Dear Career Doctor:
I recently came across your book, Mother Power, and thought it would be great to write and ask some questions about getting a book published. Like you, one of my passions is writing about my experiences. I recently finished a book about the lessons I’ve learned from patients that have helped me become a better therapist.
I would appreciate any guidance or words of wisdom regarding book publishing, editing, finding and agent, etc.
Only people who are passionate about writing, like you, should try to write a book and get it published, because it’s usually an exercise in persistence and frustration! Also, no one should try to write thinking their book will make them rich. The chance of writing something that will pay a mortgage is about as good as winning the lottery. But the good news is that you have another profession that supports you, so here are some tips about how to get published.
The key to getting your book published is to get an agent. Unless you personally know an editor at a publishing house, don’t bother submitting a manuscript yourself. It will end up in a slush file and never get proper attention.
You can’t just approach any agent — it has to be an agent that has a particular interest in a book like yours. Why? Most agents don’t try to be all things to all people. They specialize and know the editors at publishing houses who will be receptive to their kind of books.
To find an agent who might take you on, find existing books that are similar to yours. If you look in the author’s Acknowledgments section, the agent is usually mentioned. If not, call the publisher, ask to be connected with the “Subsidiary Rights Department,” and ask whoever answers phone for the name of the agent on the book similar to yours.
Once you have the names of a couple of agents, write a wonderful and enticing one page letter introducing your book (who will buy it, why, and how it is similar but different from the book you like that the agent represents), and yourself (your credentials and how you can help promote the book.) You can include a few pages of your manuscript, and offer to send the whole book if the agent is interested. Include a self addressed stamped envelope to insure a reply.
I have left the most important part for last: Make sure your manuscript is as well written as possible. You will only get one chance to convince an agent that your book is worthy of all the time and effort needed to get it published in this bad book market. So hire an editor to look at your manuscript if you can afford that investment. If not, join or start a writers group where you read and critique each others work.
Proceed if writing is a great pleasure as well as a passion. And I wish you luck!