Once the arduous journey of knitting words after words and pages after pages into something meaningful and concrete is over, another, even more laborious journey begins. Of watching the neatly typed pages take the form of a book and to watch the book adorning the shelves of popular bookstores. This part, for most first-time authors, remains an unexplored and unknown territory, murky and mysterious. Below are a few pointers that can come handy if you too happen to be one of those closet writers who have managed to shape their thoughts into a full-blown manuscript.
Revise till you are ‘nearly’ satisfied: Nothing speaks for an author as does the quality of his or her work. It is therefore imperative that the potential publishers get a glimpse of the best you have to offer right at the onset. Each publisher worth his name is inundated with tens of manuscripts each day. What is it with your manuscript that will draw his attention?
The trick is to re-read, modify and re-write the manuscript till you are ‘nearly’ satisfied. The reason I use the word ‘nearly’ is that you can never be fully satisfied with a piece of your own writing. There will always be that little room for improvement, that little tweak you feel can make the story more gripping. So, only once you are reasonably satisfied with what you have managed should you move on to the next step.
Database of publishers: A common mistake that people make at this stage is to begin short-listing the publishers they wish to be published by. But as the saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. What you need is a complete database for any publisher who might be remotely interested in your work, preferably with their e-mail addresses and website URLs. A good starting point might be to visit a nearby bookstore and scan the titles that are available there.
Make your pitch: Initially most publishers will ask you for the first two to three chapters of the manuscript, a brief write-up about the author, the manuscript’s synopsis and a proposal that outlines the target audience and commercial potential of the book, as you view it. Spend as much time on preparing these as you can. These documents will, to quite an extent, determine the destiny of your work. And now you are ready to submit your proposal. Send your proposal to as many publishers as you can (your entire database) – through their website, e-mails, hard copies or whatever other form they ask you to do it in.
Waiting period: This is the most difficult part, waiting to hear from a publisher. You could utilize this time to brush up on your reading (I can recommend some of my own titles if you so wish) or do anything else that keeps your mind off the manuscript. And then the day will come when a few of those you have contacted (hopefully) will ask you for your complete manuscripts. Do not hesitate. Send it. There are simply too many manuscripts floating around for anyone to swindle you off yours.
Contracting the right publisher: When you see a green signal from one or more publishers go out and party! You have earned it. If it is more than one, party harder. Now is when you need to identify the publishers you need to go with. Keep in mind the following considerations:
– The publisher’s expertise in the genre that your manuscript falls in.
– Distribution and availability of the publisher’s other titles in major book stores.
The deal you are being offered – never be tempted by someone who promises to publish your book by charging you for it. If a publisher does not invest his own money behind your book, the probability that he will promote and market it well is bleak.
Once you have finalized the publisher, be certain to review the contract you are signing. Get professional help if you need to and be certain to discuss and modify the points that seem to be biased in favor of the publisher.
Well, you are contracted author now. Congratulations! Now, ahead of you lies another journey, the task of marketing your book and ensuring that the readers know about it. But, with your permission, we shall leave that to be discussed another time.
Bestselling author of books like The Legend of Amrapali, The Quest for Nothing and Of Tattoos and Taboos. His latest offering, Where the Rainbow Ends, is scheduled to hit the stands in October 2013.
A mentorship series on writing effectively and beautifully. You can find previous posts here.