How to Present a Manuscript to a Publisher
If you have worked really hard on a book, whether it’s a work of fiction or a non-fiction work, you want to make sure it is in its best shape when you get an opportunity to present it to a potential publisher. However, getting your book published isn’t normally just a case of sending a finished manuscript to a publisher directly, these days. So while that is an approach you can try if you want to, it is normally best to approach literary agents first.
Getting an Agent for Your Book
Normally, authors first have an agent who represents them to publishers with either their completed manuscript or the concept for the book and the outline. This does mean that you may not necessarily need to have actually finished your book to get representation to try and get a book deal. How complete your book needs to be depends a lot on what type of book it is. For non-fiction, you can often find that all an agent needs to get a sense of whether they think they’d like to represent your book is an outline of what the book will cover, broken down into chapters (or however you envisage your book being structured), and some sample chapters. If you do it this way, the sample chapters should not be consecutive, to give a sense of how different parts of the book will look.
For fiction, however, unless you are already a writer with a good body of work behind you, you will probably have more success if you have finished the book, though again you would not necessarily send the whole book with your queries to agents.
How to Present Your Work
Some agents and publishers prefer email these days, but you can also send your manuscript as a hard copy to many of them. Some actually prefer this, so it pays to research each agent or publisher you will approach and follow their formatting and presentation guidelines carefully. Although it may seem like a lot of work to approach different people with slightly different documents, it will improve the chances of your book being properly looked at. If you send a hard copy, make sure it’s bound in customised presentation folders, so you can nicely brand your manuscript; have your title, name and contact information printed on the front. Anything that can help your book stand out works in your favour at this initial stage of trying to garner interest.
You don’t, of course, just email or post your book without any introduction. You need to write what is known as a query letter, which tells the agents and publishers who you are and what your book is about. It is a good idea to talk about your other writing experience, and if it is non-fiction, what makes you the best person to write a book on the subject you have chosen (your expertise in the field, your qualifications, the research you did and so on). You may also want to talk about existing published works you see your book as a competitor to and why your book would offer something they did not, plus any market research you have done that shows your book is something people want. Think of it as part sales letter, part job application, and part business proposal.
It can often take quite a few approaches to finally get a book deal, and you may have to make changes to your book as you go through the process, but it will all be worth it when you can say you are a published author!