Write That Book - Week 8 - Publishers/Getting Published

shoestring trade pbk cover to use
shoestring trade pbk cover to use

Welcome to the final week of Write That Book. Today I will cover submitting directly to a publishing house. At a later stage I will look at self-publishing and ebooks, so look out for that soon.


Once you are happy with your manuscript, it’s time to decide who to send it to. All of the Irish publishers (and Irish offices of the UK publishers) still accept unsolicited manuscripts, which is good news if you haven’t secured an agent. See last week’s blog – week 7 – for how to prepare your manuscript for submission (to an agent or a publisher). For most UK publishers you will need an agent – again, see week 7 for information on this and a list of recommended agents.

It is very important to match your book to the right publisher. There’s no point sending a crime novel to a children’s publisher for example. Do your research. Find out the kind of book each publisher actually publishes. Visit your local bookshop or library and have a look on the shelves. Familiarise yourself with what the various publishers actually bring out. Some of them specialize, some are more general publishers. Some publish children’s books, others don’t.

For a full list of who’s who in Irish publishing, www.writing.ie can’t be beaten. Check it out here:

If you are interested in writing either children’s books or popular fiction (the areas I know the most about), these are the main Irish publishers to try:

Poolbeg Specialise in popular fiction. Poolbeg discovered Marian Keyes, Sheila O’Flanagan, Patricia Scanlon, Melissa Hill, Cathy Kelly and many others. As they only publish in Ireland (although they do sell on other rights), most writers move to an international publisher after a few books (as was the case with me for example). But it’s a good place to start if you write popular fiction.  Editor - Gaye Shortland Submission details on their website - www.poolbeg.com

O’Brien Press Publish children’s fiction, adult fiction and non fiction, especially Irish interest books. They are the biggest and best children’s publishers in Ireland and also sell a lot of international rights to their books. Editors  – Ide Ni Laoghaire and Helen Carr Submission details on their website -  www.obrien.ie

New Island General publisher (not children’s at the moment, but this may change). They are small, but strong and are especially good at publishing edgy fiction. Editor – Eoin Purcell Submission details on their website:  www.newisland.ie

Little Islands Children’s fiction for readers of 6/7+. They are a relatively new publishing house, but they have already made quite a name for themselves in Ireland, with several award winning books for young readers. Editor – Siobhan Parkinson

Submission details on their website: www.littleisland.ie

Irish offices of UK publishers:

Penguin Ireland Publish all kinds of fiction and non fiction. Also accept children’s books. Very strong popular fiction list and non fiction list. Editor - Patricia Deevy Submission details on their website:  www.penguin.ie

Hachette Ireland Again very strong on popular fiction and have also published a young adult series set in Dublin called The Butterfly Novels. They are only accepting non fiction unsolicited submissions at the moment. For fiction submissions, you will need an agent. Editor - Ciara Considine Submission details:  www.hachette.ie

Transworld Ireland Publish both fiction and non fiction and have a strong stable of authors. Editor – Eoin Mc Hugh

Submission details: www.transworldireland.ie

Once You Have Sent Out Your Manuscript, What Next?

Most Irish publishers will get back to you within three months. Be patient – it’s best not to ring within this time. Few send out an email or postcard to say they have received your manuscript (unfortunately), they are just too busy. If they like your work, they will get back to you, that’s the honest truth.   

The Truth about Advances

Whatever you read in the papers, few authors get large advances. Most get royalties based on their sales. These are usually from 7 to 10 % of the price of the book. On the plus side, Irish writer’s royalty earnings are tax free up to a 40k cap if you work is deemed 'worthy' - you can apply for the artist's exemption after publication from the tax office.

Once You’ve Submitted - Keep Writing

Don’t get discouraged. Getting published is hard and there will be many set backs along the way. Even J K Rowling was turned down by many of the top publishers – including Penguin and Harper Collins. Don’t just sit around waiting for an agent or publisher to get back to you, keep writing.

Recommended Book: The Best Book for Writers That I Have Ever Read

For a real insiders guide to how the publishing industry really works, read From Pitch to Publication. Written by Carole Blake, one of the top UK literary agents, this book is full of useful information on the publishing business, submitting a manuscript, contracts and troubleshooting. I can’t recommend it highly enough - it’s the definitive guide to getting published.

Best of luck with your writing and publishing journey!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

Top Tips from Alison Walsh, Experienced Editor

(Ex-Tivoli and Harper Collins)

1. Don't send publishers a 'rough draft' of your work, in the hope that they might transform you into a bestseller: it is your job to see that your work is the best it can possibly be before submitting it to a publisher.

2. There are a range of outlets for short stories: Some magazines - eg Woman's Way - publish them - take a look at a range of magazines to see if your work would be suitable.

3. If you have written a novel, you can approach publishers direct, but do your homework - don't send your thriller set in the Florida drugs underworld to a religious publisher. Find the company that publishes books in your market, whether it be a self-help guide to quitting smoking, or a romantic novel, and send them a sample of your work.

4. Most publishers like to see a synopsis and 2-3 sample chapters, rather than the entire manuscript, along with a covering letter. This should explain briefly what the book is about and who you are, mentioning any writing credits, if you have them. All publishers receive a large number of manuscripts, so if you don't hear back within a week, don't feel disheartened - the process can take a month or so, sometimes longer.

5. If the answer is no, don't give up, send it to the next publisher on your list. Every writer, no matter how famous, has been rejected at some stage, and it's all part of the process.