The Revolutionaries Playbook

How To Find A Traditional Publisher

Finding a traditional publisher for your manuscript can be exciting and challenging. Especially because traditional publishers are picky about what books they do and don’t accept. However, traditional publishing takes the work out of your hands and puts it into the hands of the professionals, which is what some prefer when it comes to getting their book out into the world. If you want to go down this route, here are a few steps to get you started!

Find An Agent

In the traditional publishing world, it’s more beneficial to sell your book to an agent rather than directly to a publisher. An agent protects your interests, and leverages their contacts to sell your book to publishers. They also negotiate the contract—and the more money they get for you, the more money they get paid. So they have your financial interests in mind. Plus, sourcing an agent and signing on with them is free! They only get paid when they sell your book in the form of a percentage of the overall contract.

To find the right agent who specializes in your genre, online resources like Manuscript Wishlist can help. And you should also have a few goal publishers in mind. Though you might not be selling directly to them—trust me, leave that to the agent—knowing who you want to work with and why can help the agent. Plus, you can find an agent who has sold books to that publisher before and might already have connections there. To learn more about publishers you can use online resources like Writer’s Market, or  Publishers Marketplace, and you can visit bookstores or libraries to browse books similar to yours and take note of the publishers mentioned in the acknowledgments or copyright pages of the books.

When you are ready to submit to an agent make sure your manuscript is complete, properly formatted and edited for grammatical errors before you submit. Both agents and publishers will have very specific submission guidelines which can usually be found on their website. Make sure any submission of your manuscript follows these guidelines or you might get ignored completely. You would be surprised how many people ignore the guidelines all together and get their manuscript—no matter how good—thrown in the trash because of it.

Craft Your Query Letter

A strong query letter typically includes a personalized greeting to the editor, a concise and engaging introduction that hooks the reader which consists of a “log” line which sums up the book in one sentence, a brief synopsis of the book, and information about your qualifications.

Online resources like Query Shark can help you craft these letters as you can get unique critiques and view examples. And online writing forums such as Absolute Write often have sections dedicated to query letter advice and feedback.

There is a lot of information out there, but as I’ve spoken to many agents they often tell me that agents are just people looking for the next good book to read. If you entice them in the query letter with that promise, then make sure that promise comes true within the content of your book, they’ll quickly want to work with you.

Don’t Stop After One Rejection

When you start querying, I need to make one thing known. It is very rare for anyone to send out 2-3 query letters and get a positive response back. Receiving rejection letters is a common experience for many authors, including successful ones. Rejection doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of your writing but can result from various factors such as market trends, agent and publisher preferences, or timing. Even famous authors were faced with heavy rejections during their query process, some even tallying more than 200 rejection letters!

Have patience and keep trying anyway. Even if you don’t get a response at all! And keep in mind, responses from publishers and agents vary widely. Some may respond within a few weeks, others might take several months. The traditional publishing industry is a slow 800-pound gorilla, and persistence is key.

But most of all, remember, as you try to find the right agent and publisher that rejection is subjective and doesn’t diminish your work or your worth. Keep refining your craft, seek feedback, and continue submitting. If your heart is set on traditional publishing a tough skin is required, but with persistence your dream can become reality.

BONUS: Tips To Make Your Query Letter Stand Out

    1. Personalize your query letter. Address the agent by name, if possible, instead of using a generic greeting. Show that you’ve done your research and chosen them specifically because of their work or interests.
    2. Craft a compelling opening paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them eager to learn more about your book. Consider using a strong hook, an intriguing question, or a captivating anecdote related to your story.
    3. Clearly communicate what sets your book apart from others in the same genre or topic.
    4. Briefly mention any relevant writing experience, awards, or credentials you have. If you have previously published works, include their titles or any notable achievements. However, avoid overwhelming the letter with an extensive list of credentials—focus on the most compelling and relevant ones.
    5. Keep it concise and focused. Query letters should be clear, and to the point. Avoid lengthy explanations or rambling paragraphs. Stick to the essential details that showcase the core of your story and your writing abilities.
    6. Don’t be afraid to get unique. If you are a rebellious leader—which is why you are on my blog—you know you need to stand out from the crowd and your query letter should be no different. There is no “right” way to write one, so try things that are outside the box.
    7. Adhere strictly to the publisher’s submission guidelines. Ignoring or overlooking the guidelines can give the impression that you’re not detail-oriented or don’t respect their requirements.

Good luck out there!

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