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How to Find a Publisher
by Robyn Opie Parnell

I frequently receive emails from people writing for children, who ask me to recommend a publisher or publishers. It seems like a simple question.

Ah, if only life were so simple

The problem with most of these emails is that the author neglects to include pertinent details:

a) What they've written - novel, article, short story etc

b) The genre - horror, romance, thriller etc

c) Fiction or non-fiction

d) Length

e) And in the case of children's fiction, whether it's a picture book, easy reader, chapter book etc

f) Where the author lives

But, even with these details, I'm not in a position to recommend publishers.

I provide FREE information on my wesbite to help people writing for children. I provide FREE advice on how to get your children's book or books published. So why don't I recommend publishers?

Simply put, because the author of a book is the best person to find a publisher.

The author of a book knows that book better than anyone.

With little knowledge of the book, I can only guess about suitable publishers.

What if I guess wrongly? After all, I really don't know anything about the book in question. I could be giving you bad advice. And, trust me when I say, the last thing I want to do is give you bad advice.

I could be wasting your time. I could be costing you money.

So if I recommend publishers to you then I'm not really being fair to you. I'm not necessarily giving you and your book the best chance in the market place.

Only you can do that, or a good agent if you have one.

Now this doesn't mean that I want you to send me your manuscripts to read so I can learn more about your children's story. It doesn't mean that I want you to send me a synopsis of your novel.

It means that you, as the writer and manager of your career, are in the best position to find a suitable publisher. You know your children's book. You know what you want from a publisher and your career. You know what matters to you.

What I can do, though, is give you advice on how to find a publisher or publishers.

So here's some more FREE advice to help you with your writing career.

1) Write your book.

When you're starting out in your career of writing for children, publishers want to see a finished product, or at least part of a finished product. They want to know that you're capable of writing the whole novel. So before you approach a publisher or, even research the market, write your children's novel.

2) Research the market.

First you need to know what sort of book you've written. Who is your reader? Males? Females? Both? What is the age of your audience? Is your book genre fiction? What genre? What about the length?

Visit local bookstores and look for children's books similar to your own in length and genre. You'll find the publisher's information easily, both on the cover and inside the book. Write down a list of the publishers you find that might be interested in work similar to your own.

3) Research the publishers.

I own a copy of The Australian Writer's Marketplace. You can buy Writer's Marketplace reference books for other countries as well, including the US and UK. You'll find details of many publishers in this reference resource. These details include their address, phone number, email address, website and submission requirements.

The Internet has made finding publishers a much easier task. If a publisher has a website, and most of them do, then visit the website. Research what they are publishing. And look for submission information. Firstly, do they accept unsolicited manuscripts? Your manuscript is unsolicited if a publisher or editor hasn't requested to read it. In other words, your manuscript is unsolicited if you're sending it to a publisher without their prior knowledge.

A lot of publishers include submission guidelines on their websites, which can be downloaded with a minimum of fuss. Always read a publisher's guidelines and always follow their instructions. Give your manuscript the best chance. If guidelines aren't readily available on a publisher's website, then send them a polite and professional email asking for a copy of their guidelines.

The reason you conduct research on publishers before you submit a manuscript is to save you time and money. There's no point sending your horror novel to a publisher that only publishes romance novels. There's no point sending your children's picture book to a publisher that doesn't publish children's books or picture books. There's no point sending your unsolicited manuscript to a publisher that doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts.

4) Be professional

When you deal with publishers or anyone associated with the publishing industry it pays to always be polite, friendly and professional. Publishers are looking for writers who can produce great novels and conduct themselves professionally. This includes submitting your work in a professional manner. A neatly formatted manuscript, accompanied by a well-written query letter will be more readily accepted than a hand-written, unedited story!

5) Be Realistic

Biggest does not equal best! Almost every writer wants to see his or her own book up there on the New York Times Best Seller lists. But aiming your book at the biggest name publishing house you can locate is not always realistic - nor is it always the best possible publishing home for your precious work. In many cases, a smaller, more specialised publisher might have a better chance of placing your book in front of the right readers for your particular genre.

6) Research again!

Just because you may have found the name of a publisher willing to publish a book similar to your own does not necessarily mean they are still accepting submissions! Keep a close eye on websites that list publishers actively seeking manuscripts. Some of these even list publishers who are no longer accepting submissions, so you'll at least have some idea of where NOT to send your work.

Here are some links to help you find a publisher's website:

Australian Publishers Association
Easy Way to Write
Association of Canadian Publishers
Children's Publishers on the Internet
Publishers' Catalogues
Association of American Publishers
The Publishers Association (UK)
My Perfect Pitch

Naturally there are many more websites on publishers that you can find for yourself by searching the Internet.

You are in the driver's seat of your writing career. Take control and target your submissions to the best of your ability. And that means researching the market and researching publishers.

Copyright Robyn Opie Parnell. All Rights Reserved.

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