Books are still going through traditional means to get to readers, be assured of that. Major publishers like Harper Collins and Penguin USA are looking for non-fiction books to become good sellers and support their corporate bottom lines.
But there are hundreds of small presses that specialize in certain subjects or literary areas: religious, art, ethnic and sexual orientation choice, children’s subject and age-oriented non-fiction books and many more. You can find them in the following very valuable book about getting published—Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents in America. This book is in its 23rd edition and is constantly being updated. Other books giving agenting advice are also available.
It is invaluable for advice on agents, because Jeff allows the agents themselves to talk about what they want to represent and to give advice to publication for would-be authors. The agents tell what exact type of book they represent (don’t waste everybody’s time, especially yours, sending your murder mystery to someone who is looking for cooking books).
Agents as well as publishers have strict submission guides. They receive hundreds of book manuscripts to read each day and week and so they have procedures. They will throw away any unsolicited or mis-directed manuscripts. Follow their procedures!
Usually they wish a query letter, and advice on these specific kinds of letters is available on various websites but especially in Jeff Herman’s book. These letters are to be short, show research in the subject of the non-fiction book being presented (how many copies are selling in this genre and how does the proposed book you are presented fit into the niche). Most importantly, a synopsis and especially what you see as the marketing you can do for the book. Modern presses, especially small presses, do not have time or money to do promoting for you unless you are a major best-seller. So, for non-fiction, your query will show that you have a following of whatever the interest in the book: a blog of —-hits a day, a website and Facebook presence that tracks your authority and interest in the subject of the book. Or, history of art glass book, as an example, you are a member of the 10,000 member Art Glass association and intend to mine that connection. You can appear in the Midwest at book events and will yourself arrange a schedule. You are going to speak on your subject and pay for your tour.
Your own past writing credentials are important to put out right at the get-go. “But I don’t have any,” you say. You can easily get them, as workshop advice on this blog has shown in the past. Practical ideas that work to get you a resume: (1) write for local newspapers, small-town weeklies or dailies, magazines in your interest area (art glass has its own magazines). Become an expert on your subject and write articles on it in trade publications (2) join a writers’ group and make your co-members both your writing critics and eventual support team when your book comes out.(3) If you live in Indiana, by all means join the Indiana Writers’ Center and get active there. Our IWC director Barb Shoup learned to write at the early Indianapolis Writers Center and is now a national published and prize-winning young adult author. There are many professional contacts you can form at the Indiana Writers’ Center. Taking the classes will professionalize you and give you a contact group which can supply good advice and readers.
So, give it a go! And best of luck. One-thousand people are presently writing books in Indiana, most of which will find publication. You can be one of them.
Nancy Niblack Baxter is senior editor at Hawthorne Publishing. Click back to the website to see and order her books.