The Long Road to Publishing

The magnificent T.K. has asked about how I got from scribbling out my manuscript to finding a publisher willing to polish and publish it. I started looking into getting published during my first semester of college, after I had finished a draft of a novel that really was not very good. I was completely baffled by terms like query letters, endless acronyms (YA, MG, PB, ARC, MS, and so on), and conflicting advice from a billion writers who insisted that their way was the only way to ever be published.

Well, that scared me off pretty effectively, and I went back to my secret writing. But as I took editing classes, creative writing classes, and other wonderful classes that introduced me to authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers of all shapes and sizes, I started to realize: no two publishing journeys are the same. Some go through conferences, some through acquaintances, some through agents, some through sheer dumb luck. Some suffer through years of rejection, some are lucky enough to find a publisher that clicks right away.

With that in mind, I decided to find my own way. Conferences are great, but they were out of my budget once I graduated and couldn’t get student discounts. So I checked out the 2013 Writer’s Market from the library and made a list of all the publishers and agents that dealt with my kind of books. Writer’s Market is a fantastic resource for aspiring authors; it contains hundreds upon hundreds of publishers and agents, organized by what kinds of books they publish, and gives a quick overview of what they’re looking for. I checked out the ones on my list online, scratched a few that didn’t look like they would be a good fit for me, and started preparing submissions for the remaining ones on the list.

But you know what the funny thing is? I didn’t end up with any of them. In the process of looking for publishers, I remembered that I had looked for some publishing companies to possibly intern with while getting my editing degree, and there was this company called Cedar Fort that looked like a great place with great people. I never actually applied for an internship there, but I thought, Why not? I’ll send my manuscript to them. They liked it, and here I am with a December 9th launch date.

Like I said, everyone has their own way. For some people, agents are a better way to go. I did query one agent and planned to query more, but didn’t end up needing to. Agents are great because they are well-connected in the publishing world and have a good understanding of which publishers would be a good fit for your book. They know the ins and outs of publishing, but aren’t necessary in order to get published. If you are interested in finding an agent, is a great resource. You can learn about agents from authors who have had interactions with them and get a better feel for which agent would be a good fit for you.

In the end, I think the best advice I could give to find a publisher is to get involved. Classes, conferences, critique groups—you never know where you’ll find your link to the perfect publisher. And it’s never too early to start attending conferences and critique groups, even if you don’t think you’re ready to leap into the world of publishing. I wish I’d started with those earlier; there are a ton of wonderful people to meet who will influence and improve your writing.

Those of you who are working with a publisher or agent, how did you find your match?