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Finding A Publisher As A First-Time Author
Written by
January 2020
Written by
January 2020

In theory, it's no longer necessary to have a publisher in order to find an audience. The near-universal availability of the internet means that you can publish anything yourself, and it's there for readers to find. Just because something can be found, though, doesn't mean that it will be. There are thousands of pieces of well-written fiction, fact, poetry, prose, and other musings online that don't get the readership they deserve. Unless you have a large marketing budget or you're able to attract readers organically, having a publisher is a necessity if you want to make a career out of your writing hobby. 

How does one find a publisher in this day and age, though? If you have no established reputation as a writer and no resume to show off, how do you stand out from the crowd of hundreds of fellow authors and writers who share your ambition? There’s no way to guarantee you’re going to make it - if there were, you wouldn’t be reading this article right now - but there are a few things you can do to boost your chances, and we’re happy to share them with you here. 

Get A Wide Range Of Feedback

The first thing you need to do is tighten up whatever you've written. No matter how happy you are with what you think is your final draft, there are bound to be things you could improve about it or oversights you've made that compromise its quality. That's why you need to get as much feedback from as wide a range of people as possible. A lot of people hate getting feedback because they have a fear of having their work criticized, but you’re going to get a lot of it if you’re going to be a published author, so you’re going to have to get used to it. Don’t just seek the opinion of close friends and family - they’ll worry about your feelings when they give you feedback and hold back on what they’d like to say. Ask your friends to ask their friends for their take. Seek the opinions of people you’re not especially close to. Put all of the feedback together, pick out the main message, and make adjustments based on that. 

Get Artwork Done

We'd all love the beauty of words to speak for themselves, but we live in an aesthetically-focused world. You wouldn't click on a dating profile that didn't come with a picture, and for the same reasons, a lot of people won't engage with a book or a piece of writing that doesn't have a cover. The whole reason people say 'don't judge a book by its cover' is that almost everybody does, in fact, judge a book by its cover. Find someone who's willing to read your work in its entirety and design a suitable cover based on that content. If you happen to be artistically gifted yourself, you're a step ahead of most of your competition! If you're not, you'll find there are plenty of people willing to help for the right price. Don't sell yourself short. 

Find A Literary Agent

This is the same principle that works for actors seeking jobs. It’s highly unusual for the producers of a TV show, movie, or play to contact an actor directly. Instead, they’ll go to an agent they know and trust and ask them to suggest someone who might be right for the role they’re trying to fill. This is close to - but not exactly the same as - the role of a literary agent. If you send your completed work off directly to a publisher, you're unlikely to receive a reply. Even if you do get a response, it will likely be an automated rejection letter. Send it to a literary agent, though, and you're more likely to get a personalized response, feedback, and perhaps even an offer of representation. Ensure you check the agent's background thoroughly and make sure any proposed deal works for you, but you'll definitely want one. For an unknown author, this is an essential step. 

Be Persistent

As JK Rowling is forever pointing out to budding authors who seek her advice on Twitter, she still has multiple rejection letters from publishers framed on her wall at home. Several publishers passed on the chance to introduce 'Harry Potter' to the world, and they're all still lamenting that decision today. Rowling wasn't wrong about the quality of her work, the publishers who turned her down were. There's an element of online slots theory about getting published. What happens when you spin the reels of an online slots game is random, and there's no difference to the action you take when you win nothing at such a game, and the action you take when you hit the jackpot. Money is taken from casino website like Amigo Slots by people who continue to play until they get that positive result. Those who walk away too early win nothing. You're going to get a lot of rejection letters, so view each one as a step closer to finding the publisher that's going to say yes. If your writing is good enough, there will be a home for it. 

Know What Doesn’t Sell

It's possible to get a book about just about any topic published, but just as a clothes retailer knows what type of garment isn't likely to find buyers, publishers know what type of writing is unlikely to sell. There are exceptions to every rule, and so if you're an exceptional writer this information may not matter, but as a rule of thumb, you should edit more judiciously if your work is more than 100,000 words long because that's beyond the reading commitment that most people want from a book. Non-fiction books written by people who aren't qualified in the field they're writing about are also likely to be rejected without consideration. A personalized memoir of someone who isn't famous or of interest within a specified field is probably only of interest to the people who know that person, and what's loosely termed as 'experimental fiction' is a turn-off to audiences, too. 

The single most important thing when it comes to getting work published, though, is to be excellent. Be the best writer you can be. Set up a blog, write on it every day, and read widely. Sharpen and refine your writing style, and find your own voice as an author. If you’ve got the skills, the rest will eventually fall into place. It’s all a matter of time and perseverance. 

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