In the heat of a hot August summer in Ohio, eight years ago, I found myself addicted to genealogy. I had learned how to research in training classes given by my church, and people all around me seemed to have tons of questions. Being an avid writer, I thought I would write two beginner books to help people get started and pass over the humps and roadblocks so many found along their way back then.
Up until this point, I had been a very good closet writer. I had written a lot of books that were published with myself as the ghostwriter. However, the last five books I had written for myself all found their ultimate destiny in my circular file, otherwise known as the trash can.
I was terrified out of my wits. White knuckles would have been very welcome. My anxiety over publishing my own work in book form felt more like a heart attack to me. Sweaty palms, pain in my chest, not to mention blurry vision.
Truly a very scary experience.
I figured it was about time to overcome this panic I had acquired, who knows where. So I jumped onto Google Search in pursuit of a publisher. My panic didn't seem to melt away until after I had found a publisher that had a sales page online. After writing, editing, etc., I finally walked through my terror and fear and had it published.
Two weeks after publishing my first book, I received an email asking for a second book. So in I jumped, like a high diver anticipating the gold medal. I finished the second book and it was published. Days and weeks drifted by. I was so excited to have overcome my fears I had forgotten to look at the sales data. Zero sales is what glared at my face month after month, and soon year after year. I had a lot of people ask questions about the books, but no sales.
Now, in hindsight, I realize overcoming my fear of publishing my own work is a huge and worthy goal, and today, I’m very happy to report the fear and tremors are gone. However, I learned a very valuable lesson in this whole experience:
just because a publishing company says they will publish your book, does not mean it is the right publishing company to get it to your ideal audience.
Today, with the increase in search volume and Google’s goals to keep the searches easier for us to find what we want, we are inundated with huge numbers of publisher websites, without a way to find the right one for our particular work. Not to mention the starry eyed writers who still dream of being the next Stephen King.
So what is a writer to do?
First and foremost, research your genre to find the publishers that are currently publishing in it. You can do this really easily at your local library. Simply ask your librarian for the current edition of Books in Print, and look up books in the same genre you have written your book in.
Next, look at the publishers who have published them. Then, go to each of their websites and download their writer’s guidelines. Inside the guidelines, you will find out exactly what each publisher is looking for right now. Don’t waste your time looking up publishers who “used” to publish in your genre.
Then, submit your book to those publishers who are seeking your type of book today. Doing this type of research first will save your tons of time, not to mention, keeping you from the heartache of the rollercoaster ride you will find yourself on if you simply submit blindly to a lot of different publishers.
Another route, depending on the genre you are writing in, is to seek out a literary agent. Again, research plays a big role here.
Lastly, another research trick you can try is to search on Amazon.com to find similar books in your genre. You will have a bigger list from Books in Print from your local library, however, this can be helpful as well. When you find similar topics to your book, look at the current publisher. Then locate their websites and download their writer’s guidelines.
Hopefully this will help you land your book contract, without the pain and no gain so many other authors have experienced, especially the first time around.
As always; Happy Writing!