How to find the publisher of a book

How to find the publisher of a book

The following post was first published in 2011 and is regularly updated to include new resources.

If you have a book idea or a manuscript, one of your first questions is probably:

How do I find a publisher?

Or, if you’re more advanced in your knowledge of book publishing, you may ask:

How do I find a literary agent?

The good news: there’s no shortage of resources for researching publishers and agents. The bad news: you can easily spend hours going down the rabbit hole of available information.

For years (since 1920), the most comprehensive resource in the United States was the annual Writer’s Market directory. It used to be accessible and searchable online via paid subscription, but no more. And unfortunately, the future of the print edition is unclear. The 2020 guide may be the last, and it’s now at least one year out of date.

Going forward, writers will have to rely on other guides, primarily those online. Some of the sites I mention below offer useful features such as submission trackers, community message boards, and stats generated by users—which can be just as useful as the listings themselves.

Here’s a summary of the most well-known and popular places to find publishers and agents. If I’m missing an important resource, contact me.

Where to Find Publishers

Be aware that most New York book publishers do not accept unagented submissions, so sometimes “searching for a publisher” really means finding an agent (see next list).

  • Jeff Herman’s guide. This is a well-established print-only competitor to Writer’s Market, assembled by a literary agent and updated every couple years.
  • Duotrope ($). You’ll find thousands of listings in this online database, with an emphasis on literary journals, magazines, and online publications, many of which don’t pay. (E.g., they have more than 2,000 listings for markets that accept flash fiction, but fewer markets for full-length novels.) But they do include a sizable number of agents, publishers, contests, and anthologies.
  • QueryTracker. Free to start, with premium ($) levels—but more agent listings than publisher listings.
  • The Association of University Presses publishes an annual subject grid of university presses and the subjects they publish. This is an essential resource for finding an academic publisher. Thanks to John Warren for the tip.
  • Manuscript Wish List. Editors and agents often post on social media what kind of books they’re actively seeking. This site aggregates those mentions. (However, this site is not endorsed by the agent who started Manuscript Wish List; the official site is here.)
  • Submission Grindr. Free, focused on science fiction & fantasy.
  • Ralan. Free, focused on science fiction & fantasy.
  • Poets & Writers. Free database of small presses that are best for literary novelists, poets, short story writers, and so on. Use with caution; many of the listings are out of date.
  • New Pages. This is a curated list of markets popular with creative writing programs and instructors; it’s a good place to go if you’re publishing short stories, poems, and essays.

Where to Find Agents

Many of the same resources that offer publisher listings also list agents. But there are a couple of resources that are unique and irreplaceable when conducting an agent search.

  • PublishersMarketplace. Pricey ($25/month), but if you search the deals database at this website, you can study what books agents have sold going back to 2001, by category and keyword.
  • AAR Online. This is the official membership organization for literary agents. Not all agents are members of AAR, but it’s not a bad place to check if you want some reassurance on the professionalism of your agent.
  • Duotrope ($). See above.
  • Manuscript Wish List. See above.
  • Jeff Herman’s guide. See above.
  • QueryTracker. See above.

Sometimes multiple publishers and locations are listed in sequence. For example:

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in Great Britain by William Heinemann Ltd 1968

Published in Penguin Classics 2011

Is it correct to assume that the first listed is the correct publisher of the current book, in this case, “Penguin Books Ltd”?

Or is it more appropriate to attribute it to “Penguin Group” or even “Penguin Classics”?

1 Answer 1

Unfortunately you don’t explain what you need to identify the publisher for.

If you want to quote a source in a text that you write, the first place to look for information about the publisher is the title page, the top of which lists the author and book title, and the bottom of which usually lists the publisher and place, sometimes the year, of publication.

Here is the title page (1) of the Penguin Classics paperback edition of Rieu’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey which names “Penguin Books” as publisher:

How to find the publisher of a book

As you can see from the book cover (2), this edition of Homer’s Odyssey was published in Penguin Classics. So why is the publisher not given as “Penguin Classics”? As the hardcover edition of the same book states (3), “Penguin Classics is an imprint of Penguin Books”. Penguin Books is the publisher of that imprint, and consequently of that imprint’s books.

First published in Great Britain by William Heinemann Ltd 1968

Published in Penguin Classics 2011

How to find the publisher of a book

As we know, Penguin Books was an independent publisher, but later became an imprint of first Penguin Group and currently Penguin Random House. Maybe the change of the status of Penguin Books from a publisher to an imprint has something to do with different publishers being associated with different publications in the Penguin Classics imprint? I don’t know.

What I do, in cases like this, is I let expert librarians answer your question for me: I use the British National Bibliography. Searching for this book by ISBN turns up the following information:

How to find the publisher of a book

As you can see, the British National Bibliography gives “Penguin” as the publisher of this book. And if that is what the British Library does, then this is good enough for me. In a bibliography in a paper of mine, I would list this book in the following way (in APA style):

Homer. (2003). The Odyssey (trans. E. V. Rieu). London: Penguin.

Other countries have their own national libraries, and if in doubt, I would always consult their records.

For older books not listed in the national bibliography, and for books whose country of origin you are unsure of, consult a bibliography of the relevant scholarly discipline (i.e. a database listing publications in the field of history, medicine, or whatever the book is about).

  1. look at the title page, if information is incomplete:
  2. look at the copyright page, if that is confusing:
  3. look in a relevant database or bibliography

What I never do is trust the “Cite” feature of Google Scholar. The information given there is very often incomplete or formatted falsely. But Google Scholar can help you identify other publication quoting your book, and you can get a first idea of how it might be correctly quoted, or what discipline it belongs to, so that you can identify a relevant database.

How to find the publisher of a book

  • Elements of a Reference List Entry
  • References

How to find the publisher of a book

In my good ol’ teaching days, students would frequently ask me: “I am citing this book, but it has six cities—some in the United States and some abroad—associated with its publisher location, so which one do I cite, or do I cite them all?”

Of course, I never had all day, or even a minute, to think about how to address this conundrum (people want a microwave answer to their queries: quick). So, I would always tell my students to pick the first city listed. My rationale was that the most prominent location/número uno/“where it all started” would be ordered first, and as long as that one was listed in the reference, then everything was fine.

Then again, now that I think about it, maybe some of those cities were listed in alphabetical order…

Oh, well. It’s too late for regrets now.

Thankfully, the new guidelines in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association have absolved confused APA Style users such as myself of this geography sin.

Seventh edition style for book and book chapter references

That’s right, you heard (read) it here first (at least I hope you did): Publisher locations are no longer included in APA Style references for books and book chapters.

Yes, while the tenure of publisher locations lasted, it was great for us to learn that “AK” is the abbreviation for Alaska and that “Vienna” is more than a sausage. But it was a real headache to open a book and see New York, NY; Boston, MA; Los Angeles, CA; Madrid, Spain; Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada as the publisher location options.

Multiple publisher locations in a book made it really difficult for writers to determine which, or all, locations should be included in a book or book chapter reference. And don’t get me started on the problematic referencing of a book with more than one publisher in various locations.

Authored Book

Fincher-Kiefer, R. (2019). How the body shapes knowledge: Empirical support for embodied cognition. American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000136-000

Chapter in an Edited Book

Hendrick, S. S., & Hendrick, C. (2019). Measuring love. In M. W. Gallagher & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 219–232). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000138-014

  • Parenthetical citations: (Fincher-Kiefer, 2019; Hendrick & Hendrick, 2019)
  • Narrative citations: Fincher-Kiefer (2019) and Hendrick and Hendrick (2019)

If there is no DOI or URL, omit the DOI or URL from the reference, as in the following examples:

Authored Book

Almarode, J., & Vandas, K. (2019). Clarity for learning: Five essential practices that empower students and teachers. Corwin.

Chapter in an Edited Book

Billman, A. K., Hilden, K., & Halladay, J. L. (2009). When the “right texts” are difficult for struggling readers. In E. H. Hiebert & M. Sailors (Eds.), Finding the right texts: What works for beginning and struggling readers (pp. 203–226). Guilford Press.

  • Parenthetical citations: (Almarode & Vandas, 2019; Billman et al., 2009)
  • Narrative citations: Almarode and Vandas (2019) and Billman et al. (2009)

American Psychological Association; De Gruyter Mouton; Basic Books.

Not such an onerous change, right? Just a more streamlined approach. Because the more accessible APA Style is, the better it is for users and readers of their work.

This change applies to all types of books (e.g., authored and edited books as well as reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias). Please note some works associated with a specific location (e.g., conference presentations) require a location in their references (see Section 9.31 in the Publication Manual).

For more information on these works and on formatting book and book chapter references, please see Chapters 9 and 10 of the seventh edition of the Publication Manual and the reference examples on the APA Style website.

Related

Book publishers do much more than just print and sell books. They oversee the entire process of bringing books to market: author selection and development, manuscript editing, promotion, distribution and financial management.

Understanding how book publishers practice their profession can help you decide which role in the book publishing industry might interest you and determine how to prepare for a career in this field.

Author Identification, Selection and Development

The first job of a publisher is to find authors who can create books that sell. One part of a book publisher’s role, therefore, is author identification. Large book publishers work primarily with authors’ agents, also known as literary agents, who screen the work of writers and help prepare their manuscripts for submission to a publishing house.

When a book publisher decides to work with an author, it assigns one or more editors to work with the writer to clean up the manuscript and create a book that sells. This might include an editor asking an author to drop or add characters, change the plot, and add or drop chapters.

This is the difference between a copy editor who focuses on grammar, spelling and fact-checking and an editor who shapes a title for optimum sales.

Depending on the size of a book publisher, the company might employ editors in the following roles: evaluation and acquisition, author development, project management, copyediting, proofreading and line editing, explains Scribe Media.

Book Title Development

Just because a publisher likes an author’s submission doesn’t mean the publishing company will publish the book as is. Publishers direct books using formulas that sell. For example, a publishing house typically assigns its editors a genre. This starts with fiction or non-fiction and can progress to specific genres such as romance, children’s horror, young adult, adventure, politics, self-help, how-to or mystery, according to The Oprah Magazine.

Different publishing house staff members specialize in each of these areas and guide writers to rewrite parts of their books to better fit the expectations of consumers who purchase titles in these categories. For example, depending on the genre, the writer might need to tone down or spice up any sex scenes in the book.

Author and Book Promotion

It doesn’t matter how well the author writes if no one knows about the book. Publishers promote authors and books in a variety of ways, such as scheduling media interviews and setting up book signings. They send press releases and advance copies to members of the media. They promote the book to book-of-the-month clubs, bookstores, online sellers and other book distributors.

Booksellers also submit books for awards and promote an author or title that wins an award. Publishers keep track of sales to see if the author makes any best-seller lists or wins awards. Then, they blast this news out on their social media channels and to their media contacts and print the information on subsequent editions of the book.

A publisher trains authors to make public appearances and give media interviews. Not only do they help pick the right clothes to wear, they might also conduct mock interviews using a list of questions the writer can expect from those who typically interview book writers.

Production and Distribution

Book publishers help with the printing, illustration and distribution of books, including getting them into brick-and-mortar and online stores. Depending on how well they think the book might sell, publishers might start selling the book in hardcover format to cash in on early adopters and then quickly add softcover versions.

Booksellers also distribute e-book versions of titles and work on formatting and selling digital versions of books. Publishers know how to work with these sellers and format digital titles for e-readers, tablets and other apps.

The Rise of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing technology has made it possible for authors to create, produce and sell their own books. Amazon, for example, provides services to help writers layout a book, turn it into digital or print versions, sell on Amazon, set a price and collect the money.

While self-publishing allows writers to keep all of the profits, it doesn’t provide the experience and massive support in all areas of the book publishing process that publishers have. In addition to being an author, writers have to become a part-time book promoter or hire someone who can do this for them.

The Role of Agents

Many large publishers only work with author agents to avoid being swamped by countless amateur writers who aren’t ready to make the jump to publication. When an established book agent contacts a publisher with a manuscript, the publisher knows that the title is ready – or close to ready – for publication.

This is because agents make sure a book has commercial potential before submitting it, based on their knowledge of what publishers want. Book agents have editor contacts who can help authors with potentially commercially viable books clean up their manuscripts.

Agents also help authors make character and plot changes to books to make them more likely to be picked up by a publisher. Agents can determine whether an author should try self-publishing and can help with that. Agents can also promote a book if the writer goes the self-publishing route.

The last thing professional literary agents want to do is damage their reputation with publishing houses by bringing them poor titles that are a mess to read or don’t have good sales potential. For this reason, if an agent agrees to represent an author, he or she works diligently to give the book the best chance to make a good impression on a publisher.

Finally, agents help negotiate the best contracts and compensation with publishers. They can do this because they know what publishers pay and don’t make inappropriate requests, which a new author might make. This prevents rejections.

While literary agents aren’t attorneys, they have seen enough standard contracts that they can advise an author and the author’s attorney in reviewing, accepting or rejecting contracts the writer is offered, according to literary website Writer’s Relief.

Don’t want to cite by hand?

Search and cite automatically with EasyBib!

How to Format Publishers in MLA 8

The publisher is the name of the organization or company responsible for making the work available, and you’ll want to be sure to correctly cite this information. To cite publishers using MLA 8:

  • Include only the name of publishers and omit business words. The business words are usually found directly after the name of the publisher. This includes words such as company, corporation, limited, and others. (Example: Use Dream Books NOT Dream Books Company, LLC.)
  • Use UP for University Press (Example: Use Cambridge UP NOT Cambridge University Press)

How to Cite a Book in MLA 8:

Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree , Harper & Row, 1964.

Sometimes there will be numerous organizations listed as being responsible for publishing the source. In this case, just include the company that is most responsible for the source’s publication.

If two or more organizations are equally responsible, separate the names with a forward slash.

Bilodeau, Brent L. “Understanding Genderism.” The Art of Effective

Facilitation: Reflections from Social Justice Educators , edited by Lisa

M. Landreman, ACPA-College Student/Stylus, 2013, pp. 67-80.

It is not always necessary to include the name of the publisher. For the following sources, omit this information:

  • Any periodicals including journals, magazines, or newspapers
  • A website when the name of it is the same as the publisher

How to find the publisher of a book

  • Elements of a Reference List Entry
  • References

How to find the publisher of a book

In my good ol’ teaching days, students would frequently ask me: “I am citing this book, but it has six cities—some in the United States and some abroad—associated with its publisher location, so which one do I cite, or do I cite them all?”

Of course, I never had all day, or even a minute, to think about how to address this conundrum (people want a microwave answer to their queries: quick). So, I would always tell my students to pick the first city listed. My rationale was that the most prominent location/número uno/“where it all started” would be ordered first, and as long as that one was listed in the reference, then everything was fine.

Then again, now that I think about it, maybe some of those cities were listed in alphabetical order…

Oh, well. It’s too late for regrets now.

Thankfully, the new guidelines in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association have absolved confused APA Style users such as myself of this geography sin.

Seventh edition style for book and book chapter references

That’s right, you heard (read) it here first (at least I hope you did): Publisher locations are no longer included in APA Style references for books and book chapters.

Yes, while the tenure of publisher locations lasted, it was great for us to learn that “AK” is the abbreviation for Alaska and that “Vienna” is more than a sausage. But it was a real headache to open a book and see New York, NY; Boston, MA; Los Angeles, CA; Madrid, Spain; Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada as the publisher location options.

Multiple publisher locations in a book made it really difficult for writers to determine which, or all, locations should be included in a book or book chapter reference. And don’t get me started on the problematic referencing of a book with more than one publisher in various locations.

Authored Book

Fincher-Kiefer, R. (2019). How the body shapes knowledge: Empirical support for embodied cognition. American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000136-000

Chapter in an Edited Book

Hendrick, S. S., & Hendrick, C. (2019). Measuring love. In M. W. Gallagher & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 219–232). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000138-014

  • Parenthetical citations: (Fincher-Kiefer, 2019; Hendrick & Hendrick, 2019)
  • Narrative citations: Fincher-Kiefer (2019) and Hendrick and Hendrick (2019)

If there is no DOI or URL, omit the DOI or URL from the reference, as in the following examples:

Authored Book

Almarode, J., & Vandas, K. (2019). Clarity for learning: Five essential practices that empower students and teachers. Corwin.

Chapter in an Edited Book

Billman, A. K., Hilden, K., & Halladay, J. L. (2009). When the “right texts” are difficult for struggling readers. In E. H. Hiebert & M. Sailors (Eds.), Finding the right texts: What works for beginning and struggling readers (pp. 203–226). Guilford Press.

  • Parenthetical citations: (Almarode & Vandas, 2019; Billman et al., 2009)
  • Narrative citations: Almarode and Vandas (2019) and Billman et al. (2009)

American Psychological Association; De Gruyter Mouton; Basic Books.

Not such an onerous change, right? Just a more streamlined approach. Because the more accessible APA Style is, the better it is for users and readers of their work.

This change applies to all types of books (e.g., authored and edited books as well as reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias). Please note some works associated with a specific location (e.g., conference presentations) require a location in their references (see Section 9.31 in the Publication Manual).

For more information on these works and on formatting book and book chapter references, please see Chapters 9 and 10 of the seventh edition of the Publication Manual and the reference examples on the APA Style website.

Author Guest Posts & Interviews, Industry Tips & Tricks

by Barnes & Noble Press /

June 8, 2018 at 9:15 AM

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How to find the publisher of a book

Looking for an editor? Barnes & Noble Press is excited to announce our partnership with Reedsy, a curated community of the best editorial, design, and marketing talent in the industry. Fine-tuning your manuscript can be challenging, but Reedsy hosts the top professional editors that will help prepare your book for the world of readers. To find out more, check out our partnership page and read on for Reedsy’s tips on how to find the right editor for your book.

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A Guest Post by Reedsy

“I need an editor” is probably the sentence we read or hear the most at Reedsy. It suggests that self-publishing has now entered a new stage of maturity in that almost every indie author serious about their craft knows the importance of having their books edited.

That said, there still is a lot of uncertainty and confusion as to what editors actually do, and how important it is to not just find a good editor, but the right one .

For this post, I turned to some of our most popular Reedsy editors and asked them a simple question: “what would be your #1 piece of advice for authors looking for an editor?” You’ll find their answers below, which will set you on the path to finding your dream editor!

1. Understand what type of editing you’re looking for

Most of the confusion we see around editing comes from the fact that there is more than one kind of editing. You can read our standard editing definitions here , but in my experience the best way to think about editing is in three stages:

  • The first one ( developmental editing ) is all about the structural and narrative elements of your book. In fiction, a developmental editor will analyze and critique your narrative arc, plot, characterization, dialogue, pacing and voice.
  • The second ( copy editing ) is all about the mechanics of your prose: your grammar, punctuation, consistency in style, etc.
  • The third one ( proofreading ) is a last check on the manuscript to remove any typos or errors that weren’t caught, or were introduced, in the previous editing rounds.

Not every manuscript needs to go through all these steps, and not every author has the budget to hire three separate editors. But it’s important to understand the different types of editing and know which kind you’re after. In the words of one of one Reedsy editor:

“Communicate clearly to your prospective editor in your own words (don’t worry about publishing lingo) what work has been done on the book thus far and what you think it needs now. What concerns do you want to address? Do you just want general feedback, or are you expecting hands-on editing of the text? Your editor can help you nail down the service that will fit your needs.” — Aja Pollock, Developmental & Copy Editor

2. Look for qualified professionals with a track record

The next step is to start looking for editors. The trick is knowing how to evaluate the different profiles you will come across.

It goes without saying that you’re looking for someone with a lot of experience, ideally at one or several of the established traditional publishers because that’s where editors make their bones. Some of that experience should overlap with the genre of your book. And the editor should have a proven track record in the form of books in the market and reviews from other authors they’ve worked with. — Jim Thomas, Developmental & Copy Editor

At Reedsy, we use very specific criteria to determine which editors we accept on our marketplace:

  • Traditional publishing experience, whether in-house or through freelance contracts;
  • 5+ years of editing experience in a specific genre and type of editing;
  • 10+ published books (with positive reviews) in their portfolio.

Whether you look for editors on Reedsy or elsewhere, I would urge you to apply these same criteria to separate real professionals from wannabe editors.

3. Contact several editors and get their thoughts on your manuscript

A common mistake authors make is they often hire the first good editor they come across. Remember: You don’t just want a good one. You want the right one .

So make sure you find several prospects and get in touch with all of them. Share a strong synopsis (to get them interested in working with you), and a sample of your manuscript (usually your first chapter). If you’re using Reedsy, we’ve incorporated all this into the “brief” you fill in to contact the editors you selected.

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Then, just sit back and wait to hear from them. They’ll usually come back with thoughts on your synopsis or sample. Read those carefully, as they will give you some crucial insights on each editor’s style.

“The number one piece of advice I would give to a writer is to work with an editor who is enthusiastic about your project and who understands what you want to accomplish with the story. An editor is there to help you hone your voice, not to take over the book. At the end of the day it is your book and you want it to sing with your voice and vision.” — Laurie Chittenden, Developmental Editor

“Always look for a real connection with a prospective editor. Qualifications are, of course, a primary consideration, but always look for a professional who shares your passion for the genre and subject matter. The relationship between writer and editor at its best is one of trust and collaboration.” — Michael Rowley, Developmental Editor

If the chemistry is right, you’ll actually learn more about writing craft — and grow as a writer — than you would by taking a thousand writing courses. And chances are, it’ll be the start of a professional friendship that could last your entire career.

How to find the publisher of a bookIf you have an idea for a new textbook a great way to start looking for a publisher is by attending your discipline’s annual meeting — which typically hosts book vendors — where you may be able to make some good contacts with publishing companies, said Dr. Laura Taalman, a mathematics professor at James Madison University.

“It is worth stopping by the exhibit booths of the publishers you are interested in; the editor you seek might be right there,” she said. “Sales reps can sometimes give you an idea if your book fits in with their company’s list. They also will often have contact information for the appropriate editors.”

When Taalman was looking for a publisher for her textbook, Integrated Calculus: Calculus With Precalculus and Algebra, (which was published in 2004 by Houghton Mifflin) she shopped the idea around to sales reps at her university and at yearly math meetings. “The sales reps communicated with the math editors and someone turned out to be interested,” she said.

After she learned of their interest, Taalman sent a formal proposal using the Author Guideline on the Houghton Mifflin website (available here). Most publishers provide Author Guidelines for submitting proposals on their website. “I didn’t have to figure out what to send them because they spelled it out very clearly, and I just followed their outline,” she said.

Based only on discussions and a sample Table of Contents and chapter, they offered her a contract with a small sum of money, said Taalman: “I had to submit the formal proposal not for the editor, but for his superiors and to follow the proper procedure, so by the time I sent in the proposal I basically had a verbal contract, and we were just going through the negotiations and formalities.”

Kathleen Domenig, founder and publisher of Strata Publishing, said that along with attending annual conferences and meeting with sales reps at your university, you can compile a list of publishers that might be interested in your textbook idea by visiting bookstores to look at which publishers are putting out books in your field.

“You can also look at the books on your own bookshelves to identify the publishers that publish books in your field,” said Domenig. “You should also find out who the editor is for the books in your field. That information might be on the publisher’s website, but it may be necessary to ask the sales reps or call the publisher. At a large house, a query letter or proposal that is not addressed to a specific person could bounce around for months.”

Many publishers, particularly smaller organizations, specialize in different areas. To make sure your textbook query fits a particular publisher’s focus, be sure to look for information on their website about which areas they specialize in. Strata Publishing, for example, specializes in the fields of communication and journalism, and publishes books for mid-level and advanced courses.

After you’ve made the proper connections, it’s time to write your query. “A query letter should explain what your textbook will offer that other available textbooks for the course do not,” Domenig said. She recommends that you answer the following questions in your proposal: “Why would professors drop the textbook that they are already using to use your textbook?” Domenig said. “How would your proposed book meet people’s teaching needs?”

Other key elements of a query letter (see sample on Strata Publishing, Inc. website) include:

  • The working title of the book
  • The usual titles of the course for which the book is intended
  • A brief description of your general approach in the book
  • The major competitors and/or the major books that people currently use in the course(s) for which your book is intended
  • A list of the major features and characteristics that would distinguish your book from those books
  • A table of contents and a copy of your curriculum vita

When you’re writing a query letter, think about what an early draft of advertising for the textbook would look like, with particular features of the textbook highlighted; and write your query in the positive, rather than in the negative, said Domenig: “Focus on what your book does, rather than on what it does not do or on what the competing books don’t do.”

Remember that you are addressing a publisher, not an academic, said Taalman: “You need to argue that you are filling a need in the market, not in academics or the discipline. If there are other books somewhat like yours that are successful, then a publisher can see there is a market. On the other hand, you need to point out where your book will differ and why that would be attractive to the market.”

You should also know the potentially competing – or supporting – books that comprise the particular publisher’s current list, she said: “When you are trying to get picked up by a publisher, you have to be convincing to them in their terms. If the editor is interested in your book, then they will have to make a business-model type of argument to the higher-ups in the company. Your book proposal will look more attractive to editors if you can provide some of these arguments.”

How long should your query letter be? “I’m fairly flexible, but one or two pages is long enough,” said Domenig. “If I’m interested in the query, I will ask the author to send a proposal.”

She usually responds to a query letter within two weeks.