Four Tips on Landing and Working with a Traditional Publisher

By Jennifer Hallmark

I stared at the typed manuscript on my desk. It represented over a year of work. Traditional publishing or Indie publishing? Or vanity press? Though I was a newbie, I needed to make a decision. I knew very little about the publishing business. No, scratch that. I knew nothing at all.

I’d been writing my first novel and loving every minute of it. It sang, it soared, it was perfect. (Yes, I can hear you laughing from here)

A person from a vanity press approached me and offered to publish my wonderful 100,000 word work in progress which had no genre, no edits, and no formatting whatsoever. I’d been praying ever since I started writing for God to show me what to do. I was clueless and not ignorant of that fact.

So, when this opportunity presented itself, I went back to prayer. The only words that seemed to resonate inside of me were “Follow the traditional road.” I was a bit sad at the time. I mean, look at what the world was missing by me not putting my novel out there.

*Shaking head.*

What did I know about traditional publishing? Nada. I began to study all the types of publishing, taking online courses, reading writing craft books, and attending writing workshops, groups, and conferences. It didn’t take me long to figure out what a mistake I’d almost made. I kept following the traditional road the best I could and here I am, thirteen years later, about to release my debut, traditionally published novel.

Click to tweet: Four tips on landing and working with a traditional publisher. #publishing #amwriting @Inspiredprompt

If the traditional road is one you’d like to follow, don’t despair. It shouldn’t take you as long as it did me. Let me share four tips that will make a difference in your journey:

  1. Know the publisher. When I first started, I just sent my novels to publisher’s names I liked and gave little thought to what they wanted. I did get some helpful criticism back from several publishers but nothing else. When I finished my novel, Jessie’s Hope, I diligently studied the publisher I had set my sights on, Firefly Southern Fiction. I studied their guidelines until I could say them in my sleep. And I read several books by Firefly.
  2. Get your manuscript edited. Whether you hire a freelance editor, join a critique group, or find a critique partner, get another set of eyes on your work. I ran Jessie’s Hope through a critique group first, then had an editor friend give it a once over. I wanted it to be as polished as I could make it.
  3. Meet said editor or publisher. One way you can meet them is online. You can visit their site, read all their blog posts, and comment until they recognize you. I found out that the Firefly editor, Eva Marie Everson, was going to be at a conference near me and I made plans to go. I made an appointment to meet with her and also took all of her classes. I needed to learn what she was looking for in a more personal way.
  4. Submit your work. Finally, at the conference, I showed her a bit of my work and also explained the trouble I was experiencing in learning deep POV. She ripped my first pages to shreds as she taught me first-hand about deep POV both in our meeting and during class. She asked for a longer submission to be sent to her email and two months later told me the story intrigued her. But I had to first take a chance and submit or I would have never known it had potential.

After the good news, I started snoopy dancing. But then she had one of her beta readers read the full manuscript and tell me all the problems it had. I worked hard over the next two years and resubmitted it in 2017. She accepted the manuscript and on June 17, my dream of being a traditionally published author will come true.

Eleven and a half years after I made the decision to follow this road. I’m sure glad I didn’t know in the beginning how long it would take or I’d have probably given up.

Now which road should you take? Indie publishing has come a long way since I started writing. I believe God understood my lack of patience and desire to see my work in print and the fact that I would regret publishing too soon. He pointed to the traditional road and for me, it was the right one.

I suggest you prayerfully look into both ways of getting your work into print. (I purposely left out the third way. Don’t use a vanity press.) Do some research into both methods. Use my four tips with a publishing house that you feel a connection to and see what happens. You never know until you take that step.

In leiu of a writing prompt:

Question time. Ask me a question in the comments and I’ll try to answer it or find an answer for you.

The Write Course: 3 Minute Tips for the Beginning Writer Episode 10

Jennifer Hallmark here. Welcome to my You Tube series called “The Write Course: 3 Minute Tips for the Beginning Writer.”

We start this new part of our trip with a fork in the road and the thought, What type of publishing should I seek?  Join me in the discussion.

Episode 10: Today’s topic is Launch into the Adventure: What road should I take? What type of publishing should I seek?

Click to tweet: The YouTube series for the beginning writer. Catch Episode 10 on the Inspired Prompt blog: Writing: What kind of publishing should I seek? #amwriting #WritersLife

Traditional Publishing – Questions Answered

small me2Hello, lovely readers.  Ginger here.

Today I’m going to reveal to you what I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks as I prepared for my post on traditional publishing.

Aren’t you excited?

Since I’m not published, traditionally or otherwise, I couldn’t speak from experience on this one, so I went to my fellow authors for some feedback. I asked them six questions about their experiences with traditional publishing. I’ve compiled their answers below.

Question 1: With whom are you traditionally published?

Some of these were duplicated among the authors who responded to my poll. This is by no means a complete list of traditional publishers.

Avalon(now out of business), Barbour, Summerside Press, Guideposts, B&H(no longer doing fiction), Abingdon, Bethany House, Baker/Revell, Zondervan/Harper Collins, Harlequin, Waterbrook Press, Harvest House, River North(Moody Publishers), Whitaker House, Leafwood Publishers, and Tyndale House

Question 2: How many books do you have published traditionally?

The number of books published varied from one to forty-nine. What a plethora of experience.

Question 3: Do you also publish with a small press or self-publish? Why or why not?

Most answered that they did not have a book published by a small press or self-pubbed because they liked the power of the traditional publisher name, and the book advance. 🙂

A few of the authors have done both or are considering doing so in the future.

Question 4: What do you feel is the best thing about being published with a traditional publisher?

This answer sparked a variety of answers. Here’s the list:

  • Power of the name
  • Notice by big-name bookstores
  • Advertising
  • Marketing support
  • Overseas sales
  • Editing
  • Cover art
  • Team effort
  • Monetary advance
  • They take all the risk

Question 5: What is the worst?

Again this list varied according to the author. Here are some of their answers:

  • Disagreeing with editor over story content, especially faith issues
  • Bad cover art
  • Not guaranteed a next contract *side note by Ginger – this also applies to small presses
  • Waiting for the book to release
  • Limitations in what’s acceptable, which varies according to publisher

Question 6: Approximately how long does it take from the signing of your contract to release date?

One author had her novel released in e-book format in four months, but the average time from contract to release date varied from nine to eighteen months, with the longest being three years.


Before I close, I did a little more research on the submission guidelines for the above mentioned publishers. Here’s the list(correct as of this posting date, but subject to change):

Tyndale House, Whitaker House, Moody Publishers, Harvest House, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing, Abingdon Press, Baker Books, Bethany House, and Revell do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. To submit to them, you must have an agent or have met with a representative at a conference.

Summerside Press is to be discontinued, announced this past week. You can read more here.

Guideposts also accepts submissions through their website. Visit here to learn more. Also see above link for Summerside Press as Guideposts non-fiction trade has also been discontinued.

Zondervan accepts unsolicited manuscripts in a few non-fiction categories. If you write non-fiction, click here for more information.

HarperCollins does not accept unsolicited manuscripts except for their Avon romance line. Click here for that information.

Harlequin has an extensive system set up to accept submissions. You can find it here.

Leafwood Press accepts submissions. Here are their guidelines.

If you are published with a traditional publishing house other than the ones I’ve listed, please feel free to post their name, and whether they accept unsolicited submissions (please no links, we can google).

Writing Prompt: Leisa clicked the cursor over her e-mail program. Would today be the day? Scrolling through, she squealed when the editor’s name appeared in her inbox….

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