As a former literary agent, friends and family are constantly asking me advice on how to get their book published. And since I end up giving out the same information over and over again, I thought I’d share a recent email I sent to a friend.
Chris emailed me because his friends have a b-to-b title they’d like to shop around. Being that the authors are M.I.T. graduates and have a successful medical consulting company, they have a pretty solid chance of getting noticed by a professional/medical book publisher. Here’s what I recommended.
Ian sent me your email. My experience is in consumer publishing, so I don’t have any editor contacts in the b-to-b sphere. However, some of the same search tactics still apply.
I did a search on Amazon for professional>medical books and got this result.
From this search, you’ll be able to identify book publishers who publish in your category. This is a good way to figure out who you should submit your proposal or manuscript to.
(NOTE: Chris doesn’t necessarily need an agent because his project is a professional/technical title. See below for more info on whether or not you need an agent.)
Once you narrow down your list, go to each publisher’s website to get specific instructions on how they want material submitted. And by all means, follow their guidelines so your manuscript doesn’t get trashed by some intern who was told to go through the pile and light fire to any submission that doesn’t fit their submission criteria–seriously!
McGraw-Hill is a good publisher, and you’d want their Professional-Medical division. From their description, your book would be right on target:
“McGraw-Hill MEDICAL provides students and professionals with the global standard of best healthcare practices by delivering current and comprehensive resources from leading authors and institutions.”
Here’s their page for authors who want to submit proposals.
They have a series of pages about submissions, and you’d want to be sure to go through their checklists before submitting.
In this case, it looks like they would want to see the full manuscript (vs. a book proposal).
However, if you find that other publishers want a proposal and if you need help writing one, I highly recommend the book How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen.
More about finding a Literary Agent
Authors hoping to get published by a mainstream consumer publisher (Random House, Penguin Putnam) will need an agent. Most mainstream publishers no longer accept submissions directly from authors. And no author should even think about signing a publishing contract with having an agent or experienced publishing lawyer (i.e. not your brother-in-law, the criminal lawyer) reviewing it first.
Don’t be stingy about giving away some of your royalties, even if you already have an offer in the bag. There are hundreds of stories about an author who didn’t fight for film rights—or foreign rights or that extra ½ percent—who got royally screwed. Agents typically have “boilerplate” contracts on file with major publishers. These boilerplate contracts represent years of haggling with the publisher’s legal department.
How to find a literary agent? Start by reading the acknowledgments page of your favorite titles in your category. Authors usually thank their agents, and agents tend to be interested fresh takes on the same topics. Don’t fret if a junior agent expresses interest in your project—do you really want to share an agent with Stephen King?
Additional tools for finding a literary agent:
But don’t just find the agent: find the agent who is going to add the most value.
In his recent post, “Where Have All the Agents Gone,” Seth Godin wrote, “Literary agents are crucial when publishers believe that their choice of content is essential but have too many choices and too little time. But publishers don’t trust every literary agent. They trust agents they believe in. Key point: anonymous agents are interchangeable and virtually worthless.”