Books (fiction and nonfiction) are sold on proposal. That is, three chapters and an outline, plus some ideas on how you’re going to market the book.
It’s vital that you get this information before you send off your typescript. Some publishers will only accept submissions from agents, so if you want these publishers to consider your book, you’ll need to get an agent first.
Check publishers’ Web sites for their submission guidelines
Most publishers have submission guidelines. Here’s Tor’s guidelines for example:
Your submissions packet should include:
1. The first three chapters of your book, prepared in standard manuscript format on white paper. (If your chapters are really short or really long, or you don’t use chapter breaks, you may send the first 40-60 pages of your book, provided you stay under 10,000 words.)
The submitted text must be made up of consecutive pages and should end at the end of a paragraph, not in mid-sentence.
Standard manuscript format means margins of at least 1 inch all the way around; indented paragraphs; double-spaced text; and Courier or Times Roman in 10 or 12 pitch. Please use one side of the page only and do not justify the text.
Important – complete your novel before you submit a proposal if you’re unpublished
Here’s a vital tip: while you should never complete a nonfiction book before you start looking for publishers, it’s vital that you complete your novel.
If you’re unpublished, querying publishers before you’ve completed your novel is a no-no. If a publisher wants to see your novel, the editor expects that it’s ready to send – she may have a hole in her list she needs to fill, so she wants your book right away.
Need help writing your book? Get your book on bookstore shelves.
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