You've written your first book and now you need to find a publisher.

Do you have a book completed, or at least the beginnings of one? New writers can find guidance in navigating the publishing industry with CBC Books' new Publishing 101 series. From querying an agent to seeing your book in stores, we'll walk you through it all with advice from Canadian industry insiders.

First, Invisible Publishing's Leigh Nash discusses how to go about finding a publisher. She also sits on the board of directors for the Association of Canadian Publishers and is the chair of eBOUND Canada. The 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist included I Am a Truck, the debut novel by Michelle Winters, published by Invisible.

The first step is to locate suitable publishing houses.

Nash stresses the importance of assembling a competent publishing team. Is there a favorite author whose work you feel yours resembles? Check with the book's publisher. Do you feel your book stacks up well against other bestsellers in the same genre? Find the publishing house responsible for those hits.

While online resources are helpful, Nash emphasizes the importance of making in-person connections with publishing industry professionals.

Visit book fairs and festivals like Word On The Street to network with publishing industry insiders. Inquire about their books and pick one up! That's the best way to understand a publisher's job. "

Social media, according to Nash, can reveal a lot about a company's values and norms. Authors should give equal weight to the publisher's character. Let's see what they're tweeting, shall we Where do their passions lie Are your values compatible with theirs? "

Learn who the best people to pitch your book to are in the publishing industry by networking.

  • Look for a Canadian book fair in your area.

2. Recognize the Materials to Be Submitted

Invisible Publishing is Leigh Nash's baby, and she's the boss. (Johnny C Y Lam)

Most publishing houses publish their submission guidelines online. That's where you'll find out if they're open to unsolicited submissions and what kinds of work they're looking for.

A synopsis of your novel, a current resume, and a query letter are the minimum materials most publishers will require.

Find out what each prospective publishing house needs to see, and give it to them. Don't waste your time (or theirs) by skimming over the rules in a competitive market.

  • Submitting to the CBC Literary Prize: 9 Common Mistakes

3. Create an effective query letter

The query letter is the initial opportunity to interest a potential agent or publisher in your manuscript. Your cover letter should not only explain what your book is about, but also why you are the best person to write about the subject, especially if it is nonfiction. Don't go into too much detail in your letter's summary section; just hit the high points. No one expects you to summarize hundreds of pages into a paragraph, so focus on the story's central theme or an important event.

It's fascinating to hear people discuss their projects. From a marketing standpoint, I think it's great when people can explain exactly what they're doing," Nash said.

Recognize your value and demonstrate it to publishers so that they will spend time and money on you. For instance, if you have a large social media following, you can mention that in your pitch.  

What you write is essentially an audition. Be accurate Make sure that you have double checked your spelling. Show them why you're the one for them.

#4 - Have patience

Your book's publication timeline may be as long as 2.5 years, and during that time, it may go unnoticed for 6-12 months. I Am a Truck, written by Michelle Winters, was discovered after six months in the slush pile; it went on to be a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Slush piles are temporary storage areas for unsolicited manuscripts before they are reviewed. Nash notes that there are outliers, but says this average lifespan is  

"I always try to leave a couple of slots open so if something fun comes up I can slot it in," the publisher said. The lengthy preparation periods required for effective advertising make this increasingly difficult to achieve. "

5. Before you commit, be willing to hear criticism.

You should expect to receive feedback even before you sign a contract. Both literary agents and publishers will provide feedback on how your manuscript could be strengthened after reading your query letter.

When considering a manuscript, I do my best to get a feel for the author. To get a feel for how we might work together and how that editorial experience might go, I will often speak with them before offering a contract and offer editorial suggestions. It's the author's manuscript; it's their work, and I respect that," Nash says of the feeling he has when taking on a book for Invisible.

Don't take it to heart, number 6.

Don't take it personally if a publisher doesn't offer you a contract. They may have an informal checklist of things they're looking for at each publishing house, such as a hook or originality, but ultimately it comes down to whether they think you're a good fit for the company.

You may have written a fantastic story, but there is no secret sauce, as far as Nash is concerned.

It's scary to put it into words, but it's just a gut instinct. I work with editors and proofreaders. Since I can't read everything on my own, they give me advice and point me in the right direction. It's a judicious weighing of what we think would fit with our list and our mission to publish new authors and unconventional works that might have trouble finding a home elsewhere. It's all about what I want to read," she admits, despite the fact that "we have that mandate and we do try to stick to it."

  • New Canadian nonfiction to spark your imagination

The Publishing 101 series on CBC Books features in-depth interviews with Canadian publishing industry professionals. Obtaining Representation is Up Next.

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