If you were to just work your way through The Writer's & Artist's Yearbook, sending out manuscripts to people who don't know who you are, then it is very likely that your efforts would end up in the bin.
If you are lucky, then somebody might email you back, offering to take a look on condition that you send in a book proposal in the format they require. This would usually include a brief synopsis, a short biography, an outline of competing and comparable books, a selected biography, a section outline, and a couple of sample chapters.
As many literary agents or publishers receive thousands of proposals every year, they need to quickly and easily be able to establish whether they have a chance of making any money out of you (this might offend some artistic sensibilities but in attempting to get published you are actually putting forward a business proposal).
As an unknown author you are unlikely to attract large numbers of visitors to your website or blog – and even less likely to make any real money from it – but a significant online presence will demonstrate to publishers that you are willing to work to promote your book.
It is worthwhile reading up on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), creating an XML site map and registering it through Google Webmasters, getting involved in social media sites and contributing to free articles directories.
Contributing to other websites, in exchange for links, leads to surprisingly few click-throughs – these can be monitored through Google Analytics – but the more sites that link to you, the higher you are likely to appear in searches.
It is well known that many publishers will only accept book proposals and manuscripts from established literary agents. Unfortunately, many of the larger literary agents are also unwilling to accept unsolicited proposals. A possible solution to this is to send out letters or emails that include a brief description of the book along with a link to a PDF of the book proposal on your web site (I know from Google Analytics that people who wouldn't open an email attachment or printed proposal would still click on a link to view a proposal online). The PDF will also show up through web searches.
There are a lot of people around looking to make money from naive aspiring authors. While vanity publishing should have become a thing of the past with the advent of POD (Print on demand) and eBooks, there are still plenty of 'experts' willing to charge for promotional launches, web promotions, search engine optimization, 'get rich quick' eBooks, writing competitions, and inclusion in dodgy anthologies.
No credible literary agent or publisher would ever ask an author for money.
It can take several months before some people will even bother to look through a book proposal. I was still getting rejection letters from people I'd forgotten all about, over six months after I'd signed a publishing deal.
After delivering what I believed to be the final manuscript, I asked when my book would be available in the shops and was shocked to find out that all their new authors were told to expect to wait around 12 months before publication. I have since learned that this is fairly typical. As everything seems to take such a long time – for reasons that are often far from apparent – it seems like a good idea to be well into your second book before the first one even comes out.
Tom Coote is a myWanderlust regular who has travelled independently in well over a hundred countries and his first book, Tearing up the Silk Road, will be published by Garnet in August. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon now.
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