Written by M.J. Moores June 16th, 2014

How to Find the Right Traditional Publisher for Your Book

Your book is done and now you’re ready to launch it into the world with the help of a publisher. The template query letter you’ve written is burning a hole in your computer waiting for those subtle finishing touches that will captivate an editor and make them drool over your masterpiece.

But where do you start? How do you know which publisher is right for you? A wing and a prayer is not the answer – research is.

Look at your own book collection, go to a book store or library (real or virtual) and ask yourself:

Which books share my manuscript’s genre?

Which of those genre-specific books do I actually like?

Who published these books?

Does the author list his agent in the acknowledgements?

From there, write down the name of the publishers and look them up online. Read their About page, scan their Bookstore, and review their Submission Guidelines. Make sure these publishers represent the kind of writing you do and share your ideals. If something doesn’t sit right with you at this stage in the game, you risk a rocky relationship with them down the road.


Three of the five publishing houses you look into state, “We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.” That means, if you want that publisher to consider your book you’ll have to find an agent to represent you. However, the other two publishing houses state, “We accept unsolicited manuscripts as long as…” and then provide a number of guidelines for book submission. Usually they’ll get back to you in 3-6 months.

Time to make a choice – which path do you take? The Big Publishing House with an agent or the Small Publishing House alone?

Don’t choose. Keep your options open.

Pick one of the Small Publishing Houses you can submit to directly, follow their guidelines to the letter, and send them your manuscript package. Then, look for an agent while you wait to hear back from your first Small Publisher Submission.

There’s no right or wrong way to find an agent, but other than stalking the agents of your favorite writers, (remember you copied down their names earlier from the acknowledgements) one of the easiest ways is to buy a copy of Writers Market. Start by looking for agencies relatively close to where you live. Research them online and dig into their personnel files – check out what their agents are looking for and whether or not they are open to new clients.

Start a list of agents and agencies that work with your genre and/or writing style. Send out no more than 5 queries simultaneously.


Because your book might not be the reason for rejection – it could be your query letter.

Some agents will give you feedback. Don’t take their comments to heart but learn from them and adapt accordingly. Then send out another 5 letters. Keep doing this until you catch someone’s eye or you hear back from that Small Publisher you queried. If the Small Publisher says, “We’re not interested at this time,” then try the next Small Publisher on your list and keep sending queries to agents.

If the Small Publisher is interested in taking on your manuscript, add this information to your agent queries. It’s not that you need an agent in order to deal with a publisher, but it would be a big help. By hiring a Literary Lawyer in place of acquiring an agent, you run the risk of spending your total earnings for that first book paying off fees; whereas an agent will take a small percentage of your royalties for their time and expertise.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Give yourself 1 year, or 50 rejections, before looking at alternative ways to publish your manuscript. Remember, you’re a writer; you’re in this for the long haul.


M.J. Moores began her career as a high school English teacher with a passion for creative writing.  Recently, she left the teaching profession to work as a freelance writer and editor.  Unimpressed with the lack of straightforward, simple (and free) resources available to new and emerging writers, she started her own online editing company and writers’ blog (Infinite Pathways) to help her fellow compatriots.  M.J. is the author of Publicizing Yourself: A Beginner’s Guide to Author Marketing available through Smashwords. Her first science fiction/fantasy novel will be released in the fall of 2014 with GWL Publishing.

Every good book deserves a chance to be read. http://infinite-pathways.org




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