic book (you have, haven’t you?) but unless it reaches the right person at the right time then you will struggle to get accepted.

You may get five rejections or twenty five rejections, but keep going. Perseverance and indefatigability are your main weapons, because one day you might just strike lucky! Many publishers will send you a one or two line standard rejection letter or email, some won’t even reply at all. Some publishers will reject you but send a detailed reason why: these are the exception rather than the rule and they are something to treasure because they provide both encouragement and pointers as to how your work can be tailored or improved.

Should you look for an agent before finding a publisher? Agents can be harder to find for an unpublished author than finding a publisher. Again, the good ol’ Writers & Artists is the place to look for contact details. I wouldn’t put you off approaching agents as well as publishers, but in my opinion contacting publishers directly can be the best option.

Independent publishers are a good target for new writers. They don’t have the financial clout of a Hodder or a Random House but they are very committed to what they do and have an eye for spotting potential talent as well as potential sales. Some of these independent publishers are gaining mainstream success themselves – for example Salt Publishing gained a Booker shortlist place last year for their excellent novel ‘The Lighthouse’ by Alison Moore.

I myself found an excellent independent publisher for my children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’ – they loved the story, appreciated what I was trying to achieve with the novel and were prepared to do all that they could to get it to the audience that it deserved. There was one drawback: they wouldn’t be able to publish it for another two years. Did I agree to wait or did I take another route? For the answer you will have to wait until the third part of this series.

I hope that this article, and the forthcoming articles, has been of use to you. Coming soon is my article on vanity publishing, I hope that you drop by to check it out. Remember to keep going – your book is great and I look forward to reading it one day! Please share any hints and tips below.


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