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How To Approach A Publisher

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Trying to sell a first book is an extremely difficult business — even if it does happen to be brilliant. And it’s a well-publicised fact that publishers’ readers are more likely to look more favourably on a submission that has been submitted via an agent, but this is by no means a hard and fast rule. A first book, professionally presented with a concise covering letter, accurate word count, well-written synopsis and gripping opening chapters isn’t going to be turned down because it’s been written by an unknown, or not submitted via a literary agency.
What you'll need: 
The typescript of a finished book
It’s not advisable for a new writer to contact a publisher until the typescript is finished. Generally speaking, a novel should be a minimum of 80,000 words and a non-fiction book a minimum of 45,000 words.
Publishers may like, even love, a typescript but if they can’t find a slot for it then there will be no offer to publish.
A new writer may find it a little easier to get a foot in the door with the growing number of smaller, independent publishers rather than the huge mainstream conglomerates, since the smaller houses may also be willing to take more risks with a new author.
This requires thorough market research on the author’s part, since there are still too many writers submitting proposals to publishers who are not (and never have been) interested in their particular line of writing.
The covering letter should contain a short biography of the writer, listing any relevant qualifications and publishing history; the synopsis single-spaced and restricted to one page, with an accurate word count. Sample chapters should always be double-spaced; chapter breakdowns single-spaced.
There are all sorts of legal black holes that can swallow an author whole, so it may be worthwhile joining The Society of Authors. The Society provides a free contracts advisory services for its members and is looked upon as the ‘authors’ union’ - acting on the author’s behalf when publishers don’t uphold their end of the agreement.
Publishing houses usually have different editors for different genres, and so ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ letters will land up in the rubbish bin, simply because no one knows who to give them to! As a result, your submission has been a complete waste of time and money – especially if you’ve made the grave error of submitting an unsolicited, full-length typescript. Phone and check the name of the right editor before sending.
Remember that the newly accepted author has little or no say in what happens to their book once the contract has been signed. The author will be expected to make certain amendments to the text; for the first timer these will often be ‘non-negotiable’ since she or he doesn’t have the clout to be inflexible over matters of commercial or editorial policies, and may even discover that the option to publish has been withdrawn if there are too many difficulties.
Further details of publishers’ requirements for the USA and UK can be found in The Writers’ & Artists Yearbook or The Writer’s Handbook.
Never submit a full-length typescript by post or email unless specifically requested to do so


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