Getting Published

These days, to get a good publisher, you need an agent. However, some publishers run competitions to look for new authors. How to find them? Sadly trawling the internet is the only real answer these days.

If you have a favourite author, see who represents him or her. Check out their agent’s website thoroughly – might they suit you? Before making an approach to either an agent or a publisher, make sure you really understand what they are looking for and how to submit it.

Check on the internet and ask around to make sure an agent has a good reputation. NEVER pay a reading fee. Good agents earn commission by getting you book deals.


  • READ the website entries on agents in detail.
    • Who is interested in what you have on offer? Do they represent people who writer similar books to yourself? Don’t send an academic book on King John to someone who doesn’t handle historical / academic books, or a children’s book to someone who stipulates no children’s books.
  • Send a brief enquiry by email
    • (unless they state otherwise) outlining what you are offering. Would they be willing to look at your work?
  • Send exactly what is asked for.
    • If they want 3 chapters and a synopsis, send that and no more. If they want a letter outlining your idea first, do exactly that. If they want a paper (hard copy) submission, then DON’T email your work.
  • ALWAYS send a stamped addressed envelope
    • with your manuscript. No SAE, no reply.
  • ALWAYS double space
    • (go to format on your toolbar, then click on paragraph, then spacing, and choose double or 2).
  • Have wide margins 
    • I use 3.5 cms all round. This makes your work much easier to read. Remember, the agent gets literally hundreds of manuscripts to read every week. S/he will have a raging headache by Monday lunchtime.
  • Number, date and put your name and the book title on every page.
    • Go to ‘view’ on your toolbar, and choose either ‘header’ or ‘footer’. Remember, it’s easy for a manuscript to get knocked on the floor and re-gathering the pages is a nightmare and puts the reader into a bad mood if s/he can’t easily reassemble the manuscript.

Why use an agent? 

They may get you a better deal than ‘going it alone.’ They will ensure you get a favourable contract with no glitches. They will (hopefully) look after your career.   BUT they will charge you somewhere in the region of 15-25% plus VAT for the privilege.

Going it alone – getting a publisher.
You can always approach a publisher directly yourself, although most of the big houses don’t take unsolicited manuscripts (they like to use an agent). Look up publishers of your sort of material on the internet, eg: ‘Historical, fiction, young adult, UK’. Or, ‘Wildlife factual children’s picture books’.

All my advice about agents applies to approaching a publisher as well.If the entry says ‘No unsolicited Mss’ (manuscripts) do NOT send your work in. It won’t even be looked at. These publishers work only through agents.

Look on your bookshelf: who publishes what you like to read? This publisher may well be a good place to begin.

Don’t try gimmicks to get noticed. One author sent her M/s in a wastepaper basket. The editor quite liked the idea, but left it in the bin, but so the cleaners didn’t throw it away, he put it on his desk…. Guess what happened to it?

Why go it alone?

  • Any money you get is yours – apart from the Inland Revenue’s share, of course!
  • BUT - You don’t have an expert to argue your case if things go wrong.
  • Your contract might not be a good one.

Copyrighting ©

The easiest legal way to copyright is to put a copy of your manuscript into an envelope and send it registered mail to yourself. Do NOT open it when it arrives. This will prove that your manuscript existed on the date of delivery. You can also email it to a couple of friends and tell them not to open the email.

Legal help for writers can be obtained from the Society of Authors and details of membership can be found on their site.

Make sure your work is as good as you can get it.
The editor / agent doesn’t have time to make allowances. 
Never send in anything that you aren’t prepared to be judged on!

Internet publishing.
I confess I’m not experienced in this field. If you like the site, then before you submit your work, email (inline text) your work to yourself and keep both the email and a hard print-out copy of your work. Once again, this should cover you for copyright. But it’s a piranha-shaped world out there, nothing is really sacred or safe.

Self publishing

Read my blog –

‘Vanity’ Publishing
The Writer’s Handbook has excellent advice on this. If you choose a publisher, look at their work, talk to them, what do they offer? Is it a professional job? Is it what you want? Will you, in the end, make any money out of it? Is that your aim?

Also consider print on demand. 
This is OK is you want a very short print run (say a few for friends or family – or a few for a fund raising event etc.) Here are a couple of sites you may find useful:
There are loads more – the web is your oyster!

Good luck! 
Beth Webb