III. Publishing a Novel: Part 1. Going it Alone

No, I’m not talking about self-publishing here. I’ll leave that for another post. Instead, I’ll describe a process that’s worked for me. Both my first novel Absolution and my upcoming second novel A Stone for Bread were submitted to their publishers without an agent.


The Absolution manuscript was entered into the Novello Festival Press competition, which it won, resulting in its publication. Prior to that, it had been represented by an agent but didn’t publish (see my post “The Value of an Agent”). A Stone for Bread was accepted for publication after seven presses to which I’d submitted it turned it down.


The important thing to know about submitting a novel manuscript on your own is that this isn’t rocket science. You’ll find all the advice and information you’ll ever need through the Internet and in reference books such as Novel & Short Story Market. That’s the book I used, but make sure you get the  up-dated version. I downloaded it on Kindle. Don’t worry, I’m not being paid to sell you something. There are other publishing guidebooks as well, and most will be at your local library.


Once you’ve located a comprehensive list of publishers, the process becomes more about your available time and your tolerance for tedium. Here are some first steps:


–You will need to be very clear with yourself about your unpublished manuscript, that is, what kind of fiction you’re writing, whether adventure, romance, literary, historical, mystery, etc. and your target audience, teenagers or mystery lovers or so forth.


–Then you need to sort through your list of publishers (also check out novel competitions), looking for those you think are the right fit for the novel you’ve written. Since you’ll be submitting without an agent, skip over any publisher that doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. But you’ll still be scanning through a long list, so this won’t be a quick project.


I did my research of publishers over a number of weeks, perusing ten to twenty pages of listings whenever I had the time. I jotted down notes about publishers I thought might be good places for my manuscript, until I had covered the entire list. Yet even then, I was far from finished.


My next post will talk about further steps to take, most of which are  exceedingly time-consuming. But for me they worked.


However, there’s the one X factor in all of this that’s more important than anything else you do. You must have a good manuscript. You must also have completed it. Queries with outlines or sample chapters from an unfinished manuscript seldom work for a new or unpublished writer. And your manuscript must be polished and properly formatted, spell and grammar checked. Nothing beats excellence in writing!


Stay tuned for suggestions for what to do next.