Submitting Your Proposal (for First-timers)!

So you’ve finally written your book and compiled a list of publishers whose audience will love it. But what do you send?

Each publisher has its own guidelines—usually found on its website, but send the following and no detail will be left to chance.

  • Cover letter (or email) summarizing your manuscript, your expertise, other publishers you’re contacting, and any competing titles: Pitch your book. Publishers receive hundreds of submissions, so use this time to set yourself apart. Explain what story you’re telling and why you’re the person to do it. Let them know you know about the competition but that your title makes a distinct contribution
  • Marketing plan communicating how you plan to market your book. After all, publishing is a partnership. Writing a book is a small part of publishing. If you want to get your book into readers’ hands, you’re going to have to work. That means you’ll attend launch parties, book signings, meet and greets, professional development events, and so on. There are millions of books on any topic, so publishers want to know what you’re willing to do to get yours into reader’s hands.
  • A sample containing the introduction, first chapters, and a table of contents. I know some writers are suspicious of sending their work out. However, a commissioning editor needs to accurately access how well you execute your ideas and the quality of your writing. Still, some writers think their idea will be ripped off. When in doubt file for copyright of the text through the U.S. Copyright Office ( or mail your mom a copy of the manuscript and tell her not to open it.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae that illustrates your expertise. Academic presses want to know you’re qualified, and trade presses want to see what affiliations you have that could support sales and promotion, for examples.

It’s satisfying to get a confirmation that your submission has been received, but honestly, you may not hear anything for weeks or months depending on how many proposals a publisher receives. Just persevere. Keep sending the package to publishers whose audience you’re writing for.

Good luck!

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