How to find a publisher – Some tips from our MD about pitching your book

March 11, 2019 3 min read

Here is some advice for approaching small to mid-sized publishers. For larger publishers, especially fiction you’ll most likely need an agent. 

As we at Vertebrate publish fiction and non-fiction I’ve kind of jumbled up the advice …

1.Treat each publisher individually, research their list, read one of their books, look at their submission guidelines, find a named individual in the organisation.

2.What have you written? Be very clear, if fiction, what is the genre? If non-fiction what is the subject? Don’t send random chapters, don’t send works in progress, don’t send multiple emails with multiple attachments, send a sample of the book, send the absolute best bit, do everything you can to get the publisher to read the best bit, the publisher isn’t an editor, they aren’t assessing your drafts, you are looking to stop them in their tracks by the sheer power of the writing. Send them power writing.

3.Do include a marketing plan, crucial for non-fiction. A non-fiction submission needs to be a business plan. Major on the marketing plan, give them numbers, stats, don’t focus on what you might be able to do, have a plan and communicate it. Focus on what you will do, tell them about your platform (social media etc.). Know your audience, tell the publisher about the audience, name drop, tell them who you know and what they will do to promote the book. 

4.Get noticed by potential publishers, send them copies of your previous books, follow them on Facebook etc., like what they do, go to their events, visit shops that stock their books, get noticed. 

5.Self-publish something, then make it a success, make publishers jealous. Prove your worth.

6. Be an expert. Look at publishers that produce series, For Dummies being the famous one, or Day Walks another famous one, then pitch a book that fits into that series, but know the format inside out and pitch accordingly. Make yourself the expert in the field you are writing about, get yourself on a few committees, write blogs, magazine articles, so a publisher can’t help but pick you to write the next book in their series.

7. Don’t give up, play the long game, pitch to one publisher at a time and try to get feedback about rejections then address them in your next pitch. In the meantime, strengthen your offering, build your profile, improve your writing, never rush your book or your submission.

8.What is the hook of the book? What is the appeal, what is it about your book that will grab the reader? You may find your childhood fascinating, but unless you are selling a celebrity biography you’ll need something far more interesting to intrigue a publisher, write a hook in to the book, then let the publisher know what that is. The Holy Grail here is to have something that will get national coverage in the press. But don’t over write your book to include everything, publishers generally like books of fewer than 120,000 words for fiction, 80,000 words is even better!

9.If you get a rejection, don’t take it personally, books are often £20,000 plus investments for publishers, your pitch needs to appeal to the hearts of the organisation and its accountants. A rejection can be nothing more than that, a simple, ‘We can’t find the room to publish this’. There is even a remote chance they are right, your book might just be rubbish, did you enjoy writing it? Probably, put it in a draw and move on.

Or just turn up at a publisher’s office with cake, cake works.


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