Learning how to get a book published is the easy part. Do I need a literary agent? Should I contact publishers directly? How do genres differ (for instance, how to get a children’s book published)? I hope to answer all these questions below.
How to Get a Book Published: The Query Letter
The first part of most submissions, whether for a book or an article, is learning how to write a query letter that attracts the interest of editors and agents. There are three main components of any query letter: the hook, the pitch, and the bio.
- The hook is a sentence that sums up the book in an interesting way. The keyword here is interesting, because the query (as a whole) functions as a tool to get the agent or editor to want more. The Harry Potter series might be summed up as something like: Coming of age story about an orphaned boy who solves murders and performs magic.
- The pitch is the two or three paragraphs that dive into slightly more detail about the proposed book. You don’t have to explain everything here–just the essentials. In fact, a well-constructed pitch could end up on the back cover (or inside flap) of a book–to sell to readers.
- The bio is the least important part of the query letter (in most cases), but everything you include in the bio should be relevant to the book you’re proposing–and will hopefully indicate you have worked on an author platform.
Getting a Book Published: Nonfiction Books vs. Fiction Books
There are not as many differences between nonfiction books and novels as one might suspect. The query letter is important for both–as is the book proposal. The big difference is that nonfiction books don’t have to be completely written (unless you’re writing memoir), though it doesn’t hurt to have a sample chapter or two ready upon request.
Do I Need a Literary Agent?
Many writers think they need a literary agent to get a book published. This is not true. However, writers do often need a literary agent to get books published with major houses (Random House, Penguin, etc.) and their imprints. So the importance of a literary agent depends upon your writing goals.
Should I Contact Publishers Directly?
If you are aiming for a mid-size or small press, then yes, contact publishers directly. Most publishers provide submission guidelines on their websites, and you can search for book publishers on WritersMarket.com.
Most will request a query letter and possibly some sample material.
How to Write a Book Proposal
Book proposals are complicated enough that whole books have been written on the subject (in fact, here’s my favorite book on How to Write a Book Proposal that’s written by a literary agent). That said, here are the important pieces of a book proposal:
- Overview. This is a brief summary of your proposed book.
- Outline. The outline breaks the book down on a chapter-by-chapter basis, providing detail about what happens in each chapter of the book.
- About the Author. This section outlines who you are, why you should be writing this book, what (if any) platform you have, and anything else relevant to your proposed book.
- Sample Chapters. Some publishers want this as part of the proposal, others will want to see it later. Start at chapter one.
- Marketing Information. In this section, you’ll include facts about your target audience, including groups you can reach directly. If you have a substantial platform, you may be able to tie that in here as well.
- Comparable Titles. This is a section that often gives writers (and editors, for that matter) fits. First, writers have to find successful books that are comparable to their proposed book (to show there’s a market for the book). Then, they have to explain how their book is unique (to show there’s a market for the book).
How to Get a Children’s Book Published
Getting a children’s book published follows the same rules as other books. Often, writers of picture books can submit their complete manuscript without a query letter (instead, they include a cover letter).
By the way, if you write picture books, don’t worry about securing an illustrator for your words. That is usually handled by the publisher/editor after your manuscript is accepted.
What About Self-Publishing?
If traditional publishing seems impossible, then self-publishing might be the path for you. But keep this in mind: Self-publishing is not easier if your goal is to publish a high-quality book that reaches a significant audience. If anything, it’s more work for writers, because they have to do EVERYTHING!
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Want to get a book published?
Whether you’re searching for a literary agent or a book publisher, WritersMarket.com is the perfect tool to help writers get their books accepted for publication. In fact, WritersMarket.com contains thousands of listings for literary agents, book publishers, and contests (that publish the winning manuscript). Listings include contact information, submission information, tips from the editors, and more.