1) Write your book.
When you're starting out, publishers want to see a finished product, or at least part of a finished product. They want to know that you're capable of writing the whole novel. So before you approach a publisher or, even research the market, write your novel.
2) Research the market.
First you need to know what sort of book you've written. Who is your reader? Males? Females? Both? What is the age of your audience? Is your book genre fiction? What genre? What about the length?
Visit local book stores and look for books similar to your own in length and genre. You'll find the publisher's information easily, both on the cover and inside the book. Write down a list of the publishers you find that might be interested in work similar to your own.
3) Research the publishers.
I own a copy of The
Create – and keep up to date - your own list of publishers who publish in your chosen genre. As a writer of books for young people, I have a comprehensive contact list which I regularly update by keeping my eye on publishers’ details in trade magazines, by swapping information with other writers with whom I network and by phoning publishers at least once annually.
The Internet has made finding publishers a much easier task. If a publisher has a website, and most of them do, then visit the website. Research what they are publishing. And look for submission information. Firstly, do they accept unsolicited manuscripts? Your manuscript is unsolicited if a publisher or editor hasn't requested to read it. In other words, your manuscript is unsolicited if you're sending it to a publisher without their prior knowledge.
A lot of publishers include submission guidelines on their websites, which you can easily downloaded. Always read a publisher's guidelines and always follow their instructions. Give your manuscript the best chance. If guidelines aren't readily available on a publisher's website, then send them a polite and professional email asking for a copy of their guidelines.
The reason you conduct research on publishers before you submit a manuscript is to save you time and money. There's no point sending your horror novel to a publisher that only publishes romance novels. There's no point sending your children's picture book to a publisher that doesn't publish children's books or picture books. There's no point sending your unsolicited manuscript to a publisher that doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts.
4) Be professional
When you deal with publishers or anyone associated with the publishing industry it pays to always be polite, friendly and professional. Publishers are looking for writers who can produce great novels and conduct themselves professionally. This includes submitting your work in a professional manner. A neatly formatted manuscript, accompanied by a well-written query letter will be more readily accepted than a hand-written, unedited story!
You can find plenty of articles about query letters, manuscript submission and formatting here: http://www.fictionfactor.com/submission.html
5) Be Realistic
Biggest does not equal best! Almost every writer wants to see his or her own book up there on the best seller lists. But aiming your book at the biggest name publishing house you can locate is not always realistic - nor is it always the best possible publishing home for your precious work. In many cases, a smaller, more specialised publisher might have a better chance of placing your book in front of the right readers for your particular genre.
6) Research again!
Just because you may have found the name of a publisher willing to publish a book similar to your own does not necessarily mean they are still accepting submissions! Keep a close eye on websites that list publishers actively seeking manuscripts. Some of these even list publishers who are no longer accepting submissions, so you'll at least have some idea of where NOT to send your work.
Here are some links to help you find a publisher's website:
Naturally there are many more websites on publishers that you can find for yourself by searching the Internet.
You can also access the names of Australian publishers by purchasing the Australian
You are in the driver's seat of your writing career. Take control and target your submissions to the best of your ability. And that means researching the market and researching publishers.