The Importance of Knowing What You Want from a Publisher

Written by Emily Harstone

Authors seeking to get their first manuscript published all have different goals. For some authors, any press will do, even if they have to pay for publication to happen (although I highly encourage you to self-publish through Amazon or another print-on-demand company, if that is the case).

Other authors are interested in presses that have great distribution and a history of publishing best-selling novels. Other authors just want a traditional publisher of any kind.

I think it’s important to make a list for yourself, in terms of goals. Even if you are sure you want an agent, this is an important list to have made for your own sake. Not all agents are created equal and if you don’t have the right one, they might submit your work to publishers that don’t meet your criteria.

For example, my list for a prose publisher includes the following items:

  1. Must have major distribution.
  2. Must have some kind of marketing.
  3. Must have print and electronic versions of the book.
  4. Must have an established reputation.

Now it’s important for this list to be realistic. I read a lot of lists that involve extravagant advances, which are unusual for first books now, even with agents.

But it also comes down to genre. For example, my list of requirements for poetry publishers just has two points on it:

  1. Must have distribution.
  2. Must have an established reputation.

This is because poetry presses rarely have any marketing team at all, and most poetry presses don’t have electronic versions of the book, for a good reason   Kindles and other devices really interfere with how line breaks work.

So knowing your genre is very much an important part of finding the right agent (which don’t really exist in the poetry world) or publisher.

Once you make the list and submit to the publishers on it (unless you are going the agent route), you have to decide at what point, if your work is not accepted, do you start to change your requirements for what you want from a publisher, or instead do you stop submitting for the time being and start on something new?

Setting clear guidelines ahead of time makes the publication process so much easier, and allows you to easily eliminate publishers that don’t meet your requirements.


Emily Harstone is the author of many popular books, including The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript SubmissionsThe 2019 Guide to Manuscript PublishersSubmit, Publish, Repeat, and The Authors Publish Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Publishing.

She occasionally teaches a course on manuscript publishing, as well as a course on publishing in literary journals.

 

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