Step 6: Research traditional publishers

The process of revising a manuscript (Step 5) can take a while. Sometimes it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels, like there’s never any sense of completion. Step 6 is a way to give your manuscript some breathing room, give you a sense of immediate accomplishment and to start evaluating whether traditional publishing might be a good option for your manuscript once it’s finished.

Step 6 is all about researching established, traditional publishers. This means a publisher who is not requiring you to invest any money in the production and promotion of your book (outside your own participation via time and effort). In fact, a traditional publishing agreement always involves an assumption of risk and financial investment in you and your manuscript. Large publishers like Penguin and Random House are some obvious places you could start researching. But did you know they also have several imprints and sister publishing houses? These smaller divisions should be included in your research for Step 6.

The point of Step 6 is to learn as much as you can about traditional publishers and imagine yourself as a published author under their name. Establishing the type of publisher you’d like to work with is exceptionally helpful whenever you’re approached by one—because you’ll already have your standards and ideal scenario identified. You can learn quite a bit about a publisher’s internal workings by seeing that types of authors they sign and how their authors promote their books (signings, tours, podcast interviews, social media, etc.).

Rather than starting Step 6 by googling “traditional publishers,” grab three to four books off your shelf that you found irresistible, and see if there are one or two primary authors who resonate with you especially. These authors likely have something in common with the work you’re putting into your manuscript. Once you identify these authors, walk through these questions for each one...