Book Publishing A to Z Part 6 (Re-Air)

, Book Publishing A to Z Part 6 (Re-Air)

Book Publishing A to Z Part 6 (Re-Air)


Click here to listen to the full episode!


How should you go about sending your manuscript to publishers or editors for review? What happens if you don’t do enough research about the established process for submissions at a particular company? What is one small but important detail you don’t want to leave out of your finished book?


In part 6 of the Book Publishing A to Z series, Coach Tam highlights important processes and details to keep in mind as you are preparing to send out your manuscript, as well as some alternative options to consider. The more you prepare ahead of time, the better chance your book has of selling copies and making the impact you know your message deserves. So don’t miss the valuable information in this episode!


In this episode, you’ll also hear:


  • What a slush pile is and why it’s neither negative nor positive
  • What you need to understand if you want your manuscript to be read
  • Why a small or independent press might be an option worth considering — and what to expect if you do take that route
  • The importance of having a table of contents in your book 
  • What to pay attention to when it comes to territories your book can be published in


It’s easy to be really passionate about the writing process and about wanting to share your story with the world and, at the same time, also be really lost to how the industry actually works. But if you don’t understand how the industry works before you publish, it can actually hurt your book’s success and impact. 


If you missed the previous episodes in this series, you can check them out here!


Here are the next set of publishing terms you need to know.


Slush Pile


In the book publishing field, a slush pile is a pile of all the unsolicited manuscripts that have been sent to a publisher, agent, or editor, in hopes that they will read it, be thoroughly impressed, and offer that book publishing deal. 


Back in the day, slush piles were often physical piles of envelopes and packages containing manuscripts that were waiting to be read. Some people still mail physical copies of their manuscripts, but in this day and age, slush piles are often digital — email inboxes and online databases that are full of submissions from aspiring authors all over the globe.


Whatever the form, though, think of slush piles as places where submissions are stored. They aren’t positive or negative; they’re just holding places. 


Here are a few things you need to know about slush piles. 


Each company or person who receives manuscripts has their own process. 


Not everyone accepts unsolicited manuscripts, and those who do often have very specific requirements they’re looking for. So it’s not as simple as finding the name of a publisher, agent, or editor and sending them your manuscript. 


Instead, each person or company is looking for manuscripts that align with how they want to run their business. So, for example, if they say they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, you can send them yours — but chances are, they won’t read it. That’s not a personal attack against you; it’s just them running their business as they see fit. 


So before you submit your manuscript, find out the established process and pre-approved channels for submission. Don’t try to create your own process and expect them to abide by it. 


Preferences play a role.


Like any other business, publishers, editors, and agents have certain types of clients they choose to serve. In other words, they are interested in certain types of books (and authors) that best align with their business model and preferences.


Some are interested in topics like evangelism, mission, and leadership, while others are specifically looking for fiction or children’s literature. Just as you have a personal mission as an author that you want to accomplish, remember that these companies, agents, and editors have missions of their own, too. So it’s important to do the legwork to understand who is interested in what, instead of wasting time trying to put a square peg into a round hole. 


Everyone has their own systems. 


Some agents, editors, and publishers read through their submissions on a daily basis. For others, the system is weekly, monthly, or even quarterly or annually. So just because you haven’t heard back yet doesn’t necessarily mean it has — or hasn’t — been read. Be patient. They might just have a system for working through manuscripts that is different from what you’re expecting. 


Goals and capacity vary. 


Some publishers only aim to publish around 30 titles per year, while others publish more than 100 in the same amount of time. It all depends on where they are in their business and what their goals are. This can also affect how long it takes for you to hear back about your submission. 


Remember, slush piles are just holding places. And you don’t want to invest time — and your hopes and dreams — into submitting a manuscript that doesn’t get read. So before you submit, do your research to find out the established processes, systems, and expectations so you can follow them to the best of your ability. 


A helpful resource: The Christian Writers Market Guide


Some Christian authors want there to be exceptions to these rules. After all, it’s a Christian market. But remember: publishing is a business, whether it’s for Christian books or not, and businesses need to have established protocols.


These publishers, agents, and editors are simply trying to do things in decency and order, to make sure their businesses run effectively. That means they need structure and systems. So respect their process, and don’t try to change it or ask for exceptions.


A great resource to help you do this is the Christian Writers Market Guide. It has over 500 pages with details on everything from big publishers to smaller publishing houses to companies that offer publishing assistance — plus what each publisher is looking for in terms of capacity, types of manuscripts they want, their submission process, and more. 


Small (or Independent) Press


You’re probably very familiar with big publishing names like HarperCollins and Penguin Random House. These companies publish books that reel in billions of dollars, and they have a ton of name recognition. 


A small (or independent) press, on the other hand, operates at a much smaller scale. But even without the name recognition that those big publishers offer, small presses do provide some benefits that make them a worthy contender within the publishing space. 


Since small presses are, of course, small, they tend to be more nimble and willing to take chances. This is especially helpful for new authors who don’t have an established reputation yet. A big publishing house might not be willing to bet on you, while a small press might be more open to taking the risk. 


When working with a small press, you are also likely to have more control over the direction of your project. You’re often able to have a closer and stronger relationship with the people working on your book, which can create a better working experience overall.


That said, it’s important to manage your expectations when working with a smaller publishing house. They won’t have the same budget for your book that a bigger publisher would, and you’ll probably need to play a much bigger role in marketing your own book. (Of course, you’ll still be involved in marketing even if you choose a big-name publisher. But with a small press, your level of involvement will likely be much bigger.)


You’ll also need to vet the small press very, very carefully. It’s easier to know exactly what you’re getting into with big publishers, since their history and reputation are easy to find. But with a small press, you’ll need to do a bit more legwork to make sure you’re comfortable moving forward with them.


Finally, keep in mind that if you get an advance with your small press publishing deal, it’s going to be smaller than it would be with a bigger publisher. 


Again, it goes back to managing your expectations — you’ll be getting your book out into the world; you’ll have a team working with you to publish your book; and they’ll be putting up money to go through editing processes, get your cover done, and so on; but your advance won’t be as large a payment as it might be with a big-name publisher.


Table of Contents


Most books have a table of contents, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the importance of this particular page. After all, you have a very important message to communicate! But don’t get so caught up in the content that you completely neglect the finer details.


Think of the table of contents as a roadmap for your reader. When someone picks up your book, it’s very likely that they will turn to the table of contents to see what your book is about and which parts they might be most interested in reading. 


Remember the saying “You only have a few seconds to make a good first impression”? Having a table of contents helps you accomplish this, both because it helps the reader know what your book is about and because it makes your book look more professional. 


Now, if you work with a traditional publisher or small press, they will help ensure you have a table of contents. But if you self-publish, it’s on you to remember to include one and make it look good. Some author services companies will literally publish whatever you give them — so if the table of contents is missing or formatted incorrectly, they aren’t going to fix it for you. 


So what difference does a table of contents make? In addition to making your book look more professional, this page can make it easy for a reader to know where to turn next. This is especially true if your book is nonfiction or a collection of short stories or poetry. 


Plus, the way you phrase the titles on the table of contents gives readers a feel for your personality. Are the chapter titles all straight to the point and professional? Are they fun and creative? Do the chapter titles tell a little story of their own? 


And don’t forget to think about the future! Imagine people at a book club trying to read your book and discuss it together. It will be much easier to keep everyone on the same page if they have clearly labeled sections to turn to. 




We’ve already talked a little bit about territories when it comes to entering into agreements with traditional publishers, but this concept really applies to any type of publishing. When you upload a book to Amazon, for example, you’ll be asked which territories you want them to distribute your book in. 


If you are going the traditional publishing route, it’s very important to understand what you have rights to and what your publisher has rights to, and which countries your book is licensed for sale in. Sometimes, you can even negotiate and retain some of the rights in specific areas. 


If you’re self-publishing, be sure you pay attention to which options you choose. For example, with Amazon KDP, you can choose to sell your book through KDP expanded distribution, which may give you an edge with selling on Amazon. 


However, outside of Amazon, the better choice may be IngramSpark. Outlets like bookstores and libraries are more accustomed to working with IngramSpark, which also gives them the option for returning books — and that can be a huge consideration for bookstores when deciding whether to carry your book. 


So whether you’re self-publishing or working with a traditional publisher, make sure you think through where and how you’ll license and distribute your book, to set yourself up for your best chance at selling as many copies as possible. 


Next Week on Book Publishing A to Z


We’ve covered some important terms this week, but there are still plenty more to come! Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect in the next installment of the Book Publishing A to Z series:


  • How to get the traditional publishing deal you’re looking for
  • How trim size impacts the publishing process
  • Wholesalers and unit costs


We’ll cover all that and more right here next week! 



My name is Tamara “Coach Tam” Jackson and I am a published author, Facebook© Certified Digital Marketer, host of the Top 100 Publishing Secrets podcast, and founder of The Christian Authors Network (C.A.N.) Facebook© community. I specialize in helping mission-driven authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs increase their exposure, impact, and income through strategic self-publishing and digital media appearances. Just say yes and we will work together to attract a tribe of loyal followers that 1) “get you”, 2) love what you do, and 3) are happy to invest in your book, business, cause, or movement. Plus, we will accomplish all of this without fake, salesy, sleazy, or manipulative tactics. Yes you CAN write, publish, and profit in a way that honors God; join the community today at https://christianauthors.net/fbgroup.  



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