So you’ve decided to approach a publisher?

Sep 18, 2020 | 0 comments

You will only waste your time and theirs if you approach a fiction publisher with your book about Ephesians, unless perhaps it’s a historical fiction set in Ephesus!  So your first step is to ascertain which publishers might be interested.  Start with your own bookshelves, and look at which publishers released similar books to yours.  Have a look at publishers’ websites.  Ask me!  I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

This Blog follows on from my previous one, To get to there?  I wouldn’t start from here!, so you might like to click here to read it first.

The next step is to make contact with the Commissioning Editor, the person who decides which books their publishing house will commission.  Please don’t think that your manuscript must be complete and perfect to approach them.  The Commissioning Editor decides whether there is potential for a publishing relationship.  Most Commissioning Editors require specific information, and sometimes this is detailed on publisher websites.  Typically this includes at least an outline of your book idea, suggested chapter headings, proposed number of words, at least one sample chapter, and your CV.  Some publishers also require completion of a proposal form.  Sometimes a Commissioning Editor may like your book idea, but it’s not the time for them to publish it, as they have a similar book already in the pipeline.

So the Commissioning Editor has given you the thumbs up?  What next. Now the Content Editor and / or Structural Editor will engage with you.  They may be one and the same person, and first of all they look at the big picture.  The Content Editor points out superfluous content, and material that needs to be developed further.  The Structural Editor considers whether the text will maintain the reader’s attention.  Eg someone’s life story may not seem so interesting if it simply ‘plods’ from their childhood sequentially through to the present day.  Instead a Structural Editor might advise that the story starts with an important event, and uses ‘flashbacks’ to fill in the earlier context.

This is why it is better to engage with a publisher before completing your manuscript.  Otherwise you will find yourself doing a lot of re-writing.

Next come checks for factual errors, and contradictions or discrepancies, eg the mention of a character that hasn’t been introduced before, with no explanation of who they are.  In fiction or testimony, sub plots must be well integrated into the story line.  Next the Copy Editor looks at narrative flow, continuity of writing style, realism of dialogue, paragraph length, sentence structure, word choices, and missing or duplicate words.  Then it’s on to all aspects of grammar – verb tenses, punctuation, capitalisation, and spelling.  Lastly the Proof Reader goes through the manuscript ‘with a fine tooth comb’.  Even after all the iterations which your manuscript has been through, a good Proof Reader is bound to pick up a few last errors.

I have left discussion of two topics until last, as they are so important, and they are cover design, and book title.  Any Christian Bookshop will tell you that good cover design is key to sales.  I have often been offered books, usually self-published, and my expectation that sales would be unlikely due to an unsuitable cover has sadly usually proved accurate.  The title is equally important.  An attractive cover may grab the attention of a customer in a Christian bookshop, whether bricks & mortar or online.  But the title must immediately convey the subject matter, or else the customer will move on.  A sub title is useful to expand on your topic, but it will not make up for an ambiguous title.  I would urge you to engage early on with your publisher on both these important aspects of becoming a published author.

I look forward to reading your book!