If you are a writer who hopes to have their book published one day – you are here at the right place. Let us walk through the essential things that you need if you are aiming to become a traditionally published author.
Before we proceed to the list of things you need to publish your book, let us define what traditional publication is all about.
Traditional publishing typically revolves around the big publishing houses based in New York City and responsible for most of what people see in “Barnes & Noble” – the trade books.
The big five traditional publishers are:
- Penguin/ Random House
- Harper Collins
- Simon & Schuster
- Hachette Book Group
Each of these big publishing houses is then subdivided into several divisions responsible for the publication of specific types of books. To many aspiring writers, being published by one of the big houses seems like an impossible task, and they don’t even know how to get there.
Nonetheless, we are here to help you demystify the process of getting traditionally published.
Read on to learn more!
You Will Need a Literary Agent
The first and the biggest thing that you will need to get traditionally published is a literary agent. Basically, a literary agent will be your partner in publishing.
They are the ones who will represent your book to the editors at the divisions or imprints at the big five publishing houses, which is why you should know everything about how to write a query letter and pitch your book to the literary agent.
If the editors like what they see and read, they will offer to publish your book through the literary agent, and your agent will receive a commission. Getting a literary agent is mandatory if you want to get published through one of the big five houses.
These big five publication houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. In other words, they don’t accept manuscripts where the writer is reaching out to the editor at the publishing house.
The underlying reason that editors don’t accept pitches or submissions directly from the writers is that they need the literary agent to act as their gatekeeper and curator. If the editors were to accept submissions from the general public, their mail inboxes would be completely flooded, and it would be virtually impossible to filter the publishable manuscripts from the rest of the bulk.
You get the point – the literary agent’s job is to ensure that your book is only going out to the editors who will truly be interested in your project and who will serve as a great book publication partner for you.
Besides, the literary agent will ensure that your novel is in tip-top condition before it goes out to the editors, potentially increasing the chances that one of them will make a good offer on your book.
Strong Writing Skills
Of course, you will need to showcase some really strong writing skills. Literary agents, editors at publishing houses, and publishers themselves – all have extremely high standards and only want to publish the absolute best manuscripts.
Now, this indicates that if your writing isn’t up to their standards, you are unlikely to become a traditionally published author. You will want to keep in mind that writing skills go way beyond spelling and grammar.
You need to be skilled with descriptions, and you will need to be able to craft really authentic-feeling characters and know how to craft a sense of narrative that encourages readers to keep turning the pages.
Determination & Power of Will
Let us state some facts without sugarcoating – it is very difficult to land a literary agent. Apart from the basics aspect of your writing to be top-notch, your book project/ theme has to interest that specific agent so that they feel passionate enough to take you on as a client.
Getting a literary agent can be a very personal and match-making process. The truth of the matter is that literary agents are completely flooded with submissions from aspiring writers – every single day. With that said, reviewing those submissions comes on top of their responsibilities for their existing clients.
So, unfortunately – but – facts need to be stated – it is possible that your query letter may just get buried in the avalanche. This aspect indicates the importance of why you need to show determination and the positive power of will to get through the process of getting traditionally published.
If you don’t hear back from the agent or get rejected, you cannot simply give up. Failure and rejections are part of the bigger picture – if you want to be a successful writer. This point is worth repeating – don’t give up and show strong perseverance.
It is possible for you to strike out a few times – perhaps – a hundred times before you find that perfect agent match. Nonetheless, pushing through it is the only way to make it happen.
Finally, you will need the patience to get traditionally published. It often takes a long time to find the right literary agent to match.
We are referring to at least several months – if not a year or two or three years. Subsequently, if you do find a literary agent, it will still take some time before your literary agent is ready to submit your manuscript to the editors.
There is also a chance that your literary agent might want you to make some revisions – possibly even several rounds of revision to your manuscript, which will also take some time for you to implement.
Once the manuscript is ready for submission, you will have to wait for the editor to read it and get back to your literary agent with their decision, which should take anywhere between a few weeks to several months.
You get the point – getting traditionally published integrates some serious waiting for the writers, which is why you will want to stay patient while getting involved with the big five publishing houses. The big publishers plan their book releases at least one to two years in advance.