Once a week (at least) I receive an email from a friend who has a friend who’s written a book, and has no idea how to get it published. Can I help them? my friend asks. They don’t know what to do. Now, I like to help people; I like to assist them in reaching their goals. And I know quite a bit about publishing. But I’m baffled how anyone, in this day and age, is clueless about what to do. This is why—to save me and any would-be correspondents some time—I’m writing out some suggestions for any putative author.
1. Use bibliographies
If you wrote a non-fiction manuscript, it’s likely that you did research and read some books. Who published those books? Given that you used their titles to write your own, it’s at least somewhat likely that they might be interested in taking a look at yours. Perhaps you were inspired to write your book having agreed or disagreed with an author or theorist or set of ideas. There must be books associated with that author, theorist, or set of ideas. Look them up on Amazon, in a bookstore, or in a library, and see who published those. Look at the bibliographies and resources at the back of their books. See any publishers who constantly pop up? Try them. What you’re attempting to do is find companies who publish in your field. If you’re so clueless about your own field’s range of literature, then I have a more fundamental question for you: If you haven’t any idea of who’s written in your area, then why is anyone going to bother to read or publish you?
2. Use the Internet
I had a work colleague throughout the first decade of this century who never asked any questions of us. I’d ask her if anything was wrong, and she’d tell me that everything was fine. She always seemed to know what to do. When I finally expressed wonderment at how she never seemed to have questions or problems, she looked at me in bafflement and told me that she simply went to the Internet. There was always a chat-room, or FAQ page, or wiki that contained an answer to any technical or informational problem or question she encountered. The key was using Google’s search engine efficiently and following links. So, when looking for answers to publishing, use the web diligently. I simply typed in “How to get your book published” on Google, and came up with the following. I’ve chosen the first three I came across:
1. Jane Friedman
2. Writer’s Digest (1)
3. Writer’s Digest (2)
These three sites (out of hundreds) contain a huge amount of useful information that will get you well on the way to understanding what you’ll need to do to propel your book project forward. They have names and links that will take you to other places as well. You are not the first to be clueless about publishing. Fortunately for you, others have gone before you and have an enormous amount of wisdom to share with you. And it’s only a few clicks away.
3. Understand the industry
The publishing industry is undergoing seismic shifts because of new technology, the breakdown of the old systems of producing and delivering books to consumers, and people’s changing reading habits. Authors have options that were unavailable a decade ago, and the challenges facing publishers are now greater: more product, more forms of entertainment, more “noise” running interference on your book and author trying to get attention. Again, Google here is your friend. The more you learn, the more choices and opportunities you give yourself, and the more likely it is you’ll find the right path for you.
4. Do the work
Finally, you need to do the work. There’s a chance—vanishingly slim, I know—that you’ve asked your friend this question because you consider yourself too important to be bothered with the whole messy business of writing and publishing. You’re a creative genius, after all. It’s up to the drones of this world to bring your essential, revelatory, and unique book to the world. Well, guess what? The writing’s the easy part. If you genuinely want to be an author, you have to labor: you have to build up a network of folks to buy your book; you have to become a shameless self-publicist; and you have to keep your day job, because very few people ever made enough money to earn a living from their writing. By doing the work, you’ll save yourself, your friends, and any publisher you may come across in the future a lot of grief.