IV. Publishing a Novel: Part 2. Going It Alone

Now that you’ve worked your way through part or all of a guidebook and listed potential publishers (see my previous post “Part 1 Going it Alone”), you still have a lot more to do. In today’s markets, there are few easy routes to publication for most beginning writers.


So now if you’re game, take your list and look up each press on-line and check them out. I worked through my entire list before I submitted the first query. Why? Because I wanted to submit to the best and most promising publishers first. Here’s what I was looking for:

–What is a publisher’s submission requirements?

–Are there certain time periods in the year when they read unsolicited manuscripts?

–Do the novels they publish get reviewed by respected publications or win competitions? (Some of this information may be found on the publisher’s website, but you can also look up their books on Amazon or authors’ websites.)

–How well do their books seem to sell on Amazon? (It’s important to note the date a novel is published. One published a year ago should have better numbers than most books published 10 years ago. Remember though, Amazon numbers can be misleading: a single book sale can move a book up a million or more in the rankings.)

–Last, but certainly not least, read opening pages of selected novels on Amazon and decide if you like what you’re reading, if you would feel good having your novel published by this press.


When I had completed my assessment of publishers, I made two lists, A & B.  On the A list were the presses I liked best, whose writers get reviewed or win awards or seem highly rated. My philosophy’s simple: start at the top. There’s nothing to lose.


Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin submissions. Be sure you check each publisher’s guidelines and follow them carefully. They’re all different.

Include a cover letter with your manuscript, even if one isn’t requested. Keep it short (one page) and professional. Certainly list prior publications or awards or anything else that may bear on your manuscript. Make sure you list your contact information, e-mail too and website if you have one.


Also pay attention to rejections with an editor’s comment on the work you submitted. This can be helpful feedback for editing your manuscript and rewrites. Consider any personal comment, even critical ones, as positive. Publishers get hundreds of manuscripts and rarely take time to say anything about one they reject.


So put it out there. And good luck.