Choosing a publisher–Part 1

With your proposal or topic list in hand, you’re ready to choose a publisher. Like other kinds of freelance work, you should ask people in the business for referrals. One source of contacts is local writing groups. Most of these are aimed at the fiction writer, but you might be able to contact other authors by talking to the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication) or the International Association of Business Communicators. Another organization to check into is the National Writers Union, which is the trade union for freelance writers of all genres. They have a number of resources including model contracts. If you’re doing books about software or high tech, another source to check out is the Studio B website and subscribe to the Computer Book Authors list. You can also make some contacts through the bit.listserv.techwr-l newsgroup, a moderated newsgroup for technical communicators.

As part of your research, you should go to a large bookstore and look at other books on the same or similar topics. You’ll rapidly notice that each publisher has a certain look and feel to their lines of books, designed to appeal to a specific audience. Write down the names and addresses of the publishers whose books you would most like to have your name associated with. Ask your contacts if they know anything about these publishers, or check the current Writer’s Market (a guide available at all large bookstores) for more information about each publisher.

Tip: It’s a good idea to find out if the publisher already has a book on the topic you want to write about. You can check and do a topic, title, or keyword search for all the books on this subject. Don’t be alarmed if you find 30 titles on the subject. Many of these books may be out of print, or dated (books on software and technology can go out of date overnight), or have a different focus than that which you want to do. You can also see if the publishers you want to work with have a book on this subject already in print. Make careful notes on what’s already out there in the market–it can help your case and impress the publisher if you know who you’re competing with–and be ready to show why your book is different from the others. This will go into the marketing section of your proposal.

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