Self-publishing’s gigantic rise over the last five years has created a platform where authors can compare the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing. A few weeks ago, I highlighted the experiences and opinions of authors in the publishing industry as it is today in the blog post Self-Published Authors Who Are Doing It Right.

Professor Emeritus of CUNY Bernard Starr discussed this very issue on Huffington Post’s website in 2012, encouraging aspiring and even published authors to consider self-publishing. Starr writes in his article, “Fact is that authors no longer need a publisher. And more and more writers are awakening to the realization that if you are not a high-profile author who can command large sales, a traditional publisher will do little for you beyond editing and printing your book.”

It’s a very informative article, discussing the various options for the author who decides to self-publish, and that those who do self-publish and are successful are then offered traditional contracts.

As you can probably tell, I’m a big supporter of self-publishing for a number of reasons. In fact, my next post will talk about self-publishing in detail, and my own journey through it). The thing that so many authors are struggling to wrap their head around, myself included, is that self-publishing is possible.

There is certainly going to be a learning curve, and you aren’t going to do it alone—you’ll have to hire a team of freelancers and professionals to edit your work, design your cover, help market your book, etc. But you can find affordable people through Twitter, Elance, and recommendations from other writer friends—the writing community is tight-knit and friendly, full of people who love stories, creating them, and championing one another.

For some people though, like my friend and writer Ashley Morrison, traditional publishing is the route they’ve dreamed of taking for many years. When I first met Ashley after stumbling on her successful novel, Submerged: The Mer Chronicles, through Wattpad, I talked with her about why she wasn’t considering self-publishing her work. Ashley told me that she has imagined seeing her books on the shelves of stores for as long as she could write, and for her, pursuing a traditional publishing contract was the right thing.

So for those who feel the same, here are some tips and references on how to go about getting published traditionally.

If you want to greatly increase your chances of being picked up by an agent and subsequently, a publisher, then you’ll want to buy this book: The 2014 Writer’s Market. The tome’s description on Amazon is: “It details thousands of publishing opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards, and literary agents. These listings include contact and submission information to help writers get their work published.”

I suggest you do this before even writing your book, or completing it at least, because publishers are ultimately in the business of making money. Thus, they have strict guidelines on word counts they will accept, genres, ages of characters, etc.

Another thing you can do to get ahead of the ballgame is peruse websites of publishers and agents you want to work with to get a better idea of what they’re looking for. Just a quick browse of Harper Collins brought me to Avon Impulse, their new digital-first publishing imprint for romance. On Avon Impulse’s web site is a description of the plots and characters they want submitted.

The same goes for agents, which you are going to want first. Most, but not all, publishing houses will not look at a manuscript unless it is agented. Here’s an example of an NYC literary agency called The Bent Agency; I came across them several months ago via Twitter when they were looking for slush pile interns. This is a particular example of one of its agent’s “wish lists.”

After you have identified which agents and/or publishers you feel would accept your work, then you need to write a query letter. This is a one-page letter that includes the synopsis of your story (in a paragraph), a little bit about why you are sending it to this particular agent/publisher, and any awards or accolades you’ve acquired from your writing.

Check out this great reference for how to write a successful query letter.

And an example of Megan Mulry’s query letter for “A Royal Pain,” landing her an agent and soon afterward a publishing contract.

So after you have written and revised the query letter and identified your agents/publishers, send the letter via their guidelines (on all of their websites), be it in email format or postmarked. Then…you wait. Prepare yourself for many rejections, and in the meantime, start writing your next book!

For more information on Ashley R. Carlson, see “About the Author” below and find her dilly-dallying at her:

Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1


Midnight Publishing offers skilled and affordable media architects for manuscript editing, self-publishing consultation and guidance, and author marketing. The ultimate role of the editor is to help the author connect with the reader. A good editor enhances that connection, providing another eye and view for the author. Our editors are artists of language, grammar, and the mechanics that help a manuscript take the journey from ordinary to great. Midnight Publishing also offers self-publishing consultation, query letter editing, graphic and web site design, business copy writing and editing, and more.

Follow Midnight Publishing on Facebook
Midnight Publishing’s founder, Lauren Wise, on Twitter: @MidnightWriting