If you would like to go the traditional publishing route, then you need to find a publisher. In this article, we share how to find a publisher that best matches your needs.
Let’s look at the three kinds of publishers who can get your book published.
The Big Five
If you’re looking to work with highly prestigious publishers, then go with one of the Big Five. These are:
- HarperCollins (Read how Kaye Jones got published by HarperCollins)
- Penguin Random House
- Simon & Schuster
Getting a Deal with the Big Five
- You need to get a literary agent (the Big Five reject individual offer submissions). This’ll take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few years.
- Your agent will pitch to the publisher they think will be a good fit for your book. This part could also take some time, and there’s a good chance you might not get an offer—even with an excellent agent.
- If you get an offer, your agent will inform you and negotiate the deal. This usually takes around a few weeks.
- Once your offer is signed, your completed manuscript will go through the editing and publishing process. This will take around two years.
If you’re thinking of going with the Big Five, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- They can get your book distributed to retailers and bookstores other small publishers can’t access.
- You might have to do the heavy lifting with marketing because debut authors don’t get as much of a marketing platform (if any) as their top A-list authors.
- With the advent of Print-On-Demand technology and eBooks, many small to medium-sized publishing companies outsell the Big Five in fiction and non-fiction markets in the United States and some countries.
- You get an advance payment in cash once the deal is signed. However, you won’t get any royalties until you sell out your advance.
- Most publishers take ownership of the copyright of your book. So, if you plan to take your book to another publisher, you might have to buy back your rights.
- It’s time-consuming with a low-success rate. So, if time is of the essence, they’re not the best choice.
- Higher advances and royalties
- Highly prestigious publishers
- Quality of editing and cover is usually better
- Higher quality of sales and marketing, if you’re an A-list author
- Distribution to better bookstores and retailers
Small Press Publishing
They’re usually privately owned (although some are publicly owned). They can range from start-ups to one-person companies to multi-million dollar businesses.
There are many small press publishers to choose from, and unlike the Big Five, they all operate differently from each other. Factors like editing and design standards, royalty rates, marketing, and contract terms will vary among various small publishers. You’ll notice many of these differences if you work with different small press publishers.
Getting a Deal with a Small Press Publisher
Since they all operate differently, you’ll have to do your research on how to approach them. The steps to getting a deal with a small press publisher are pretty much the same as getting one with the Big Five—minus the long waits, agents, and high risk of failure.
Some of them pay an advance with small royalties, while others pay no advances with higher royalties. A good small press will provide free editing, won’t charge you fees to publish your book, nor try to pressure you into signing a contract.
- No two presses are alike, so do your homework. Look through the history of their publications, editing and manuscript quality, and their website.
- They don’t usually have a sales team, and you’re not likely to see your books in major retailers.
- They may not have the best marketing budget, so be prepared to accept limitations and do your part to fill in the missing pieces.
- Usually less expensive
- Better involvement and investment in the publishing process
- Faster turnaround time
- Flexible contracts
- More freedom in terms of publishing and marketing decisions
- Can publish in favor of a more niche crowd
Paid Publishing Services
If you don’t want to deal with literary agents, wait for traditional publishers, or depend upon a small press, you can always use a publishing services company.
Getting a Deal with a Vanity Publisher
Striking a deal with them is easy. You present your manuscript and simply pay for whatever publishing services you require from them.
- Paid publishers are incentivized to sell you as many services as possible. Therefore, the chances of earning an ROI for all your money and effort are very low.
- Research exactly what your publishing requirements are. You don’t want them to upsell you, nor do you want to purchase a service that you could very easily do yourself.
- You keep the rights to your work
- Complete control of distribution and price
- Faster publishing
Red Flags to Watch For
Here are some red flags to catch when working with a publisher or publishing services company:
- Poor Quality: Look for quality in a publisher’s website, manuscripts, book covers, and editing. If any area is lacking, consider other options.
- Bad Reviews: Check online reviews before going for any publisher.
- High-Pressure Tactics, Upselling, or Deadlines: It’s a red flag when a publisher offers you a “now-only” offer. Choosing a publisher is a very important decision, so take some time to learn your options. And if they try to sell you a service you don’t need, it’s clear they’re out for your money.
Where To Find Publishers
In some cases, finding a publisher really means looking for an agent. This is because a number of publishers don’t accept works that aren’t presented by an agent.
The following are some of the best places to find publishers:
- General Sources
- QueryTracker: This website has been on Writer’s Digest’s list of 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. QueryTracker has helped authors find both publishers and agents.
- firstwriter.com: They’ve been in the market since 2001, helping authors find literary agents and publishers through their online database. They also double as a publishing service by helping writers publish their paperbacks and ebooks.
- Manuscript Wish List: This is an aggregator website that shows you what publishers and editors are looking for by sharing their social media posts.
- Jeff Herman’s Guide: Fully titled Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 28th edition: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over, this book gives you excellent strategies on finding publishers, editors, and agents in today’s environment. It’s updated every now and then to include the latest information.
- Global Sources
- PublishersGlobal: A global directory of publishing companies, publishing industry events, and publishing news. It offers categories by country, language, subject, publishing service, media, and city.
- Premium Sources
- Duotrope: Duotrope has a free and paid version. You can opt for the $5/month or $50/year plan. It caters to writers of fiction and non-fiction, poets, and artists.
- For Poems and Short Stories
- newpages.com: NewPages is an online guide to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, alternative periodicals, and indie bookstores. A great option for authors looking to publish short stories or poems.
- Poets & Writers: This database of small presses is perfect for writers of short stories and poems. They give literary magazines and journals, small and independent presses, literary agents, and more.
- For Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Ralan: A non-fiction-focused database that accepts submissions of speculative genres. It claims to have the most up-to-date listing for the said genre.
- Submission Grindr: A market database for writers and poets, where you can submit your work and track submissions.
- Worlds Without End: This database gives you access to over 650 publishers. In addition to science fiction and fantasy, WWEnd also features publishers for horror stories.
What Are the Best Places to Find Agents?
These are some best places to find publishing agents:
- PublishersMarketplace: This is one of the largest agent databases on the internet. You can track books sold by agents all the way back to 2001. Membership costs $25/month, or $10/ a month if all you’re doing is research.
- PublishersGlobal: See above.
- Firstwriter.com: See above.
- QueryTracker: See above.
- Manuscript Wish List: See above.
- Jeff Herman’s Guide: See above.
- Duotrope: See above.
Finding Your Publisher
If you want to go big (and are lucky enough to get interest from the BIG FIVE), have time to spare, and are willing to give up the rights to your book, go with one of the Big Five. If you want to keep your work’s copyright and have a publisher more deeply involved in your work, choose a small publisher. If you’re willing to pay for all the publishing services and have control over the price of your book, then a publishing services company could be your best option. Check out our article on how to self-publish.
Regardless of what publisher you choose, make sure you have laid down and understood your goals.