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How Publishers Choose Authors: The Bottom Line


March 10, 2020

As an author, it may seem arbitrary when it comes to figuring out how publishers choose authors that they’ll represent, but there are ways to make yourself more attractive to publishers. There is more to it than sending your book into the digital fast lane and then crossing your fingers and waiting. Most publishers are looking for a specific combination of factors that tip the scales.

Choose the Right Publisher

It all begins with choosing the right publisher. A children’s book publisher is a bad choice if you’ve written a horror-thriller novel for adults. How do you go about choosing the right publisher? Read books. Read books that you think are similar to yours and read as much as you can.

Submit to the Right Editor

Even smaller publishers and independent publishers will often have more than one editor or more than one business line. Be sure you do your research on the publishing house and send the manuscript to the right publisher. Be aware of any rules they have, like “no unsolicited manuscripts” – which means you’ll need an agent to submit to them. Submit as directed – some publishers want the entire manuscript; others want you to start with a query. Some want you to send the submission digitally; others are still only accepting printed submissions through the mail.

Make Sure Your Manuscript Is Submission-Ready

You can’t just write your first draft and send it off to a publisher. If you want to be seriously considered, you need to take the entire process seriously. That means making sure you’ve written the best version of your book possible, proofing and editing your book before sending it.

How Publishers Choose Authors

Ultimately, publishers choose authors based on whether or not the investment they make in the author will deliver a return on investment (ROI). The factors they consider are:

  1. Is this book marketable? Does it have an interesting plot?
  2. Is it well-written, or will the publisher have to pay a lot to rework it?
  3. Does the author have any visibility that will help ensure the book will sell?

That last one – how you as an author can help – is critical. Even before you submit your manuscript, you can be working to make yourself more marketable by establishing social media platforms, by being involved in the writing community, by doing research about what it takes to sell a book, and by identifying target markets for your book. The more you can do to ensure the book’s marketability, the more likely the publisher will be to want to work with you.

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