So You Want to Publish a Book

Josie Leavitt - February 25, 2011

I received an email the other day from an earnest author wanting me to look at her manuscript for possible publication. This post is a letter for all of you out there who want to be writers. Please follow these few steps and you’ll find your relationship with your local bookstore much more productive.
– Use your bookstore as a resource. Go to as many author events as you can. They’re free and they provide a wonderful chance to meet and speak with successful authors and find out their path to getting published.
– Do not take advantage of the staff. They are there to sell books, not to research which publisher is most likely to be receptive to your picture book about a dragon who drives a tractor. That kind of research is your job as a writer. It’s important to know which publisher is the most likely to be receptive to your manuscript, and the only way to know that is to read, read, read as much as you can. You can get books from the bookstore or the library, it doesn’t matter, just keep reading.
– Use the Internet to your advantage. While we may order books, we often don’t know who the editors are, and this info is out there on the Internet if you go to the publisher’s web site. You can learn so much by researching authors, editors and agents on the web, and that can be invaluable to a writer’s career.
– Do not bring your manuscript to the bookstore to see if someone there will read and critique it. We are booksellers, not editors. I don’t bring my home remodeling sketch to the guy at the hardware store for review, because that’s not what he does.  Do not have hurt feelings about this, it’s just the way it is. Asking your local bookseller to review your manuscript puts her in a very awkward situation. If the manuscript isn’t good, and the bookseller is honest, they risk hurting your feelings and jeopardizing your relationship with the bookstore. If it is good, all the bookseller can do is tell you it’s good and then the rest is up to you.
– Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators immediately. This is one of the best resources for new writers. They have workshops on how to submit to a manuscript, sessions with editors, and regional chapters that are wonderful for networking.
– Keep writing and when your book gets published let your local store know, because they’d love to have a book launch party for you.

6 thoughts on “So You Want to Publish a Book

  1. Lois Ruby

    Excellent advice! And I can ditto every word as an author who’s constantly “offered” other people’s manuscripts to read and book ideas on which to render opinions. To would-be writers, enjoy the writing, find the proper resources, and good luck.

  2. Vicki

    Working in children’s publishing, I get those questions a lot! I’m grateful that one of my dear friends has written a book I can offer as a resource: Writing Children’s Books for Dummies. It gives a lot of advice & resources, and gets me out of a lot of meetings!

  3. Andrea Gordon

    Well said! The same is true for your local librarian. We can offer you resources about getting published, opportunities to meet authors and even writing classes, but we aren’t there to critique your manuscript.

  4. Laurel Book Store

    Thank you Josie for making this issue response concise. I’ve taken it, blown it up to fit our front door and affixed it there. Well, in my mind I have.

  5. Sandra Branum

    Spend time at a Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Borders, your local book store. etc. where you can sit and peruse the books. It’s a great way to meet people and learn about the craft of writing.


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