James Floyd Kelly

Writer and Swashbuckler-for-Hire

Writing Advice -It worked for me!

I originally wrote and posted this on my Facebook page in January 2009… only friends could read it. I’m reproducing it here with permission of the author… he’s very understanding.


How do you find potential Non-Fiction publishers for your book or book idea? I don’t think there’s any BEST solution, and I’ve read enough “get published” books over the last 10+ years to figure out that there’s about 100 different methods for getting their attention.

One thing is for certain – non-fiction publishers are just as picky about how you contact them as fiction publishers. You can go and buy the 2009 (or 2010?) Writers Guide and it’s got hundreds, maybe thousands of agents, publishers, and other contact information in it, along with details on how to contact them. Or, you can do what I did based on good advice from a writer-mentor of mine:

1. Go to the bookstore and find the section that best fits your book or book idea (Computer, Sports, Cooking, etc.). While you’re there, go ahead and skim the Reference section and find a couple of good books on writing. (Personal Note: “You Can Write a Novel” by James V. Smith, Jr. is a good one for fiction that I’ve recently found and am trying to use to get started on my first book for kids.)

2. Find 12 books that catch your eye and interest. Believe it or not, publishers spend money on developing nice covers to catch buyers’ eyes. You’re wanting to look for good titles and ideas and editing, but also for publishers who don’t skimp on the book’s final design, either.

3. Examine the spine of the book and write down the name of the publisher (Wiley, for example, publishes the “For Dummies” series, and there name is on every book spine). Try and find more books on the shelves from those same publishers. If you see 3 or more (or 100) from one of those names on your list, you’ve got a publishers who actually puts out books (plural)… as opposed to book.

4. Go home and visit the website of each of those publishers. I would guess that 90% of publishers’ websites have a link or button or something that says “Want to Write for Us?” or “For Authors” or something similar – click it. (You may have to do some digging – such as clicking “Contact Us” followed by “Writers – click here” then followed by “Non Fiction writers – click here” etc… but persist and you’ll find the information you need… which is…

5. Most publishers are very specific about how they wish to be contacted. Some allow email – one in 100 will require that you submit your correspondence on 20lb, Victorian Cream Marble paper printed using 15pt Ranier San Serif font and aged a month in a Brie cheese container – run, don’t walk, from those idiots.

6. Follow the instructions EXACTLY! If they say send the first 10 pages, send the first 10 pages… not 12 because your first chapter is 12 pages long. If they say send it flat, that means don’t fold the paper to fit into a size 10 envelope. If they ask for a 1-page synopsis/summary, send them a single page. Keep in mind that anything you send can also contain a cover letter – I highly recommend this – keep it short – 3 to 5 paragraphs – and provide some basic information about yourself (especially if you’ve ever been previously published) and give some contact information such as phone number, email, and return address. They’ll probably ask you to include a SASE – look it up – no SASE and you’ll probably never hear from them again, even if you’ve written the next Harry Potter.

7. IMPORTANT – unless the website or Writer’s Guide description states “No multiple submissions” then feel free to send out feelers to as many publishers as you like, BUT BUT BUT always specify in your cover letter something like “This proposal/summary/synopsis/

is a multiple submission” – it lets a publisher know that you’re sending to other publishers. In the old days, you couldn’t do this, but the fact is that writers got sick of waiting 6 months to hear from a publisher and turned the tables and started sending out multiples anyway. Score 1 for writers. I’d recommend sending out feelers/proposals to no more than 3 to 6 at a time… if one comes back “No Thanks” then another proposal to the next publisher on your list.

8. Proposals and TOCs – many publishers won’t ask for the Table of Contents unless they’re interested and/or have heard your pitch. If they like the idea, then they’ll ask for more details. Same with proposals – most publishers want you to initiate contact via email or letter and let them know a short summary of your book idea – then they’ll ask for a longer proposal or TOC if they like the idea. Don’t swamp them with stuff they haven’t asked for… play by their rules. Break a rule and they’ll assume you can’t follow simple instructions such as how to format your pages the way they like or how to insert figures or photographs.

9. Wait. The worst part – unless they’re really good at email response… which many are. You might get an immediate email back with a “Tell me more” or “Sorry, not interested.” (Yes, I’ve gotten my share of the single sentence reply “Sorry, pass.”)

10. Positive Response? Good for you – don’t mess up now! Read their response carefully – and follow it to the letter… “Email me a few pages more of details…” – email them 2-3 pages and don’t worry about niceties – they waste space. Email back as much info as you can fit into the requested space. “I need to see a TOC with summaries” – don’t email them back and say “I’ll get it to you in 2 to 3 days” but instead just get your TOC done and email it when it’s ready – a week isn’t too much time and they’re not going anywhere. Longer than a few weeks and they’ll wonder how long it’ll take you to write a single chapter… bad.


February 26, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: