I receive many questions from readers who want to publish a book, and that's why I've developed the pages in this section. These pages answer the basic questions I receive. This is a difficult field, and I am no expert. I cannot and will not advise you on your career. But if you read all the pages in this section, consult the recommended print sources, and still find yourself wondering about a question, click the Contact the Author button to the right to send me an email.
CAN YOU HELP ME GET MY BOOK PUBLISHED?
DO YOU KNOW ANY GOOD PUBLISHERS?
IS IT EXTREMELY HARD TO GET A BOOK PUBLISHED WITHOUT AN AGENT? WOULD IT COST A LOT OF MONEY? I DON'T KNOW WHAT MY PARENTS WOULD SAY.
IS IT BAD TO HANDWRITE A COVER LETTER AND IS THERE A CERTAIN FORMAT A COVER LETTER HAS TO BE WRITTEN IN?
HOW ARE THE COVERS OF BOOKS MADE?
AM I TOO YOUNG TO BE PUBLISHED?
WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING PUBLISHED?
MY BIRTHDAY IS COMING UP, AND I'M TELLING MY FAMILY THAT ALL I WANT IS AN AGENT. DO YOU KNOW HOW TO LOOK FOR ONE? I'VE LOOKED AND I CAN'T FIND ONE THAT IS EVEN CLOSE TO BEING LOCAL.
Yes and no. I can share my advice with you because of my experience in preparing and revising long fiction manuscripts. But authors aren't publishers. We have no control over what publishing houses choose to accept or reject. I'm not an editor. The two professions demand very different skills.
Shannon Hale has a wonderful webpage on this topic. On that page, she describes how she brought several different manuscripts from acquaintances to her editor, only to have every one of them turned down. She thought they were great, but they still didn't make the grade with her editor, so what good did her involvement with them do? I've had that experience myself, and I've come to exactly the same conclusion.
Readers frequently write to me, hoping that I will read manuscripts for them, but this is something I won't do because it wastes everyone's time. I don't have an editor's skills: I can be brutal with my own work, but I absolutely cannot be mean to you, so those looking to me for substantive feedback won't get what they need. And, for reasons that I explain here, I think it is unwise and potentially damaging to the hopeful writer's morale for an established author to read unpublished works.
So, you're far better off investing that time you would waste on me into finding a good agent and editor instead. Those are the people who can really help your career. Then write to tell me that you've made it. I'll be thrilled for you!
The best publishers are the ones whose names you see on the newest books in your library or in your bookstore. You can research them on the Internet to see if they will let you send them manuscripts. (Most of them won't; your agent will have to do that.) If you are serious about contacting publishers, you should read all the webpages in this section and go on to study the resources that I recommend in them.
I think it's great that you're writing a book. That's a huge achievement, and one you should be very proud of. Don't let the idea of publishing, with all its headaches, ruin the joy of the writing. No author has much control over what happens to our books once we write them, whether they get published or not and how many people read them or like them. What we can control is our writing, and that's where we feel our satisfaction. Many great books were never published in the author's lifetime. Only the author's friends got to read them, but that didn't make them any less wonderful.
You need to ask yourself what you want from your book. If it's just extra copies you want to give to friends and family, then you can print them out, put them in notebook covers, and give them away. That's how my family first read my books. But if you want your book to sell in bookstores and show up in libraries all over America, then you have to learn everything you can about the publishing industry. To start, you can read all the webpages in this section and go on from there to the resources recommended in them.
Publishers expect an author to be a professional, and that ordinarily means a nicely printed letter on quality paper. Publishers also expect the author to have his or her book available in electronic format (for instance, as a Microsoft Word file). The most important resources for authors spell out the format a cover letter should be in. You will need to go to the library or bookstore to study them.
The publishing company usually wants complete control over how the cover of a book looks. If a publisher doesn't care, then it isn't a commercial publishing house which will market your book to bookstores for you. Big publishers have a special art director who coordinates this. They don't just care about what looks nice; they also care about what has sold lots of books this year. They will even want control over the title. So far, I've always gotten to pick my own titles, but I've had to work with my editor till we've come up with something the sales and marketing staff could work with.
If you want to print a book for yourself, go to your local copy shop to ask what options they have available. It may be that you can have a cardstock cover put on it without spending too much money.
Probably. And I'm not telling you this because I think you have no talent. I'm saying it because you probably do. I don't want you to give up on writing just because you get rejection letters in middle school or high school. I want you to understand the profession.
Please read my webpage answering this question. It will help you decide for yourself when to seek publication, as well as give you good advice if you want to become a professional novelist.
I'm one of those people who has an answer for everything (not necessarily a good answer, mind you, but an answer nonetheless). Very few questions slow me down. But this question stopped me in my tracks, and it's taken months of puzzling to figure it out.
Many unpublished writers focus on that golden moment when, like a new mother, you first hold your own book in your hands. You see your name on the cover, you fan through the pages. You examine your book and find it perfect.
It's true that there is a moment like this in writing: a pure high, a moment of victory. But it isn't when your book arrives. At least, it isn't for me. When my editor and I are finishing the line edit, the very last thing I do is read my manuscript out loud. As I'm reading along, listening to my story, and every word is just the way it should be—that's it!—there's the high. That moment is part of me forever. No pretty book, no great review, and no awards ceremony can possibly supplant it. The words themselves are all that matters.
I don't think you need to ask for an agent for your birthday because no one has to pay money to a good agent (the kind you want to get). A good agent, like a good publisher, is something your writing will have to earn. For basic information, you should read my webpage on agents. Then follow the link I include there to the SFWA website to read their advice on agents. That webpage names the two major print resources for finding agents, which you will probably be able to find in your nearest public library.
Agents are almost never local. My agent is in New York City, where the book business is, so that she can have meetings with editors and publishers. She and I email back and forth, and occasionally phone. My editors are also both in NYC. I've never met any of these people! So don't worry about finding someone nearby, or even someone in your own state. They don't need to be close to you to do their work well.
Just remember the most important rule: DO NOT let an agent charge you money! You won't get what you want from agents like that. Agents should make their money when you make money—and NOT before!