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Speaking at our inaugural literary salon, Ali Smith said, “A really good book, like a buoy in the ocean, will surface no matter how stormy the weather.” Yet, for debut authors, it can seem like an impossible task to get your manuscript in front of the right person’s eyes. This is why we asked three publishing experts – Alexandra Pringle, group editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury whose portfolio of authors includes William Boyd, Esther Freud and Patti Smith; Karolina Sutton, literary agent at Curtis Brown who represents Margaret Atwood and Malala Yousafzai; and B’s former editor-in-chief, Justine PicardieThe experts are here to help you succeed. Learn from their experience and gain the necessary skills to make sure your work stands out and rises above the competition. Discover how to seal the deal and guarantee that your work is of the highest quality. With the right knowledge, you can ensure that your work will be the best it can be and will stand out from the rest. Get the tips and tricks you need to make sure your work is the best it can be, and that it rises above the competition. Find out how to seal the deal and make sure your work is the best it can be.
1. Find the right agent for you
“As a publisher, you rely so much on agents to know your taste and your company. It’s like a dating agency in a way. You are more likely to read submissions from agents that you trust and who have a good reputation.” A
2. Sculpt a brilliant synopsis
“The better the synopsis, the better your chances of getting published.” A
3. Make sure your work is the best it can be
“Remember that it’s not just the editor that’s going to read it. The editor is the engine that drives that machine but we have to share it with production, sales and marketing – people who might not have an editorial intelligence but a reader’s intelligence. Your work needs to be as good as it can possibly be because it has one shot at all those people.” A
4. Write, write, and write some more…
“It’s not enough just to have a great story to tell. You have to hone your craft: write for the sake of writing.” J
5. Do your research, particularly if writing non-fiction
“For my most recent book, C, I spent a good 10 years looking in archives and exploring before I got to the point of writing a synopsis. I didn’t pitch it until I was sure that I had enough new material.” J
6. Read your work aloud
“It is crucial for picking up repetitions or infelicities.” J
7. Make sure your writing is relevant
“I often find that people are very good writers but don’t have a story. The work is really polished, the writing is superb, the sentences work on an exquisite level but you wouldn’t want to spend three hours in the company of the characters. Your story needs to have something urgent to say culturally that will grab the editor’s attention.” K
8. Don’t just send your manuscript to anyone
“Think very carefully about who you are going to send it to. Choose about four or five editors or agents. Anything beyond that feels indiscriminate.” K
9. Make sure the first chapter does your book justice
“It’s all about that first chapter. I will read for as long as I can and if I get bored I don’t read any further. There is a myth that an editor reads a full manuscript but we don’t, it’s not possible.” K
10. Don’t be put off by rejection
“So many first novels that are hugely successful have previously been turned down. And people can’t believe it was previously turned down – but that’s just because it wasn’t the right publisher for that story.” A
“When you get that rejection letter it just means that that agent or that publisher doesn’t know what to do with it – that’s all it means. They aren’t the right person for your book. You have to keep going.” K
Frequently asked questions
How do I get a book published?
Getting your book published requires a great deal of research and effort. It’s important to get familiar with the publishing industry, understand the different types of publishing, and decide what is the best option for you. You can look into traditional publishing, which involves submitting your manuscript to publishers and literary agents, or you can self-publish your book. You may also want to look into using a hybrid publisher, which combines elements of traditional and self-publishing.
Do I need a literary agent to get a book published?
Not necessarily. You can get a book published without a literary agent, although having a literary agent can increase your chances of getting your book accepted by a publisher. A literary agent can help you navigate the publishing process, from finding the right publisher to negotiating an advance and contract.
What kind of book should I write?
The kind of book you write depends on your interests and goals. You may want to write a book in a genre you are familiar with, such as fiction, non-fiction, or memoir. You could also choose to write a book in a specific niche, such as science, travel, or history.
What should I include in a book proposal?
A book proposal typically includes an overview of the book, a description of the target audience, a marketing plan, a sample chapter, and a competitive analysis. Depending on the publisher, you may also need to include a detailed outline of the book, biographical information about the author, and other materials.
How do I know which publisher to submit to?
Doing research on different publishers is an important part of the publishing process. You can look into publishers that specialize in the type of book you are writing, or publishers that have accepted books similar to yours in the past. You can also ask for advice from other authors who have gone through the publishing process.