So you've got a great idea for a book - now you want to know - how do you get it published? The good news is, it has never been easier to get into print. The bad news is, the economics of publishing have never been worse. Plus, writing a whole book is going to be a major effort, so you don't want to waste your time on something that no-one wants to read. So what is answer? Like so many things in media, what you need is a good pitch. Below is our simple guide to getting it right and ensuring that a good publisher will (hopefully) pick up your first book.
Rule 1 - Write the first Chapter
A good pitch to a publisher should always include the first chapter of the book (at least). People want to know what they are getting. If they like the first 5-10 pages, you will have secured their interest. If they don't like the beginning, they probably won't read the rest. So, edit and re-edit your opening and make it fabulous.
Rule 2 - Describe the book in a simple, clear way
What is the book about? Include a "one sheet" in your pitch which sets out very briefly what the book is about, in a way that grabs the reader's interest. Keep it short and sexy. This is what you will send to your publishers - your first chapter and the "one sheet" - like this one below:
|Page one of a two page pitch to a publisher|
Who is your book aimed at? Men? Women? Children? If the latter, what age range? How big is your target audience? Remember that no book is aimed at a universal audience. Who is actually likely to buy it?
Rule 4 - Make it easy for the publisher to say yes.
Explain how hard you are going to work to promote the book. Let them know you love nothing better than doing book signings in Wolverhampton, blogging endlessly and Tweeting about it all to your 25,000 followers. Publishers love social media and they will expect you to promote your own work. You may think that publishers do the promotion for you - get real. They don't.
|Start blogging, tweeting, and promoting your book's Facebook page. You will hate it. Your publisher will expect it.|
Rule 5 - Understand the economics of publishing
Hardly any writers make a living from writing. A few mega-stars make a fortune, the rest just get by or they do it for fun. Be realistic about what you will get paid. Almost no-one gets a big advance these days. Don't give up the day job.
Rule 6 - Find the publishers who publish your kind of book.
Go to a bookshop (yes, they still exist), and look for books similar to your own. Make a list of the publishers who publish those books, find their addresses, and send them a copy of your pitch. You don't need an agent (but see rule 7).
Rule 7 - Find the literary agents who publish your kind of book
A literary agent is no longer necessary to get published, but it can definitely help. Get online and find out who represents authors who write similar kind of work to yours. Make a list of the agents you want to approach, and send them a copy of your pitch, by email and by hard copy. They will read it, eventually. Everyone is looking for the Next Big Thing.
Rule 8 - Stop worrying about copyright.
The minute you write down your idea, copyright automatically vests in you as the creator and owner. You don't need to trademark it, or assert copyright, or anything else. Relax, it's yours from the moment you start writing. If in doubt, watch this video.
|Relax, you own it from the moment you write it|
The vast majority of publishers and agents are overwhelmed with submissions. Everyone is busy, and few will have time to respond to you personally, let alone return your manuscript to you. The days of rejection letters are over - most will never reply. Don't take it personally. Develop rhinoceros hide - you're going to need it.
|Be the Rhino|
Self-publishing used to be known as "The Vanity Press", but no longer. In the era of Amazon kindles and digital downloads, plenty of authors self-publish. If you do your homework, you can make more money than you would from a conventional publishing route. By-pass the middle man and become your own imprint!
(Editor's note: Alex has published nine books - his most recent book is The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus, published in October 2013. For more information on working as a freelancer, read out our post on Portfolio Careers. Also, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Learn nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to managing your first client project.)