As-salamu Alaykum (peace be upon you), Dear Readers...

NEW for September 18, 2016:

This blog has MOVED to the Muslim Writers Club, a new website dedicated to all of your writing needs.

Here are some of the pages you will find on the new site:

Jobs and Internships for Muslim Writers – Check out the latest opportunities.

Freelance Markets for Muslim Writers – A list of magazines, newspapers, and websites that want to work with YOU, insha'Allah. Includes many paying markets.

Book Publishers of Interest to Muslim Writers – Have you written a book? Start your search for a publisher here.

Contests & Events for Muslim Writers - Competitions, courses, webinars, and more. Don't miss the fun!

Writing Activities for Muslim Children – Coming Soon!

Q&A Page - Get your questions about the art (and business) of writing answered.

Articles and Other Resources – Even more resources for Muslim writers.

Hope to see you at the new site, Insha'Allah!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Q&A: Finding a Publisher for my Novel

Question: I hope that you can advise me, insha'Allah (God willing). I am working on a novel at the moment and am a bit lost as to how I should find and approach a publisher - and how I can get the book published. Who do you think would be best to contact with completed work? I tried looking on the Internet, but so many places ask for money to just read your work.

~ A sister in Islam

Answer: First of all, thank you for being the first person to ask a question on this blog. I hope more readers will send in questions and make the blog a great source of information for aspiring writers.

Although I have not personally been through the book publishing process, here are a few things I have learned through research and conversations with those more experienced.

1. The first thing to do is finish writing the novel. Agents and publishers generally want to see completed work – not ideas or work in progress, especially from first-time authors. This applies to fiction in particular. Non-fiction books don’t necessarily have to be written first.

2. Once you have finished writing the novel, make sure that it is in tip-top shape before trying to get it published. Revise it as many times as necessary to make sure that it is logical, well-written, and free from grammatical errors and typos. Some authors test their work with beta readers who offer feedback and criticism. Some also hire editors to help clean up the grammar and sentence structure. For some writers, the process of revision can be lengthy, but it should not be rushed. When you submit your work to an agent or publisher, you want to make sure you are putting forth the best that you have. Writing is a competitive business, and your manuscript must stand out among the others. Even if you need help with issues related to grammar, beware of sinking too much money into editorial services. This can get expensive fast. Writing is your craft, so take the time to learn and polish on your own. These days, there are many on-line critique groups that can help point out weaknesses in your writing. Make use of these free services – they are there to help you.

3. You did not provide any information about the type of novel you are working on (historical, romance, horror, science fiction, etc.) and your target audience (women, young people, Muslims, non-Muslims, etc.) – or whether you will seek out a traditional or Muslim publisher. These factors will all influence what you should do next. If you are going the “traditional” route, you must do some research into the agents and publishers that accept your type of work. Sometimes you can query a publisher directly, and sometimes you may need to query an agent. An agent represents your work and shares it with potential publishers in exchange for a percentage of the sale. An agent should not take money to read your work. Also beware of agents and publishers who recommend specific editors and want you to pay for the service of editing. A mantra that is often repeated on-line is: Money flows towards the author, not away from the author.

4. Agents and publishers usually have guidelines on how they want you to approach them. Conventional wisdom says that you should obtain and follow these guidelines carefully.

5. In most cases, you will need to craft a query letter. The query letter is a brief introduction to you and your novel and follows a specific format. Work on this query as carefully as you work on your novel. It should be properly structured and free from grammatical errors. Do not send out your completed manuscript at this stage. The query letter will be enough for agents or publishers to decide if they want to see more. Some authors send out query letters in batches of five, ten, or more. It can take a very long time to receive a response from an agent or publisher. The long wait is normal. So is rejection. Send out a few queries, and see if you get any feedback. Use it to improve your query letter for the next round of agents or publishers on your list.

6. If, on the other hand, you are seeking out a Muslim publisher, the rules are different, a point that Linda (Widad) Delgado stresses in her book, A Muslim’s Guide to Publishing and Marketing. For one thing, Muslim publishing does not use agents, and business practices may vary considerably from one publisher to another.

7. In all cases, do thorough research to make sure that you do not become the victim of a scam or an unscrupulous publisher, agent, or editor. Check on the reputation of the people you deal with. Most importantly, learn about the process of book publishing before jumping into it. There are no shortcuts to this. If your work is accepted for publication, be prepared to write a synopsis and marketing plan. Again, there are many on-line groups that can help answer your questions and help guide you in the right direction.

Here are some links to help you on your quest for information:

Novel Writing Forum (Absolute Write)

Bewares and Background Check (Absolute Write)

Why Agents Shouldn’t Charge Fees (Absolute Write)

Index to Agents and Publishers (Absolute Write)

How Real Publishing Works (Absolute Write)

A Partial List of Muslim Book Publishers

Amel S. Abdullah

Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on this blog? Post it here, or send it to me via e-mail. All questions sent via e-mail will be posted anonymously (unless you request otherwise). Click here for an index of all questions answered on this blog.


Anonymous said...

Salaams Sis Amel

Your Q&A is an excellent addition to your already very helpful and informational blog!

A comment on your answer:
Muslim writers interested in book publishing generaly choose either secular(non Muslim) or Muslim publishing.

There are three basic "methods" of publishing:
Traditional- the publisher (secular or Muslim) pays all costs and owns the ISBN. Most Muslim publishers are traditional publishers.

The other two methods of publishing are 1. Self publishing where the author pays the costs for publishing and owns the ISBN. The author may do all the editing and design work or hire experts to do the work and pay them...and 2. Subsidy publishing (paying a fee for publishing with the business owning the ISBN, designs and controling the book distribution/royalty etc. Subsidy publishing has may issues that can negatively impact marketing in the secular book industry.

Ownership of the ISBN legally determines who is recognized as the publisher.

Authors need to do alot of research about the publishers he/she decides to eventyally query with a request for publishing. For instance, many Muslim publishers publish, distribute, and retail sell only books they publsh and some specifically do not publish children's books or fiction.

Secular publishers generally do not distribute or act as their own retailer.

Authors should not waste their time or money querying publishers who would most likely not be interested in the genre of book the author has written.

I recommend extensive research prior to sending out queries and deciding on the method of publishing the author wants to go after before any query letters get sent out.

Linda Delgado
Muslim Writers Publishing

Proud_Mum said...

Assalamualaikum'alaikum. Jazakhallah khairan for the advice above. I have been writing Islamic fiction for young children and for female adult. I now want to get my completed works published. I tried looking for information about publishers who are willing to publish Islamic fiction but I have struggled to find a single one yet. Can you please point me in some directions? I am base in UK. Jazkhallah khairan

This blog is maintained by Amel Abdullah, a freelance writer, editor, and Arabic to English translator.