Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Write and Publish a Book

I've received questions about how to publish a book from a few friends so I thought I'd post my notes here. These are in no way a guarantee that your book will get published, but these are my tips and notes. If you live in Houston, I also recommend Roger Leslie's one-day class through Leisure Learning Unlimited. See

Book Publishing Resources

So you want to publish a book? First, you need to buy or borrow the annual book called Writer's Market, which tells you the types of books that each publishing house is planning to fund within the given year. Find several that are closely related to your book topic. Send them either a copy of your manuscript or an outline. The book usually tells you what each publishing house wants (manuscript, outline, etc.) The publishing houses receive tons of requests so allow for several months before they respond. Some writers believe in hiring a literary agent, who can help you find the right publishing house but realize you have to pay the literary agent as well. See more details on literary agents below.

Below are some notes that I’ve taken over the years that might help you, too.


- Association of Authors’ Representation at
a. Has code of ethics for literary agents
b. Can use free, searchable database to find info on literary agents by name; can search “children” to pull up list of possible literary agents & whether they’re accepting new clients
c. Also has list of recommended resources from copyright info to book fairs

- Literary Agent Research & Evaluation at
- Publishing Scams by Professor Jim Fisher at
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at
- Writer Beware

Types of Books

-board books and novelty: age ~2-5
- picture books or early readers: age ~ 4-8
- middle grade reads: age ~ 8-12
- books for teens: age ~10-14

Recommended Books
- How to Write & Sell Children’s Picture Books
- Writer's Market
- Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market: includes payment info for publishers, contact info, etc.
- Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell by Professor Jim Fisher

Some Children’s Book Publishers
- Scholastic 212-343-6100
a. Publishes Harry Potter and Clifford the Big Red Dog series
- HarperCollins and 212-261-6500
a. Publishes Berenstain Bears series and Goodnight Moon & Where the Wild Things Are
- Kane Miller;
- Hyperion and
a. Publishes Baby Einstein book series
- Random House
a. Publishes Dr. Seuss

Questions for literary agents:
1. Will you provide a list of recent sales including author, title and publisher? (AAR recommends 10 books within 18 months.)
2. Will you provide info on your experience and background? (resume or CV)
3. Are you listed in Bill Martin’s Agent Research & Evaluation (AR&E)?

FAQs about Literary Agents – borrowed from AAR:
What can an agent do for you?
Literary and dramatic agents are engaged in the marketing of rights to literary properties.
They serve as their clients' representatives with respect to the clients' literary work. They review their clients' work and advise them about its quality and potential marketability, nd the possible strategy for securing its publication. An agent's relationship to a client is fiduciary and includes fiscal responsibility for funds collected on the client's behalf.

Your Agent May:
· Offer editorial guidance.
· Establish contacts for you with firms and persons who are acquiring rights to literary and/or dramatic material.
· Advise you about current trends conditions, practices, and contractual terms.
· Market your literary material and rights therein. Negotiate and review licensing agreements.
· Review royalty statements.
· Monitor licensees' marketing of your work.

What does the Author/Agent relationship consist of?
The specifics of the relationship between an author and agent will vary depending on the nature of the work in question, the author's needs, and the agent's policies and practices. At a minimum, the relationship should include:
· An understanding as to what works of the author-and what rights in those works-are covered by the relationship.
· Agreement as to the compensation the agent is to receive for the agent's services.
· Agreement as to what expenses of the agent are to be reimbursed by the author, and how that reimbursement is to be made.

How can you find an agent?
Literary agents are listed in many sources, including Literary Market Place, a directory of the publishing industry, which is available at most libraries. You may also ask for recommendations from editors, writing instructors, or fellow writers.

Most agents will not accept queries by telephone, fax or E-mail. To contact an agent, write a brief letter describing your work and listing your prior publications (if any). You must include a stamped self-addressed envelope for reply. You may approach several agents at the same time. Submit material only when an agent asks you to do so, and agents expect you to inform them when you are submitting to more than one agent simultaneously. Your materials should be unbound, neatly typed and double-spaced. Be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed mailer for return of your manuscript. Always retain a copy of your manuscript.

Once you have found an agent who wants to represent you, you should feel free to discuss such matters as the nature and scope of the agent's responsibilities, the agent's compensation, the expenses for which the agent will be reimbursed, etc. and to inquire about the agency's size, client list and areas of specialization.

The AAR believes that the practice of literary agents charging clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works (including outlines, proposals, and partial or complete manuscripts) is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. For that reason, the AAR prohibits its members from charging reading fees.

What should you do if you find an agent?
The following is a suggested list of topics for authors to discuss with literary agents who have offered to represent them:
· Are you a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives?
· How long have you been in business as an agent?
· Do you have specialists at your agency who handle movie and television rights? Foreign rights?
· Do you have subagents or corresponding agents in Hollywood and overseas?
· Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will the other staff members be familiar with my work and the status of my business at your agency? Will you oversee or at least keep me apprised of the work that your agency is doing on my behalf?
· Do you issue an agent-author agreement? May I review the language of the agency clause that appears in contracts you negotiate for your clients?
· How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf?
· Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers?
· What are your commission rates? What are your procedures and time-frames for processing and disbursing client funds? Do you keep different bank accounts separating author funds from agency revenue? What are your policies about charging clients for expenses incurred by your agency?
· When you issue 1099 tax forms at the end of each year, do you also furnish clients upon request with a detailed account of their financial activity, such as gross income, commissions and other deductions, and net income, for the past year?
· In the event of your death or disability, what provisions exist for my continued representation?
· If we should part company, what is your policy about handling any unsold subsidiary rights in my work?

(Please bear in mind that most agents are NOT going to be willing to spend the time answering these questions unless they have already read your material and wish to represent you.)

Questions for publishers:
1. Does publisher buy all rights?
2. How do you market and promote your children’s books?What are some recent children’s books that you’ve published? (author, title)

Until the next nap time...