How to get published
So, you have a manuscript, or an idea for a book, and you want to know what to do next. The New Zealand Book Council Te Kaunihera Pukapuka o Aotearoa receives lots of inquiries from people in your position, so we’ve put together a few tips that you might find helpful.
These tips generally apply to those with a book-length manuscript. For contact details of literary magazines and journals which accept poems and short stories, view our literary publications directory.
Everyone’s experiences with publishing are different. There is no magic formula, but these basic guidelines that should help you along the way.
Before approaching a publisher
Before you approach a publisher, you usually need to have written at least part of the book you would like to get published.
Most publishers have certain requirements for work that is being submitted. For example, some fiction publishers want to receive a sample chapter and a brief synopsis of the plot, others prefer a full manuscript.
Before you send a manuscript, it is a good idea to find out what is required, and find out the name of the person you should send your submission to. You might also want to inquire about how long the publisher will take to look at your manuscript.
Also make sure you’ve researched the publisher and the types of books they publish – there’s no point sending your novel to a publisher that only publishes nonfiction!
Establishing a publishing record
Most publishers, especially publishers of fiction and poetry, will publish a book only after a writer has ‘proved themselves’ by publishing work in magazines and journals. Another good way to establish yourself is to enter competitions: even if you don’t win, an honourable mention is still good for your writing CV.
Sending your manuscript to a publisher
Accompany your manuscript with a brief covering letter. The main purpose of this letter is not to ‘sell’ your manuscript, but simply to touch base with the publisher and provide them with your contact details. You might wish to give a little bit of background about yourself, and a short description of the manuscript. It may be worthwhile mentioning your publishing history. For example, if you have won a short story competition or had short stories published in magazines this will be relevant if you are submitting a novel or short story collection.
Before sending your manuscript to a publisher, you could also consider getting your manuscript professionally assessed.
Publishing Consultants, Manuscript Advisers and Literary Agents
There are a number of different groups of people who facilitate the relationship between author and publisher. These include manuscript advisers and assessors, and literary agents.
Manuscript Advisers or Assessors give advice and feedback on your manuscript. Some may be authors themselves, or have experience in the publishing trade. The author usually pays a set fee for their manuscript to be examined by the adviser or assessor.
The New Zealand Association of Manuscript Assessors has developed a series of guidelines for people working in this area.
Literary Agents act on the author’s behalf to offer a manuscript to publishers. They may also give advice on the manuscript. The usual method of payment is for the agent to receive a percentage of money offered to the author if the manuscript is accepted. Visit the New Zealand Association of Literary Agents.