How do I get my book published? / Can you tell me what book publisher to send my book to?
Oh, boy. This is a complicated question, and the short answer is you need to learn more about the industry first. So let’s get started on a very, very basic overview of the process. Please do not see this as the final word - this is only a starting point!
First, are you self-publishing or going traditional?
If you're going traditional, keep reading. If you want to self-publish (independent publishing, or going "indie"), head back to the main Author Resources page. Oh, and if you haven't already read my basic "Becoming a Professional Writer" cliff notes, you'll want to do that (regardless of your preferred publishing pathway).
If you want to go traditional, make sure it's for the right reasons. It's a very different world from even ten years ago. Publishing houses and agents prefer, and to some extent, expect to see you have a marketable, developed online presence. At the very least, you will be expected to help sell yourself. You're also likely to get little to no marketing budget. And for the most part, you will have no say in final edits, cover choice, or general design, and you will get a far lower percentage of the profits. So why go traditional? Well, they know how to do all those things you'll have to learn or outsource if you want to go indie: promotions, cover design, formatting, editing (okay, always outsource that last one). That's a lot of time saved for you to write when the publisher handles all that - but it's also a lot of decisions you won't get to make. But in my opinion, the most important aspect is distribution: with traditional publishing, you get books in stores, i.e., greater exposure. There's a fabulous in-depth read at the Creative Penn about traditional vs. indie publishing that I highly recommend everyone read, regardless of which side of the fence you're leaning towards.
Okay. Still sure you want to be traditionally published, or that you want to maximize your potential audience by publishing traditionally as well as independently? Then it's time to learn about markets. How? Easy: get your latest edition of Writer’s Market. You can buy the paperback or better yet, get a subscription (free with the deluxe edition currently). Find out what markets and agents are accepting. Which leads to…
What’s your genre? This is important, because this affects where you apply. For example, if you work primarily in science fiction, there are several science fiction publishers who will let you apply without the intermediary of an agent (Baen is one). But with literary fiction and other genres, you’ll normally need to have an agent to get you through the gatekeepers. Most publishing houses will clearly outline their preferred application process on their website. For example:
As you can see, it's pretty cut and dry - not much of a way around that. So figure out what your genre is, what publishing houses are your best bets, and then find out their policies. (If you're not sure what publishers to even consider, just head to your nearest bookstore, go the section you'd like your book to be in, and make a list.) Here's a list of mostly smaller publishing houses that accept unagented submissions. REMEMBER: NO REPUTABLE PUBLISHING HOUSE WILL EVER ASK YOU FOR MONEY. See "vanity publishers." Money flows TO the author, not from!
So how do you get an agent?
The most important thing I can do is to warn you now: there are scams. Research your agent. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has a great walkthrough on the process of finding and querying an agent, which is a fairly standard procedure. Please don't go emailing the second you find a real agent; you should prepare a proper synopsis and a query letter. Call in every favor you've got with anyone with publication experience and ask them to review your letter before you send it off - two reviews at least, please.
Got further questions? Shoot me an email and I'll try to answer. :)