Guidelines for new authors
Posted on January 06 2023
Canbury Press wants to publish more books: we are looking for authors. Below we are publishing details of how to submit a manuscript, together with an author Q&A.
HOW TO GET YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED
How do I get my book into print?
We want to hear from established or would-be authors with ideas or manuscripts for non-fiction books, especially from debut authors with an important story to tell.
What do you publish?
We specialise in modern factual stories on topics ranging from politics to biography, health to technology, and environment to language. We do not publish any fiction.
Should I send you my proposal for a novel or poetry?
No. We will not respond to any proposals for fiction.
What should my non-fiction book proposal contain?
Proposals should contain:
- a) an introductory letter stating who you are and what your book is about
- b) a summary of what similar books exist already and why yours is different/special
- c) a list of chapters
- d) one or two draft chapters, preferably including the first chapter
Submit your proposal to email@example.com
Acceptable styles are monographs (study of a single subject) and anthologies of contemporary non-fiction, history, memoir, biography and autobiography. Please submit only one proposal at a time.
How quickly will you get back to me?
You may not hear from us a while, possibly for a few weeks, even for a month or two. As a small independent, we have to do many tasks to ensure our publishing is successful, such as commissioning, editing manuscripts, designing covers, writing blurbs and overseeing publicity and promotion, distribution and sales.
Some more detailed help for authors
Writing is typically solitary and often teeth-grindingly frustrating and the publishing industry, with its mostly London-based battalion of editors, designers and publicists, can be intimidating. Debut writers, particularly from a tough background or outside south-east England, may find it hard to get published.
We have put together some more detailed information, explaining what we (Canbury Press) are looking for in a book as well as some general advice for authors. We don’t have unlimited wisdom or a crystal ball, but we hope you find these pointers useful.
A) Style of Book
What are you looking for?
As a non-fiction publishing specialist, we are looking for important books that make our world better, whether by entertaining or informing readers or throwing the spotlight on a neglected issue that deserves attention. If you can fulfil all these criteria, you are likely to pique our interest. If you have a memoir about your life as a paramedic, that is worth submitting, more so perhaps if it’s wryly amusing and unerringly shrewd. If it exposes a wider truth about the NHS, its appeal to us increases still further.
Does my book have to be a story?
Narrative is central to our publishing: we want a story that will hook readers from the first page to the last. Usually, chronology (events unfolding in the order that they happened) supplies a natural structure to a real-life ‘plot.’ But, sometimes, a non-fiction book will jump around like a thriller. We are open to both approaches.
It’s crucial, though, that your manuscript has some pace. It if moves like a snail, it will struggle to engage a reader. (On the other hand, shouty books with attention deficit disorder pall after a short while: it takes time to strike the right pace). Even when a non-fiction plot leaps around, the reader should always feel that the author knows where they are and that the mystery tour has a firm itinerary.
B) Publicity and Marketing
Do I have to be famous to get your book published?
Absolutely not! At Canbury Press, our authors are overwhelmingly not famous. But there is no doubt that having a following of one kind or another enhances the likelihood of landing a publishing deal. Many celebrities have had fascinating lives. But they are also attractive to publishers because they have a ready-made fanbase and the ability to attract media attention.
How important is publicity to book sales?
Very. Marketing and publicity are vital to commercial success, even for established authors. Books in a series by established authors will have a certain fanbase nailed on, but newspaper, magazine and TV interviews and reviews are still necessary to fan the flames. Quite simply, readers will not hear of a new book without promotion. Publicity is to book sales what heat is to cooking.
What about social media?
Many publishers, including Canbury, welcome authors who have a strong presence on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. That said, having a social media fanbase is not essential to landing a book deal with us. When assessing your proposal, we will look at you as an author and the strength of your book in the round. If you have a fascinating ‘back story’ and your book is newsworthy, we may be able to generate the necessary publicity for your title. But a social media following, media contacts or a well-connected standing in an industry certainly help promote and sell books. It’s hard to conceive of any circumstances when a publisher would find a social media following a turn-off. It’s not essential, but it’s very handy (just being honest).
C) Submissions Process
Do you accept manuscripts by post?
No, please do not send one. It will not be looked at. The only way to submit a proposal to us is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do I need an agent?
No, you do not need an agent to send us a proposal.
Do you take proposals from agents?
Yes, we welcome proposals from agents.
Do the terms you offer differ according to whether the proposal is sent in by an author or by an agent?
We offer the same terms to agented writers and non-agented writers (see section on terms below).
What kind of publishing deals do you offer?
We offer deals for World Rights in three formats: print, ebook and audiobook.
Do you offer advances?
Yes, we pay a standard, nominal royalty advance. If you are seeking a big advance, you will be disappointed. We prefer to weight our royalties to actual sales (see below), giving the author a more generous share of the fruits of publishing.
What about sales royalties?
We offer writers a revenue share arrangement. This pays the author more per book sold than the percentage of recommended cover price formula typically offered by bigger publishers. We think it’s fairer to offer authors less upfront and a greater share of the benefits of a successful book.
Would my book become available in other countries?
Yes, we publish our books into the key English language markets around the world, including the USA, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and of course closer to home in Ireland and on mainland Europe (Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands all have eager English readers).
Will my book be translated?
World rights means we retain rights to your book in all languages. If we can, we will sell the language rights to your book to a foreign publisher/s for translation into other languages. Many of our titles have been published in other languages, such as Because We Are by Lily Bailey (German), Under the Wig by Lily Bailey (Turkish), YouTubers by Chris Stokel-Walker (Korea), TikTok Boom by Chris Stokel-Walker (Brazil), and How to be a Liberal by Ian Dunt (Taiwan)
Are you likely to accept my book for publication?
Many people want to become a published writer and the supply of new authors exceeds reader demand. Wanting to be a published author is a very popular aspiration. Accordingly, we receive more proposals than we can publish, so most proposals will not lead to a book contract. But the only way to find out is to submit your proposal. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Why would you reject my manuscript?
Pressure of work means we cannot give individual feedback, but some of the most common reasons for us not taking up a proposal are:
- We have already published a book similar to yours
- We are about to publish a book similar to yours
- Your writing style falls outside our criteria (modern narrative non-fiction)
- Your writing is not to our taste (a subjective judgement)
- We do not deem your book to be commercial enough (ie, even though we may like it, we think it may not sell enough copies to recoup the many costs of publication)
- We do not have the capacity to publish all the books we like
If you don’t accept my manuscript, should I give up?
No! If you believe in your book, keep fighting for it. We may well like your manuscript but, for one reason or another, feel unable to offer a contract (see above). More importantly, there are dozens other publishers out there with different portfolios, judgements and budgets who may take a wholly different view to us. Not everyone’s favourite colour is blue.
Should I approach other publishers?
Yes, if you think you might find success with them. Believe in your talents and your book.
Can you remind me of some famous authors who were rejected?
With pleasure. A proposal for a children’s book about a boy wizard was rejected by a dozen publishers. What was his name again – Parry Hotter? Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times (he junked the manuscript; it was fished out of the bin by his wife). Agatha Christie’s first novel was rejected and her second only made it after multiple rejections. According to this account of famous authors being rejected, John Le Carré’s first novel was returned to his agent with the words: ‘You’re welcome to Le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.’
Do I have any other options?
Yes, you could publish your book yourself. Nowadays, you can turn a Microsoft Word document into Amazon Kindle ebook in minutes. You can get a print book produced similarly quickly, at relatively low cost. A sentence of advice: work out a realistic estimate of likely sales before you order the print run*
*This sentence drips with our tears
Should I beware of ‘vanity publishers’?
Yes, we’d advise you to be very careful about dealing with any publisher who asks you for money to publish your book. They may make claims such as: ‘Your book will be available to every bookshop in the UK to order.’ While strictly true, this statement is akin to us saying that we are advertising to London by sticking a small card in a newsagent’s window near Buckingham Palace – or, in more modern parlance, by sticking our corporate mission statement in a tweet and saying that it can be seen by the whole world.
Any final advice?
Do what feels right in your gut. If you are convinced you have something really great, a joyous or important work that demands to be in bookshops, keep gunning for a publisher. If you think you may have a good book but not one that is likely to be picked up by a commercial house, consider self-publishing. Some very strong books have been published to great success after being self-published first. Writing a book is (or should be if done properly) knuckle-gnawingly fraught work. Having the book that you wrote in your hands for the first time is a memorable-for-life moment. You owe it to yourself to give your book the best shot.
I haven’t started writing yet – what should I do?
Hang on, why have you only just mentioned this now? Since you asked:
Start. Writing is a bum-on-seat typing business and procrastination is the enemy of achievement. Read the final piece of advice here, then start typing. Straightaway. Obviously, don’t try to write a whole book immediately. You can’t do the Pennine Way in a day, and you can’t write a book that way either. Write chapter 1. Then – maybe a few days later - write Chapter 2. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 will need to follow... But it should be becoming a little easier by then. If you are lucky, it will be enjoyable, too. (Consider a social media detox and switching off notifications on your phone. Your engagement with the wider world, and it with you, can wait. Now is the time for writing to pull rank.)
Should my first draft be perfect?
No. It never is. Just get the first version down (called the ‘vomit draft’). Bang it out. Because the key to good writing is actually in the revising. Go back over what you wrote and improve it – tighten, freshen, ditch the cliches - until it is the best you can make it. Then send it to an agent or a publisher. A good editor will do some voodoo magic on it later.
The best writers read widely. Good, kind, thoughtful people work in books. We depend on you putting your hand in your metaphorical pocket and buying some every now and then.